Stephen Boyd filming “Jumbo” at MGM Studios 1962 – The Circus Maximus

Below are some nice newspaper ads for “Jumbo” starring Doris Day and Stephen Boyd when the movie was released in December of 1962, and a few funny stories about the filming of the movie in early 1962 at the MGM Culver City Studio. The film was so big that it covered two enormous lots and two large stage sets at MGM!

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“MGM hasn’t seen anything like it since the Circus Maximus – if then. “Billy Rose’s Jumbo” (as they are calling it now) is all over the place…The elephants are housed on Lot 2; so are the horses being trained for Doris Day…The picture is spilling all over the sprawling Culver City studio. The main tent has been erected twice–on Lot 3, about a mile from the studio proper measuring 130×180 ft, and capable of seating 2,000 people, and on Stage 15, MGM’s largest. Here the actual circus acts, some 50 in number, will be shot, and here Miss Day Stephen Boyd and others will perform on trapeze and tightrope.

The big top on Lot 3 is surrounded by a menagerie, a mess tent, a wardrobe tent, wagons, and a sideshow, complete with a merry-go-round. Still another stage, 29, will be utilized for filming the close-up dramatic scenes.

The Los Angeles Times, Feb 7, 1962

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“On the set of MGM’s “Jumbo,” Stephen Boyd, who appears opposite Doris Day as a high-wire specialist and clown, recalled his own humble beginning as a London street busker, or funny man. He remembered that a Bobby watched him try to raise a crowd to earn a few pennies. The policeman sauntered over and said : “After you’re through bein’ funny, mate, you can join the mourners at St. Paul’s.”

The Los Angeles Times, Feb 25, 1962

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Stephen Boyd, co-starring with Doris Day in MGM’s “Jumbo,” discovered, much to his discomfort, that the sequence in which he goes into the cage and subdues a lion was scheduled for the last day of shooting. So Boyd went to the animal’s trainer to ask about the lions culinary habits. “Oh,” the trainer said nonchalantly, “I wouldn’t worry too much about Pete. He’s ferocious looking, but he’s from Italy, and over there he chomped up so many martyrs in those Italian movies that I don’t think he’d go for you.” Boyd retreated as gracefully as possible and was heard muttering: “I played Messala in ‘Ben-Hur’ and I don’t think you could call him a martyr.”

The Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1962

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“Jumbo” has completed filming at MGM, and a variety of amusing incidents during production have been noted here and elsewhere. There was one on the final day when Stephen Boyd was called upon to drive a farm wagon drawn by a spirited horse. After Boyd finished his rehearsals, director Charles Walters commented :”That’s great, Steve, but can you come around that curve a little faster?” The star answered with a question: “Didn’t you see ‘Ben-Hur’?”

The Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1962

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Stephen Boyd, a Rolls-Royce and a Chariot!

In early 1963 Stephen Boyd, a man who loved his automobiles, became the proud owner of a brand new Rolls-Royce, which apparently was delivered to him while he was filming “The Fall of the Roman Empire” in Spain. The two humorous anecdotes below about Boyd’s new car are from the Los Angeles Times.

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“Chariot Race Champ Drives Rolls-Royce”

Feb 17, 1963  Los Angeles Times

Stephen Boyd has become the unchallenged modern chariot champion. Because of his work in “Ben-Hur” and the currently shooting “Fall of the Roman Empire,” Boyd qualifies as the Sterling Moss of the chariot set and the Donald Campbell of the Roman racers. “Five years ago I made ‘Ben-Hur’ and people still call me ‘Messala,'” the actor said. “It makes you wonder how far you can go in life without a chariot. I figure they have taken me farther than a conscientious Roman Red Arrow messenger.”  A Rolls-Royce owner off the set, Steve says chariots compare favorably to modern vehicles as far as safety is concerned. “The auto driver forgets he has a hundred times more horses in his hands than the charioteer, but he isn’t one-tenth as careful.”

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Stephen Boyd shows off his chariot riding skills during the making of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” in early 1963 in Spain.

May 19, 1963  Los Angeles Times

Hardy passers-by braving a rugged location of Samuel Bronston’s “Fall of the Roman Empire” in the Guadarrama mountains of Spain, witnessed the arrival of a brand new Rolls-Royce from which alighted two royal Romans in full regalia and a man in a red snow suit. They were actors Stephen Boyd, owner of the car, Christopher Plummer and director Anthony Mann. En route, Boyd had extolled the virtues of his new auto, not even sparing that bit about hearing only the clock. As he and Plummer mounted their chariots, Mann growled to Boyd : “This AD 180, two horsepower, no stand-up top sports coupe is hardly as smooth running as your Rolls. But if you don’t give me a more exciting ride in it than you just did in that gold-plated hearse, I’ll let you lose this one too…just as you did in ‘Ben-Hur.'”

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Boyd, Mann and Plummer in snow-bound Spain during the filming of “The Fall of The Roman Empire”

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Movieland Wax Museum “Ben-Hur” Display

Sadly, this iconic wax museum which had so many classic movie displays is no more (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movieland_Wax_Museum), but I was able to find this awesome postcard on Ebay which must have been sold at their gift shop when they were in business. It shows in nice detail the amazing “Ben-Hur” wax display.  Messala (a very nice likeness of Stephen Boyd, I must say) can be seen in the foreground in his gold/black attire, bloodied and defeated as Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) rides by with his four white steeds in triumph. Messala’s toppled red and gold chariot can be seen prominently as well. What a nice display this was!

“One of the most dramatic new sets at Movieland Wax Museum “The Stars’ Hall of Fame” in Buena Park, is a startlingly realistic recreation of the famous chariot race scene from the 1959 Academy Award-winning motion picture, “Ben-Hur.” Charlton Heston, who won the 1959 Best Actor laurels for his portrayal of the film’s title character, drives a team of horses around the great track, speeding his chariot to victory. His friend-turned-enemy, portrayed by Stephen Boyd, lies bloody and broken next to his overturned chariot in the dirt of the ring. Thousands of citizens of Rome (portrayed on the elaborate backdrop) cheer the victor: “Ben-Hur.”

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Meet Stephen Boyd , the ‘Bad Boy’ of “Ben-Hur”

 

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Stephen Boyd Prefers Villain Role in ‘Ben-Hur’

According to legend, the actor who performs Hamlet on the stage or the tenor who sings Pagliacci in opera often as not is a happy-go-lucky, care-free fellow around the house. On the other hand, the show business comedian most like will be serious minded and unsmiling when his day’s work is ended.

By the same token, the villain who chases a virtuous heroine through thirteen reels of a movie might well be the personable boy-next-door type away from the job. Stephen Boyd, the rugged Irish actor who portrays Messala in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Academy Award-winning “Ben- Hur,” is a case in point. In the spectacular film, based on Gen. Lew Wallace’s famous novel, Messala is just about as ornery a cuss as a writer could dream up. “Ben-Hur” is now playing at the Cameo Theatre.

He doesn’t bat an eye when he sentences his best friend to the galleys. Nor does he flinch as he condemns the friend’s mother and sister, both of whom helped nurse him through childhood. He is unmoved when, years later, he learns they’re in a leper colony. And in the climactic chariot race of “Ben-Hur,” Messala uses the foulest and most unsportsmanlike means at his command in an effort to emerge the victor. In short, he is not exactly the type a girl would want to take home to meet mother.

Yet Stephen Boyd, who enjoyed to the hilt playing the villain, was so popular with members of the film’s Italian-British-American crew in Rome that, when his assignment was completed they presented him with a gold clock emblematic of their affection.

Boyd is the kind of a man who was born to make friends and he has been doing it most of his life. Away from the job, that is. As an actor he has made villainy his specialty.

It was his portrayal of a conniving spy in “The Man Who Never Was” that brought him to the attention of Hollywood and of Brigitte Bardot almost simultaneously. The French actress wanted him for her leading man in “The Night Heaven Fell” and a Hollywood studio wanted to place him under long term contract.

Boyd first acted the part of a heel opposite Miss Bardot in her film, then went to Hollywood, where he now makes his home. He was signed by MGM for “Ben-Hur” after Director William Wyler has seen him acting mean in “The Bravados.”

“After all,” he says,”in most plays and movies it’s the villain who is the most interesting. Even in Shakespeare, except for Hamlet, the really meaty roles are those of the bad fellows.”

Boyd is a blue-eyed, curly-haired chunk of masculinity, who makes no attempt to hide the fact that he just plain likes people. On the set of “Ben-Hur” he rarely occupied the fancy portable dressing room set aside for his use. Instead, he spent his time between scenes sitting around and chatting with electricians, carpenters and his fellow actors. He will discuss any subject and enjoys a good argument. he can , like most Irishmen, sprinkle his talk with wit as well as sagacity.

Boyd began early in his life to talk his way in and out of situations. In fact, he talked his way into a job at the age of eight. Born in Belfast, the youngest of nine children, he began contributing to the family’s support when he appeared on a BBC radio broadcast.

The Evening Standard, October 14, 1960, Pennsylvania

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Saturnalia and Stephen Boyd’s Favorite Sweater

Happy mid-December everyone and, as far as Romans would be concerned, we all want to welcome Saturnalia! Saturnalia was the a week long Roman celebration of the god Saturn, who was honored around the time of the winter solstice which. It took place from around Dec 17-23. The celebration began with a sacrifice then a grand banquet at the Temple of Saturn in Rome.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn_(mythology): “The revelries of Saturnalia were supposed to reflect the conditions of the lost “Golden Age” before the rule of Saturn was overthrown, not all of them desirable except as a temporary release from civilized constraint”

Unusual liberties prevailed during this celebration; people held private parties and exchanged gifts; slaves and master roles were reversed; schools were closed; no criminals were executed; war ceased and mirth prevailed. Saturn himself was one of the oldest Titan gods who had ruled Italy during the era of the Golden Age. That age expressed an ideal human world without violence and suffering, so it seems fitting that at year’s end we contemplate these “best of times.”

So, what does that have to do with Stephen Boyd’s favorite sweater? Well, unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of Stephen in what is now considered a cultural trend:  the ugly Christmas sweater! But, I do have lots of pictures of Stephen in one particular sweater which he seemed to really, really like. He has been photographed in this sweater over the years, so he must have kept it in his closet for certain occasions!

So, that being said, Happy Holidays everyone, Io Saturnalia, and enjoy the Stephen in His Favorite Sweater pictures!

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