Boyd Back to ‘Civvies’
from the Republican and Herald, Pennsylvania, March 26, 1965
GOODBY TOGAS, HELLO PANTS, SAYS STEVE
by Armand Arched
HOLLYWOOD – It’s a pleasure to track down Stephen Boyd on a movie set. The search can take you anywhere from Rome for “Ben-Hur” to downtown Los Angeles for his current “Fantastic Voyage.” But it’s a long time between his Hollywood-made films. And he’s one of those rare guys who’d like to stay at home in sunny Southern California and leave the driving (or flying) to other guys.
The last time we spoke to Boyd on the set of a Hollywood made film was “Jumbo”, on the back lot at MGM studios in Culver City. Since that time, he’s been to Italy (a couple of times), Spain, Yugoslavia, England, Egypt and Ireland.
“It seems I do nothing but travel,” he smiled. “And, as you know, I originally came to Hollywood to make my home here and to work here. But since that time, there’s been an influx over to Europe and unfortunately I’ve been a member of that group.”
Boyd wasn’t kidding about making his home in the sunny Southern California clime. The eligible bachelor, instead of making his pad one of those super-glamor places above the Sunset Strip, chose to buy his own home in the San Fernando Valley where such established family men like John Wayne live. Sure, the house has a pool- he’s a sun-lover. (One of those reasons he left the British Isles).
“I’m a true-blooded American citizen,” Boyd noted (he’s had his citizenship papers over a year), “and also a true- blooded California citizen.” He credits the last status in view of his always-handy golf clubs. Like thousands of Los Angelenos, Boyd is a golf nut. Whenever and wherever possible, he’s out pounding the turf.
“Fantastic Voyage” is a pleasure for Boyd on another count. It gives him a chance to work in civvies for a change. “I’d almost become used to getting up in the morning and putting on a dress- a toga, that is, ” he laughed. “It’s nice to be wearing long pants. I feel like a man again.”
In the film, he plays a secret service man –“a good full-blooded American,” he reiterated. But before this epic, Boyd was again in a toga, or baggy dress, playing “Nimrod” in the biggest epic of them all, “The Bible” by Dino de Laurentiis.
Boyd toils in the Tower of Babel sequences. Although he was again in biblical dress, Boyd admits the film was a great experience.
“But it’s a different-looking Steve Boyd,” he warned. “My make up took three hours every morning– false beard, false eyebrows, false eyelashes, false hair. Everything about me is false – except my heart, ” he laughed. These sequences were filmed outside Cairo as well as in the studios near Rome.
We were talking with Boyd inside the giant Los Angeles Sports Arena. As we looked down from the upper levels at the floor below (being readied for a basketball game that night), it was hard to believe Hollywood’s craftsmen had transformed the place into a Pentagon-type building for super-secret activities of deterrent force of men who could make themselves small enough to enter the human blood stream – of the enemy, that is.
It’s a super-futuristic film, of course. It’s not outer space, we were told, but inner, inner space. Some of the equipment rented is also used in plants doing secret government work. Some of the machines are creations of the 20th-Fox engineers. It’s super-science-fiction stuff.
Talking to Steve and looking down at the floor of the Sports Arena, we wondered if he and pal Charlton Heston could run a chariot race here. “It would be kind small,” he laughed. “If Chuck Heston and I got in here we’d have to expand it five or six times the size. We’re a little too fast for these guys.”
We could testify to that – we once stood on the sidelines of the “Ben-Hur” arena in Rome when they filmed their chariot race and we still shudder, recalling those charging steeds tearing around the track a few yards away from our reporting post.
Yes, we agreed with Boyd, it’s a pleasant change to see him working in civvies – and in modern civilization again.
Above, Stephen Boyd with Jack Lord and co-star Elayne Heilveil in “Up The Rebels”, the 10th season premiere of the original Hawaii Five-0 TV show which aired on September 15, 1977.
This will make 41 years since Stephen Boyd passed away on June 2nd, 1977. Stephen was enjoying a round of golf (his favorite pastime) with his wife Elizabeth Mills at the Porter Valley Country Club in Northridge, California when he suffered a heart attack between the 5th and 6th holes in his golf cart. By the time he received emergency aid, he was gone. Tragically he was only 45 years old.
Only three weeks prior to his death Stephen was completing the film work for an episode of Hawaii Five-0, a show which he had initially been offered to star in during the late 1960’s, but which he obviously declined. The show would air posthumously in September of that same year. Playing the villain again, Boyd gets to show off his Ulster brogue and play a ruthless Catholic rebel priest smuggling arms to Ireland (via Hawaii!). Boyd gives an excellent performance but sadly his last. In his final on-screen dialogue Boyd speaks something in Gaelic, and then says “Up The Rebels” in English with an Irish wink. It’s an eerie farewell.
Stephen did know some Gaelic and even pulled a practical trick on director John Houston once on the set of “The Bible” using it. As Boyd tells it :
“The one rib he tried to pull on my backfired…He introduced me to a chap, saying: “Steve, I want you to know this man who’ll help you more than anyone has helped you before.” He didn’t know I’d met the same fellow while making ‘Ben-Hur’ in Rome several years ago. He gives forth with the double talk so fast you think you’re an ignoramus.
“So I coached this guy in some Gaelic and told him to go back and do the double-talk in that tongue, with an occasional English word thrown in. He had Huston going for a while but he’s very hep and a good sport, too, getting a hearty laugh at me for turning the tables.” (Philadelphia Daily News, Jan 19, 1965)
Below are some nice pictures of Stephen from Hawaii-Five 0 and a short summary of events from 1977.
Star Wars opens in cinemas, first Apple II computers go on sale, TV Mini Series “Roots” is aired, First commercial flight Concord, Elvis Presley Dies at the age of 42, NASA space shuttle first test flight, UK Jubilee celebrations, Roman Polanski is arrested and Charged, Alaskan Oil Pipeline completed, New York City Blackout lasts for 25 hours Quebec adopts French as the official language. Jimmy Carter is elected as the President of United States . The precursor to the GPS system in use today is started by US Department of defense. Elvis Presley Dies from a heart attack aged 42.
There seemed to be a very affectionate and protective older brother/little sister relationship between Stephen Boyd and actress Yvette Mimieux on the set of “Caper of the Golden Bulls”. Stephen would know all about having sisters at least – he had four of them! Yvette was only 24 years old when she was making this picture and Boyd was 35. The below pictures are some of my favorite of Stephen and Yvette together. Stephen looks dashingly handsome in his mid-1960’s short hair and white suitcoats, and Yvette equally alluring.
And for her part, Yvette would gush about her co-star during The Bible…In The Beginning premiere in October of 1966.
At our table was lovely Yvette Mimieux, accompanied by her manager Jim Byron, but dividing her chatting time between Ustinov [they’re good friends and may be working together in the Disney picture] and Stephen Boyd , who plays Nimrod in “The Bible.”
Yvette worked with Boyd in the Paramount picture “Caper of the Golden Bulls” [not yet released], and told me she considers him one of the most considerable and solicitous men she shows — with his costars. (Chicago Tribune, Oct 10, 1966, Norma Lee Browning)
Stephen Boyd was no stranger to biblical epics after his experience in Ben-Hur in 1959. John Huston’s quasi- psychedelic and beautifully filmed 1966 epic The Bible…In the Beginning was Stephen’s last venture into ancient times on the movie screen. Boyd’s segment in this film occurs just after the intermission and it contains a truly mesmerizing movie moment with an astonishing Tower of Babel in the desert with thousands of extras climbing to the top and all around. There are so many extras that they look like ants from the top of this tower! Stephen Boyd as a very regal Nimrod strides slowly onto the screen in an elaborate costume and golden/black eye makeup which would make Cleopatra envious. As he slowly mounts the winding staircase of the Tower of Babel, his minions and wives cower in his footsteps. As he reaches the top, he seems overcome with pride and he asks for his bow. Aiming it high into the sky, he shoots an arrow which becomes lost in the clouds it goes so far. Immediately after doing this the ground begins to rumble and the wind blows as God disapproves of this vanity. Once the dust clears, Nimrod is shocked to find that he can no longer understand any of his entourage. Their words make no sense as God has confounded their language. Everyone rushes around in confusion and they flee out into the desert. Nimrod surveys his now empty Tower in defiance and angry dismay.
Then, as quickly as it had started, this story line ends. Why?
Well, a reporter in 1969 asked Stephen this very question :
I asked him about some of his earlier films, about his brilliant but aborted Nimrod in John Huston’s “The Bible.” The role ended in the middle of nowhere.
“I had just made the test of Huston and had been on the film for only a couple of days when Fox yanked me off to make ‘Fantastic Voyage.’”, Boyd said. “I assumed they were going to junk what I did or do it over with someone else, but later on, Huston decided to use what little he had, so of course, the actor is blamed for it. You have to make compromises all the way. Big ones on the big picture, smaller ones on the smaller ones, you even have to make them on the good pictures, and I say the hell with it. You can make a lot of stupid pictures that make a lot of money, so why eat your heart out?”
I, for one, am so pleased that Huston left this scene in the movie even though it is incongruously placed and appears like a mini vignette. Stephen’s appearance was brief but he was still listed as one of the main stars. The movie was a box office success (it was the top grossing movie of 1966), and it is still played frequently on television today.
To film his brief scene, Stephen luckily missed an airplane crash in Rome and then got lost driving himself to the movie location in Egypt!
I reported back here for “Voyage” to learn it was postponed a month, so accepted John Huston’s offer to play Nimrod, which fitted neatly into the interval. Just before I was to leave, Saul David, my producer, said he and Dave Fleischer must have some huddles with me first. So I canceled the flight and took tickets for a plane four days later. It saved my life. I was booked on Flight 800 which went down with everyone aboard lost. (For more about TWA 800 Crash, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TWA_Flight_800_(1964) )
“We were rained out when I first hit Cairo,” Steve continued, “Huston was working in the Moadi desert 50 miles outside the city, and I got lost heading for location. Nothing but sand in all directions, not even a mirage in sight. I was done up in a fantastic costume of gold metal eyebrows and helmet, tight black leather pants and fur chaps. A man appeared out of nowhere and thrust his arm inside the car. I thought I’d be shot on sight, instead he shook hands, said something in Egyptian and pointed out the direction of our company.” Hedda Hopper, Hollywood, Dec 28, 1964.
Below are some pictures from the movie and promotional film booklet with some information about how they filmed this unforgettable scene of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel. The Tower itself was built on a back-lot set in Rome as solidly as any modern structure in order to allow hundreds of people on it during the filming. Some people thought it looked like new skyscraper! The framework was made of steel tubular pipes covered with plaster and anchored in a concrete setting. The outside was artistically made to look like ancient bricks. It rose 120 feet and cost $375,000 to create. (Jan 5, 1965, Tucson Daily Citizen, “Tower rises–and so does the cost”)
Historically speaking, King Nimrod himself was a somewhat mysterious figure who was the grandson of Noah’s son Ham. He ruled over Mesopotamia after the Flood, and his Kingdom was enormous, covering parts of Babylonia and Assyria. He was a renowned hunter and is said to have been the first to eat meat and make war, which may explain some of the production photos of Stephen on horseback in costume doing some hunting with his bow and arrow. These were probably the scenes filmed in Egypt as well but abandoned in the final cut.
Who can bend the bow of Nimrod?
Or put strength into the arrow like unto his strength?
Nothing is too mighty for him to do!
No power is greater than his!
For he has taken the earth and made it his own.
He stores up the thunder and wears the lightning like a jewel.
The glory of Nimrod shines beyond the sun.
There is none greater than he in earth or heaven.
Today the annual Razzie Awards came out to celebrate the worst performances and movies for the year. These awards started in 1980. The previous association that would issue this type of award was from student humor magazine The Harvard Lampoon, based at Harvard University in Massachusetts. This award humorously began in 1939 and they would annually announce a “Movie Worst Issue” magazine.
The Worst Actress award was called The Natalie Wood Award because Natalie Wood had won this dubious prize for three consecutive years in the early 1960’s. She even went to Harvard to personally accept the award in 1966. What a good sport!
The Worst Actor award was called The Kirk Douglas Award. I can’t seem to find which movie gave Kirk this distinction. Maybe it’s a slew of them!
And yes, for the year of 1966-1967 our Stephen got a special mention for something called “the Roscoe Award”. See below!
(George) Peppard was named for the “Kirk Douglas Award” as the year’s worst actor for his performance in “The Blue Max.”
Miss Andress was chosen for “The Natalie Wood Award” as worst actress for her part in “Casino Royale.”
The 10 worst pictures were ranked behind 1) “Is Paris Burning?” in this order: 2. Hurry Sundown; 3. The Oscar; 4. The Fortune Cookie; 5. The Bible; 6. A Countess from Hong Kong; 7. The Blue Max; 8. Fantastic Voyage; 9. Torn Curtin and 10. Penelope.
Leslie Caron was named the worst supporting actress of the year for “Is Paris Burning” and John Huston the worst supporting actor for “The Bible.”
Stephen Boyd was given the special Roscoe Award, with the notation that “This coveted trophy is awarded annually to the actor or actress who, in the past year, has most memorably displayed that certain unskilled, clumsy quality that has marked the products of Hollywood since the early days.”
It went to Boyd for “his starring roles in The Oscar and Fantastic Voyage and for his brief but significant appearance in The Bible.”
Bennington Banner, May 25, 1967
Ouch. Sorry Stephen. Frankie Fane would not agree with this assessment and neither do I. But I hope Stephen took this news as well as Natalie Wood did!
In another example of this humorous publication, here is a sample from 1966:
The Piltdown Mandible (presented annually for the lamest example of scientific improbable phenomenon): This year to the producers of Fantastic Voyage for assuming that the molecules which made up the submarine would not re-expand to normal size because said submarine had been devoured by a white corpuscle; and to the lame cow in The Bible who supplied an estimated 974,000 gallons of milk to all the animals on the Ark for 40 days and 40 nights
The Merino Award: To the two merinos on the Ark in The Bible
..and from 1964:
Worst Performance by a Cast in Toto: The entire population of Western Europe for its performance in The Fall of the Roman Empire