Remembering Stephen Boyd on June 2nd and his last performance on Hawaii Five-0

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.

What Happened in 1977 Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture

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.

Issue date Song Artist(s) Reference
January 1 Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright) Rod Stewart [1]
January 8 You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show) Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. [2]
January 15 You Make Me Feel Like Dancing Leo Sayer [3]
January 22 I Wish Stevie Wonder [4]
January 29 Car Wash Rose Royce [5]
February 5 Torn Between Two Lovers Mary MacGregor [6]
February 12 [7]
February 19 Blinded by the Light Manfred Mann’s Earth Band [8]
February 26 New Kid in Town Eagles [9]
March 5 “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)” Barbra Streisand [10]
March 12 [11]
March 19 [12]
March 26 Rich Girl Daryl Hall and John Oates [13]
April 2 [14]
April 9 Dancing Queen ABBA [15]
April 16 Don’t Give Up on Us David Soul [16]
April 23 Don’t Leave Me This Way Thelma Houston [17]
April 30 Southern Nights Glen Campbell [18]
May 7 Hotel California Eagles [19]
May 14 When I Need You Leo Sayer [20]
May 21 Sir Duke Stevie Wonder [21]
May 28 [22]
June 4 [23]
June 11 I’m Your Boogie Man KC and the Sunshine Band [24]

Stephen Boyd and Yvette Mimieux

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)

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Stephen Boyd as Nimrod in “The Bible…In the Beginning”, 1966

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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?”

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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.

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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.

BP89KT STEPHEN BOYD THE BIBLE; LA BIBBIA (1966)

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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.

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Before there were Razzies, there was the Harvard Lampoon Awards!

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!

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Natalie Wood at Harvard accepting her Worst Actress Award in 1966

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

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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

http://www.uaadb.com/viewtopic.php?t=10032

..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

Hedda Hopper “Steve Boyd is back from Stint Abroad”, 1964 Interview

Looking at Hollywood, by Hedda Hopper

STEVE BOYD IS BACK FROM STINT ABROAD

Francoise Dorleac and Stephen Boyd in Yugoslavia

Hollywood, Dec 28, 1964 – Steve Boyd, who spent more than half of this year in Europe for “Genghis Khan” and “The Bible,” finally came to a halt at Twentieth Century Fox for “The Fantastic Voyage,” which puts him on the sets Jan.5 for 85 days….

“I was over four months in Yugoslavia with Omar Sharif and Francoise Dorleac, a wonderful experience,” Steve said. “It’s the only country I’ve hit where United States aid is appreciated. All housing build with our money flies American flags atop buildings and the people are cordial and express their gratitude. 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.”

Steve is leaner and handsomer these days, work black British woolens and had a close contemporary haircut. When I accused him of being a contender for Cary Grant’s sartorial spot he said: “I’m glad to be rid of that long hair I’ve sported with armor and costume stuff. I play a super-modern man and it’s the first film I’m not allowed to talk about. Generally this is a publicity gimmick, but Life magazine was turned down flat when they asked to photograph sets and see a script, and 35 foreign publications were refused also. After “Voyage” I’ll do a western for Columbia, as yet untitled. Eli Wallach will play the original Gimbel who founded the great merchant fortune and came west in the early days.”

“You sounded close to permanence with that English girl just before you went away,” I said. “What about it?” He grinned. “The little black book book gets obsolete every time I leave, so that romance is dead. As for girls, the minute they start with ‘dear heart’ and ‘darling,’ I run. Women in Yugoslavia are attractive in a big busted way,” he said. “Tito would export bosoms and rocks and make a fortune. They place is full of giant boulders and women build the roads, throwing big rocks into a crushed which a man operates. He reads his newspaper, she throws the boulders into a hopper, and he presses the lever with his foot. Then she picks up the pieces and lays them one by one in the roadbed. These girls are handsome and firm muscled; but the ones with easier jobs are given to fat.”

Steve’s still suing Anthony Mann for half a million over “The Unknown Battle.”  “I missed out on four good roles and plenty of money when he signed me without financial backing and then dropped the project,” Steve said. “He asked me again later but I’d made other commitments, so Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris made it under another title. Westerns are the big money makers in Europe. Clint Eastwood of Rawhide TV made a western in Spain with an Italian director and cast, all of whom took American names for it. It cost $140,000 and has already grossed 2 million dollars, and Clint is the top star in Italy now. ‘Jumbo’ has lines a block long in Spain when I first went over there and it was the same story months later.”

Stephen Boyd gets swarmed by a crowd at a “Jumbo” premiere

Steve says we’re behind on the subject of nutrition in which he’s keenly interested. “I can’t find a good nutritionist in Los Angeles. My mother, who was crippled with arthritis and couldn’t move about at all a year ago, has been under care of a London doctor who has a new cure. When I saw her recently she was walking in the garden without a cane. It’s a combination of exercise and diet, and she’s given a glass of red wine each day.”

 


Stephen Boyd and Ulla Bergryd from “The Bible” premiere, 1966

Stephen and young starlet Ulla Bergryd, who played Nimrod and Eve respectively in John Huston’s dream-like, biblical epic “The Bible”, attended the Hollywood premiere of the movie together in October of 1966.  Ulla was from Sweden, and she was somewhat overawed by the dazzling Hollywood stars that surrounded her during the premiere. She attended the New York premiere with John Gavin, and the Hollywood premiere with Boyd. From an article at the time, the 24-year old Bergryd said this:

“I used to read the movie magazines avidly until I was about 14 and I just couldn’t tell Mr. Gavin and Mr. Boyd that when I was a child they were two of my pin-up boys.”

Lucky lady!

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with Ulla Bergryd, 1966

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Boyd signs autographs, and Bergryd is close behind at another “The Bible” event 

Boyd as Nimrod, Bergryd as Eve in “The Bible” 1966

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A Candid Stephen Boyd Interview from 1969

Stephen Boyd Explains His Lousy Movies

The Journal News – White Plains New York, 09 Jul 1969

By Bernard Shaw

New York – Stephen Boyd was in town briefly to publicize “Slaves” in which he plays a plantation owner and which was to open in a few days. I hadn’t yet seen the film when its publicist called and asked if I cared to meet Boyd. I hedged and said that the only burning question I had for him was why he made so many lousy pictures.

“Ask him that, “ the publicist urged. “I did and found that he’s very bright and articulate and he has no illusions about the business. He’ll speak candidly about anything.”

I agreed to see him, the date was set, and in the meantime, I attended the premive of the 70-mm elongation of “Ben Hur” in which Boyd had played Messala way back in 1960, and I found, to my surprise, that his was by the far the best performance in the film.

He had managed to endow an almost impossible villain with so much humor and intelligence, even sympathy in his 27 minutes out of a total of four hours on screen, that he rather threw the whole marathon epic out of kilter. I even found myself hopelessly rooting for him to win the chariot race against the archangel Heston.

I meet Boyd a week later in his suite at the Elysee, still not having seen “Slaves.” He is a tall, handsome Irishman from Ulster – Belfast is his home- and he was dressed in conservative black, having some kind of semiformal luncheon to attend later on.  He had a ruddy bloom on his cheeks all the Irish seem to have when they arrive here, but lose too soon. His sole concession to the now look was an elegant guardsman moustache.

After the usual amenities, my first question, predictably, was “How come you’ve made  so many lousy movies?”

“20th Century Fox,” he answered immediately, “20th Century Fox. I was under contract to them- chattel- and if you think and you are correct in thinking, I made so many lousy movies, you should see what I turned. Down. I was under contract with them for eleven, which should give you some indication of how many suspensions I took.”

Why did he ever get himself involved in such a situation? Simply because at the time the contact was waived before him, it seemed like mana from heaven. He comes from a large, poor family in Belfast, and at the age of seven he went on Ulster Radio’s Children’s Hour because the family needed the money.

At sixteen, he left school and broke with the family trade – which his father and brothers all practiced – truck driving, to work with the Ulster Theater Group, and then there were long, fruitless years in stock companies in Canada and the United States where he made alarming progress getting nowhere.

In 1952 in London, where he had gone to storm the British theater, he was literally starving, and reduced to playing his guitar and “busking” to the cinema queues in Leicester Square for pennies.

That did lead to a job as doorman of the Odean Cinema which in turn led to his becoming an usher and then to his meeting Michael Redgrave who gave him an introduction to the Windsor Repertory Theater and the Midlands Theater Company and several more years of playing all kinds of roles in addition to some small parts in British films.

So that when 20th Century Fox, impressed with his performance in “The Man Who Never Was, “ offered him a Babylonian Captivity, he had to accept.

“I don’t know how I lasted,” he said, “And I’m about the only one of the bunch of white hopes who came in when I did, who did last – there were Bradford Dillman, Stuart Whitman, Bobby Wagner – they put you in anything they want to and  there’s nothing you can do about it. When you try to speak to them, you’re told you’re a tax deduction. It isn’t so much a question of your making money for them but your’e enabling them to save money. You mean nothing.”

“But you’ve been living in Europe these last few years,” I said.

“I’ve been a resident of the United States,” he said, “ and a United States citizen for the last ten years. My home is in Los Angeles. Of course I never see it. They keep shipping me abroad which is another way of their being able to make money on you.”

“Were you forced to make things like ‘The Oscar’ and ‘The Caper of the Golden Bulls?’ ” I asked.

“I would do ‘The Oscar’ again with the original script I saw, but not with the people involved in it,” he said, “and I would do ‘Caper of the Golden Bulls’ again, but not with people involved, and many others which turned out so badly.”

“And ‘Slaves’ is different?” I asked.

He nodded, “You’ll search a long way before you find a more technically imperfect film, but that’s not what we were trying to do. We were trying to make the first true picture of slavery in America, and we did.”

“At least it’s an original of the Irish Rebellion,” I said, “I saw Sidney Poitier’s ‘The Lost Man’ which is an adaptation of ‘Odd Man Out’ and it’s terrible.”

“Sidney can’t do what he wants, superstar though he is, “ Boyd said. “He can do what he wants provided that it’s salable amd makes money. Remember, he and Jim Brown knocked themselves out, but they made it as personalities, not as blacks. The black problem was still an untouchable on the screen prior to ‘Slaves’ because the few films made that touched on the problem didn’t make money. But we’re breaking records everywhere we opened, and that’s where it counts with those boys. Will it make money?”

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 wondered if he was looking for a stupid picture now, but I asked instead, “Why did you bow out of ‘Cleopatra?’”

“They changed the story on me, “ he said, “When I was scheduled to do it, when Mamoulian was supposed to direct, Peter Finch was to play Caesar and I, Anthony, and it was the story of Caesar and Cleopatra an then Anthony and Cleopatra. But then it became just the story of Cleopatra, “ he shrugged.

“And you let Richard have it, “ I said.

“I let Richard have it, “ he said.

“How come you don’t return to the theater?” I asked, “Isn’t it more satisfying for an actor?”

“From an ego point of view, yes, “ he said, “but films could be satisfying too for an actor is he was involved in the creation. We all make a picture together, but nobody talks to anybody. Nobody will sit down and discuss it beforehand, and you never do discuss it – with very, very few exceptions- unless some crisis occurs. The cameraman is off creating his mood, the actor is creating his mood, the set designed only worries about how his set looks, the costume designer, her costumes.”

He shrugged “It’s no wonder so few things turn out well. If I did do a play, I’d like to do O’Casey. ‘Juno and the Paycock.’ But it would have to be played right, as it was originally in Ireland. The first two acts are comedy and the last, tragedy. You have to be very careful about the way you do Irish drama. There are so many misconceptions abroad about Catholic and Protestant in Ireland. I heard Bernadette Devlin’s maiden speech in Parliament and I was deeply moved. She was elected, remember, in a predominantly Protestant community, and she said, “There is not a religious question in Ireland. It is simply a question of poverty.”

“Of course, that was distorted in all of the foreign press,” Boyd said angrily, “Nobody had it right but the London Times. Of course it’s a question of poverty in Ireland, and people everywhere was so ignorant of the situation. Only yesterday someone said to me, ‘But you’re Catholic,’ and I said, ‘No I happen to be Protestant, but what has that to do with it?”

“I come from an Irish family, the youngest of nine. My father was a truck driver. When he retired, he was at the height of his earning power. He was making six pounds a week, that’s about thirteen dollars. How the hell are a man and his wife and nine children going to live on thirteen dollars a week?”

Then he grew less angry and he said, “And then I think of something O’Casey said when I did ‘June and the Paycock’ in Belfast and he came up to see it. He said, ‘There are many, many, many noes in the world , but there is always a bigger yes.’”