Stephen Boyd Interview, July 1964 : “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”

It’s so interesting to read some of Stephen’s interviews back in the day. Sometimes he could be too honest when speaking to the likes of journalists Hedda Hooper, Erskine Johnson, Sheilah Graham, Joe Hyams and Louella Parsons. Occasionally Stephen would completely knock down one his own current releases, like in the article below. Stephen had already disappointed Paramount executives by failing to appear at the premiere of “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” In the same summer he told Sheilah Graham that the best movie he had ever done up until then was “Ben-Hur.” This was probably an honest statement, but maybe not the safest path to steer in a sensitive town like Hollywood!  Yes, despite his overtly honest comments, Stephen still continued to thrive with a solid career there for several years, even until the early 1970’s when he truly had to seek projects abroad.

Roles Disappoint Stephen Boyd

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 London- July 3, 1964 (Asbury Park Press) by Sheilah Graham

 “The only really good film I’ve made in the past eight years, said Stephen Boyd, complete with heard and ginger mustache, “is Ben Hur.”

 Stephen is in London being fitted for his Genghis Khan costumes for “The Golden Horde” which he will film in Yugoslavia for the next three months.

 “I’m under contact to 20th Century Fox,” continued the likable actor, “but I haven’t made a film for them (in Hollywood) since 1959 – ‘The Best of Everything’ with Joan Crawford and Suzy Parker. The last picture I made in Hollywood was ‘Jumbo’ in 1961, with Doris Day. It was a poor picture.”

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 Boyd has the usual Hollywood problem of the past decade. In 1961, he bought a house in the Valley, a charming place, with the idea of living in it, of course.

 “Ever since, I have made pictures abroad and spent only a few months in the house. Now I am thinking of selling it for something smaller. With being away so much it would be more practical. The day after I moved in, I left for Egypt, to play Mark Anthony in ‘Cleopatra.’ Every time I see Richard Burton I say, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.” (On a side note, Boyd is exaggerating here – He was actually sent to Egypt in April of 1961 on a publicity tour for ‘Cleopatra’ to attend the Pyramid Light Inauguration, not for filming ‘Cleopatra’, which was already on the skids since late 1960.)

 He sounded somewhat regretful. He likes Elizabeth Taylor.

“I think she’s a dream.”

 Stephen also likes Dolores Hart, with whom he made some films when she was a movie star and under contract to Fox. Dolores is in a convent in Connecticut.

 “She wrote to me very frequently and I wrote to her. But this stopped on June 29, when she went into complete seclusion – no visitors, no phone calls,no letters for a year. After that she will decide if her future is in a convent, or she can return to the world. She seems very happy in her life. But at the beginning it was not easy for her. She was frank in her letters to me. She was climbing the movie ladder and she wrote to me that she missed the applause, and her life as an actress. But now she had made the adjustment. The chief thing, I imagine, is that you must find love within yourself before you can live with yourself.”

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We returned to Stephen’s career, and why he has not cared for most of his films. He’s attractive and a good actor.

 “But they won’t let me be myself. I’m always having to play some character. The secret to Gary Cooper’s and Clark Gable’s success is that they always played themselves.”

“I was terribly disappointed,” he laughed, “when they didn’t let me play ‘Jack the Ripper!’”

 I was surprised to have caught up with the Irish-born actor earlier this year in Europe. He flew over to star in “The Unknown Battle” in Norway with Elke Sommer.

 “But I sat on my rear end in London, waiting for it to start. A major studio was supposed to provide 50 percent of the finance. Two weeks before production, they backed out. Tony Mann, the director, had promised me we will make the picture later this year, then the snows come again to Norway.”

 Stephen is sure that pictures are coming back to Hollywood.

 “There is a definite upturn, but we won’t see the results until next year. Then maybe I can get to live in Hollywood, as I did when I first went here in 1958. But most of my movies have been abroad, as I told you. I made “The Night Heaven Fell” with Brigitte Bardot in Paris. She was very big then because this was her first movie after her hit  in ‘And God Created Woman.’”

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 “Is it true,” I asked, “that you will never make another movie in Rome?”

 “What I said was,” he replied, ”that I would never make a picture in Rome under those circumstances. In the first place this picture will not be shown in America. They can’t get it past the censors.  And more important, they didn’t pay me my full salary. They still owe me money. If I make another picture in Rome, the money will have to be in the bank first. Also, what I did receive was taxed in Italy as well as in America. It just isn’t practical to work there.”

 One picture Stephen would like to make in Hollywood is the Mildred Crem story, “Forever.”  Metro bought it years and years ago with the idea of starring Janet Gaynor.

 “I’d like to do it with Audrey Hepburn,” said Boyd.

 Another film he wants to make is “Clive of India.”

 “Terence Young had written this treatment, and of course this one would have to be made mostly in India.”

 This is a happy weekend for Stephen in London. The actor who became an American citizen last December 23 has a birthday on July 4.

 “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, and I’m looking forward to the day I can work, as well as live, in America.”

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Stephen Boyd is sent to Egypt on a “Cleopatra” publicity tour, 1961

Mark Anthony is sent to Egypt!

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In April of 1961, Stephen Boyd had just moved into his newly purchased house in Tarzana, California, a ranch-style home which was built in 1949. Stephen would own this home until his death in 1977. Stephen had been lingering on for quite some time waiting for the call back to the set of “Cleopatra” in London, which he had left in December of 1960. The full cast and crew had been waiting forever for an ailing Elizabeth Taylor to get better. Eventually the project would be revamped with a new cast, director and location. But during this time, the Twentieth Century Fox moguls were talking to the government of Egypt for the possibility of filming some scenes there (obviously – this is “Cleopatra”!). The Egyptian government was under the sway of strongman President Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, who had overthrown the Egyptian monarchy in 1952. Interestingly, because Elizabeth Taylor had recently married singer Eddie Fisher and converted to Judaism, Egypt did not want her coming to their country because she was now Jewish. Nasser also banned all Elizabeth Taylor movies in the country! This made the possibility of filming some of “Cleopatra” in Egypt rather awkward for Fox Studios. (Los Angeles Times, July 29, 1960)

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The filming of Cleopatra in London, September of 1960. Stephen can be seen on the right in full Mark Anthony costume. Elizabeth Taylor on the horse? It’s hard to say.

Fox Chairman Spyros Skouras was still trying other ways to flatter the ego of the Egyptian President. At this time, Egypt itself was prepping for an exciting new tourist gimmick – a sound and light show at the Great Pyramids of Giza. The light show (which I have seen myself in person when I was in Egypt in 2009), is an impressive display of multi-colored lights highlighting both the Great Sphinx and the Pyramids, and the sound show (at least in 2009) was narrated by actor Omar Sharif telling the tale of the ancient Pyramids and Sphinx. The inauguration of the sound and light show was set for the end of April and, along with other dignitaries and celebrities, Twentieth Century Fox decided to round up a few of its own (since Nasser was demanding glitch and glamour) and shuffled a few actors off to Egypt to attend the ceremony. Because Stephen had been part of the original cast of “Cleopatra” (he was still technically scheduled to be Mark Anthony, as he had not yet dropped out of the role), he was an ideal choice for this publicity tour. He was joined by svelte, blonde beauty Barbara Eden, soon to be of “Bewitched” fame, and TV star Julie Newmar, who would be better known later on as Catwoman from the 1960’s “Batman” TV series.

Julie Newmar, Barbara Eden, Stephen Boyd

Stephen got the call from Fox executives almost immediately after he was moving into his home. His reaction was – not pleased, according to Hedda Hopper.

Steve Boyd was just moving into his Encino home when he was ordered on a plane to Egypt where he’ll attend ceremonies inaugurating light and sound on the Sphinx and Pyramids outside of Cairo. He’ll be gone ten days, said: “I’m leaving my home in utter and abysmal confusion.” (Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1961)

Stephen was dutiful, however, and traveled to Egypt as the handsome, male film celebrity. It was on this first trip to Egypt where he first met Omar Sharif and his wife, who were also attending the celebration. Stephen recalled their meeting during the filming of “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

“Omar Shairf and I met two years ago in Egypt on a publicity tour for 20th Century Fox. Omar and his wife Fatem Hamama are the biggest stars in Egyptian films today. With Omar working on ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’ now, its like old home week between us.

“Lo and behold,” says Stephen, “Omar and I are working out a deal to costar in a picture to be made late this year. Naturally his lovely wife would have an important role. It would be a join project between my company and his. So far we have the temporary title of ‘The Secret’ and it’s a mystery comedy with romance.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 22, 1963)

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Now that would have been interesting! Anyhow, Stephen also seems to have enjoyed himself and the sound and light show as well, telling Hedda Hopper the details after he returned from his adventure abroad.

Steve tells me he had a wonderful time in Cairo. He said: “The new sound and light is turned on at night and the Pyramids are the most beautiful sight I’e ever seen. Barbara Eden and her husband, Michael Ansara, and Julie Newmar got a terrific reception there. Nasser attended the opening of their movie, but Spyros Skouras, our host, left before we arrived…” (Chicago Daily Tribune, May 11, 1961)

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Stephen was finally freed up from his “Cleopatra” obligation in June of 1961, and was off to London to begin filming “The Inspector” with Dolores Hart. By late June, Richard Burton to stepped into the role of Mark Anthony to replace Boyd. Stephen Boyd could finally leave this role behind.

Even though he never got to star in “Cleopatra,” at least Stephen Boyd, the original Mark Anthony, has the small consolation of visiting Egypt, the Great Sphinx and the Pyramids before he moved on to other projects. The only thing he was missing was Elizabeth Taylor as “Cleopatra” on her purple barge floating down the Nile!

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“Actress Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, Eddie Fisher, have filed $7.25 million libel actions against eight movie and TV magazines, charing them with character damage through ‘lurid’ headlines.” (Town Talk, Dec 10 , 1960) The above headline involving Stephen Boyd was one of the magazine articles in question.

Stephen Boyd attends the London Premiere of “Cleopatra” July 31, 1963

On July 31 of 1963, Stephen attended the London opening of the Twentieth Century Fox epic, Cleopatra. What a good sport! Stephen was originally set to play the main male character Mark Anthony, but due to Taylor’s long illness during the filming of the movie in London during 1960, Stephen, as well as most of the rest of the original cast, moved on to other projects. Stephen was in London filming “The Third Secret” during the summer of 1963. Apparently Burton and Taylor both boycotted the London premiere because of the scathing London critical reviews of Taylor’s performance at the time.

As for Boyd’s opinion – from The Sunday Express London on August 11, 1963:

“My only regret in not being in it was not working with Elizabeth Taylor,” he said. “I think she’s marvelous.

“I remember one day when several of us were reading for the part, and Elizabeth was ill, and we went around to her house when she was just, as it were, getting up. And God ! She’s the most beautiful thing. You know what you look like getting up ?” Mr. Boyd collapsed his face and looked extremely unwell. “Not Elizabeth. This vision came out of the bedroom”.

“The only thing I didn’t like about Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra was her make-up – all that heavy eye shadow and stuff. Ugh ! I can see why English girls wear so much of it : you’re walking up the Kings-road in the cold, and you’ve got to do sumpin to cover up the purple.

“But I’ve never liked a lot of make-up on women. You don’t know how to break through. It’s almost like being in prison. You know ? Let-me-know-when-I-touch-skin. What do they put so much on for ? Huhh ? It takes longer to take off. And time is a very important thing” (http://leglatin.pagesperso-orange.fr/boyd/boyde.htm)

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Look for Stephen at about :19 seconds into the video….

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Stephen Boyd Fan Tribute Webpage….Le site Internet de la famille LE GLATIN

http://leglatin.pagesperso-orange.fr/boyd/boyde.htm

This is a great tribute page published online many years ago! This may be the first ever Stephen Boyd fan page there was on the web. It is packed full of Stephen photos, articles and movie information. Take a look! Below are some of the pictures you will find on this webpage.

Above, Stephen Boyd as ‘Stanley’ in the British Stage production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” 1953.

Stephen Boyd poses in full costume as Mark Anthony in “Cleopatra” 1960.

Stephen Boyd and Miss Brigitte Bardot during “The Night Heaven Fell”

Stephen Boyd and Gina Lollobrigida in “Imperial Venus” 1962

Dolores Hart and Stephen Boyd at “Lisa” premiere 1962

Sean Connery and Stephen Boyd filming “Shalako” in 1968

Stephen Boyd as Messala in Ben Hur, 1959

Stephen Boyd as Livius in “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, 1964

“Liz Taylor’s First Mark Anthony” – Hedda Hopper interviews Stephen Boyd 1962

Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1962

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Mixing with the Royals; Stephen Boyd can be seen to the right in full Mark Anthony gear. Is that Elizabeth Taylor riding the horse? It’s hard to say.
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Stephen Boyd (center), dressed in full Roman Mark Anthony garb, observes some of the action during the filming of the initial “Cleopatra” epic in late 196o.

“Stephen Boyd is glad he escaped ‘Cleopatra’ role with Liz Taylor” by Sheila Graham, 1962

Below, a photo from EBay by Terri Arden of Stephen in March 1961. Stephen was required to go blonde for the role of Anthony in “Cleopatra” as the original director of the project, Rouben Mamoulian, did not want Boyd to resemble his “Ben Hur” character Messala in any way. Interestingly, Boyd would get a bleach job again as Livius for the filming of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” in 1963 – another Roman role.

British Movietone News- Stephen at Premiere’s

 

Look for Stephen Boyd and date Joan Collins attending The Longest Day premiere in 1962.

 

Stephen (Liz’s original Anthony!) attends the Cleopatra premiere solo in London in 1963.

 

Stephen & Gina Lollobrigida attend a Frank Sinatra concert in Rome, 1962.

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