Stephen Boyd is still fondly remembered by his fans 41 years after his death

Stephen has such a wonderful fan base worldwide even today in 2018 and it is so wonderful to know how many people visit this blog daily to look up information on Stephen’s life, movies or to just to view some of the many handsome photos. So a heartfelt thank you goes out to all of you today as I know many of you- like me- find this a sad day knowing that Stephen Boyd’s life ended so suddenly and too soon.  We miss him as fans, but he will never be forgotten.

Thanks to all the Stephen Boyd fans out there!

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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]

David Wayne saves Stephen Boyd’s life- on Stephen’s Birthday! “The Big Gamble”, July 1961

Stephen Boyd was forever grateful to co-star David Wayne in the summer of 1961 while filming “The Big Gamble” on the Ardeche River in southern France.  This 1961 “Motion Picture” magazine article below tells the dramatic story of Stephen’s very close brush with death. Thank goodness David Wayne was a good swimmer! Stephen also told the story himself in late 1961 while guest starring on the “What’s My Line?” TV show.

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Stephen Boyd’s magnificent death scene as Messala in “Ben-Hur”- best death scene ever? Absolutely.

I have always believed that Stephen Boyd’s death scene in Ben Hur as the handsome villain Messala was probably the best acted death scene on film- ever. I still feel that way after all these years since first seeing it.  It’s hard to find any that come close to this.

To begin with, it is so magnificently filmed by William Wyler; the lighting is superb and the sense of Stygian darkness that threatens to swallow Judah is almost palatable. Apparently many doctors were consulted about how this death scene should be played out. The gory makeup truly makes it seem as if Boyd just got trampled to death. His voice is raspy and his last intake and exhale of breath is mesmerizing. I think the best part, however, is the triumphant smile he shows when he realizes that he still has power over his nemesis Judah Ben-Hur with his knowledge of what happened to Judah’s mother and sister. The evil thrill Boyd seems to feel as he waits patiently to let go of this information makes this scene even more riveting to watch. Many decades later, fellow actor Charlton Heston specifically applauded Boyd’s death scene when he recorded the DVD commentary for the movie.

This scene in itself should have won Stephen Boyd the Oscar that year as Supporting Actor, an award which, amazingly, he wasn’t even nominated for. Boyd did, however, win the Golden Globe that year for Best Supporting Actor. In a Movieland magazine interview in December 1962, the notoriously self-critical Stephen Boyd was asked what performances he was most proud of up to that point in his career. He answered, “And somewhere in there I’d put Ben Hur. But only the death scene. It was the only thing I liked in my performance, the only thing where I felt I was getting close to what I wanted in that picture.”

 

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Above is a great description from the book “Bigger Than Ben Hur”  (edited by Ryan Shamir), which describes this scene as a subversive crucifixion.

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Remembering Stephen Boyd on June 2nd

June 2nd 2016 marks the 39th year since Stephen Boyd passed away from a coronary. He was 49 years old. He was enjoying a morning of golf with his wife Elizabeth at the Porter Valley Country Club in Northridge, California – about a 30 minute drive from his home in Tarzana. He was in the golf-cart and complained about not feeling well. He died shortly thereafter of a massive heart attack. Most likely his death was caused by his lifelong smoking habit, which can cause damage to the arteries. It was a life cut too short for this genuinely well –liked Hollywood star.

 Stephen Boyd was like no other actor, in my opinion. He starred in some movies, but also was a great ensemble player as well. But no matter what part you have seen Stephen in, you always remember him. He could cover a range of characters on screen–he could be handsome and brutal, feral and tender, romantic and sensual, serious and ironic. He could play a vibrant villain but also be a quiet hero. He was an actor who preferred to play character parts, but had the look of a leading man. Off camera he was charming, open, and considered basically a nice gentleman.

As all Stephen Boyd fans remember his passing today, I’ll end this blog with the heartfelt remembrance by actress Marisa Mell – “On 2 June, 1977, he died in Los Angeles of heart failure. But sometimes I have the feeling that he is speaking to me – from another world.

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