Stephen Boyd longs to make pictures in Hollywood itself, 1964

Boyd Gets Few Films in U.S.

Dec 20, 1964, The Baltimore Sun

Hollywood – Stephen Boyd is hoping the third time is the charm that will break the bone he always had to pick with Hollywood.

The rugged actor is referring to the fact that his next picture, “Fantastic Voyage,” marks only the third time he has worked in Hollywood.

He loves the place, the motion picture industry and most of the people in it. But the trouble is, he doesn’t get much chance to work in Hollywood.

Steve recently had returned from filming ‘Genghis Khan’ in Yugoslavia, England and Germany. He was there one week- long enough to confer with producer Saul David and Director Richard Fleischer. Whambo! He was off again to Italy for a week to make a cameo appearance in “The Bible.”

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Boyd will return to Hollywood in time to start his top secret role in the top secret “Fantastic Voyage,” to which he is sworn to secrecy except, to say that it will  be the most expensive science fiction story ever filmed – and the most unique.

“I want to make more films in Hollywood,” is his simple plaint, “I’ve become an American citizen. I’ve bought two homes here. I’d like a chance to enjoy them and my many friends. But I keep getting assignments abroad.

“I’ve made eighteen pictures since’ The Man Who Never Was,’ from which Darry F. Zanuck signed me for a long term contract, in 1956.

“’Fantastic Voyage’ will be only the third film I have made wholly in Hollywood – and that’s a pretty low average.”

“Once, in 1958, I was rushed from Europe to Hollywood to do ‘The Bravados,’” recalled Boyd. “I thought at least I’ll make a picture in Hollywood. But it was filmed entirely in Mexico. I’d come back from South of the Border for three days when they sent me to Italy to do ‘Ben-Hur’ for another eight months.”

His only two previous Hollywood-based films were ‘The Best of Everything’ and ‘Jumbo.’

“I was about ready to sell my California homes,” Boyd said, “when along came ‘The Fantastic Voyage.’ I’m hoping producers mean it when they say they’ll be less runaway pictures.

“It’s frustrating in another way, always working abroad,” said Boyd. “That little black book isn’t much good by the time I get back from long European locations. The girls I knew have married or are going steady with someone else, I have to start all over again.

“For a guy who loves home, hearth and California girls, this making films every place but Hollywood isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I’m an American now, and I’d like to continue making pictures in America.”

Stephen Boyd and Director Anthony Mann discuss cliche-free “Fall of the Roman Empire”, 1963 Interview; “Steve Boyd Flits Among the Lovelies”

Steve Boyd Flits Among the Lovelies

August 5, 1963

The Daily Intelligencer

By Erskine Johnson

Rome – Chunky, rugged, dimple-in-the-chin Steve Boyd has just completed movies with Doris Day and Gina Lollobrigida, Now he was playing love scenes with Sophia Loren.

So leave it to me. I came right out and asked him how they compared on his personal popularity chart.

There had been drama of a sort at Rome’s airport the day before. The two Italian film sirens were slated to arrive within 15 minutes of one another – Gina from Athens, Sophia from Madrid.

The photographers were told: “Sophia at Gate 3, Gina at Gate 22.”

One or the other could be missed between arrival times.

I was in the seat directly behind Gina on the plane from Athens. I didn’t know that the airport photographers faced a dilemma. 

Not until later did I check their popularity chart. With a choice, they waited for Sophia.

In Steve Boyd’s book it was the same story.

With a sudden, slightly startled smile he answered my candid question:

“There is no comparison. I wouldn’t die exactly for Sophia, but I’d come close to it.”

We were on the set here of Samuel Bronston’s latest big epic, “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” It was a big, colorful set, build for only two weeks work. Most of the filming had been in Madrid, and more scenes would be filmed there.

The size of the film and its colossal set put no damper on the small talk always associated with a movie set, at home or abroad.

Boyd talked about “Imperial Venus,” the movie he had made with Gina. It was a farce and this he regretted. He was sticking to straight drama from now on because:

“I just can’t play farce. When I say something, I mean it.”

Director Anthony Mann was delighted about the chance to be making a historical film about Rome “with positively no clichés.” He started counting them on his fingertips – the clichés the film did not have:

“No lions, no orgy, no shower of rose petals, no debauched emperor, no coliseum mobs.”

About the lack or orgy, he laughed:

“How can any movie have an orgy anyway? They always turn out to feature old men sitting around with young girls dropping grapes into their mouths.”

The film was in its 110th shooting day but Mann was right on schedule.

“We are filming history, not making history in putting this film on the screen,” he laughed, an obvious reference to “Cleopatra.”

On sets, in Rome or in Hollywood, the small talk is the same as always.

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Stephen arrives in Madrid (?). Photo from http://www.lafototeca.com

Would Stephen Boyd actually die for Sophia Loren?

In 1963, when Stephen Boyd was first introduced to his co-star Sophia Loren, he was at once enamored and intimidated.  Sophia Loren was not only beautiful but famous, Oscar-winning, influential and physically awe-inspiring. Sophia was unusually tall for an actress- she stood at 5 foot 9, meaning she almost matched Stephen’s height. Of course she was built to be worshiped, with a very generous bust and curves to match elsewhere. Even though in person was warm and down-to-earth, she was also dark-haired and exotic, which for Stephen was the perfect poison. Like most of Sophia’s co-stars (Charlton Heston being the exception here), Stephen was smitten. Of course, being the gentleman and professional he was, it went no further than dumb-founded admiration. Sophia was married to her mentor Carlos Ponti, although Stephen does tease about this in a later interview. Sophia, at time, was also being cautious so no one would assume she and Stephen were anything more than co-stars. Apparently his affection towards Sophia was reciprocated in a friendly way. Sophia (and her husband Carlos Ponti) wanted Stephen to co-star with her in “Lady L” . They would have been great together in this! But unfortunately that part went to Paul Newman as Stephen got tied up with waiting on Anthony Mann’s “Unknown Battle”.  Stephen also hosted a Hollywood dinner party for Sophia, according to Louella Parsons,  when she came to Hollywood in 1964.

Well, good for Stephen Boyd. He’s going to give a party. Practically unheard of among Hollywood bachelors who seem to think our ‘shortage of eligible men’ famine entitles them to be forever a guest – never a host.

But Steve is making elaborate plans for his debut as a party-giver in late January. His guest of honor will be Sophia Loren, Steve’s co-star in “Fall of the Roman Empire” who will be in town then.

“I don’t have a big house,” says Steve,” so I’ll probably take over Chassen’s. But I want to do all the decorations, plus a dew surprises, myself.” (Anderson Daily Post, Louella Parsons, Jan 1, 1964)

Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1964
Stephen Boyd and Sophia Loren – a gorgeous pair in “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, 1964

Pittsburgh Press Gazette, May 23, 1963

Here are some quotes from Stephen about the Italian goddess herself, Sophia Loren.

“I was supposed to have come between Brigitte Bardot and Roger Vadim, Sophia Loren and Carlos Ponti, and to have driven Dolores Hart to the convent.”  Boyd characterizes all such reports with an expletive that translates as ‘baloney’ – (Abilene Reporter, Sep 4, 1966)

After describing the discomfort of Roman armor while kissing his co-star, Stephen said,  “Only Sophia makes it worthwhile.”  (The Bridgeport Post, February 16, 1964) https://stephenboydblog.com/2017/04/08/stephen-boyd-kissing-sophia-tough-when-youre-in-armor/

With a sudden, slightly startled smile, he answered my candid question (Gina Lollobrigida or Sophia Loren?)  “There is no comparison. I wouldn’t die exactly for Sophia, but I’d come close to it.”  (Erskine Johnson interview Stephen Boyd, Aug 7, 1963)

“Sophia would be my favorite if I had one. She is not the most attractive lady in the world at first glance but, my God, two seconds later you felt you were in a dream world. Just for her to say ‘Hello’ was enough. You just capitulated. For me she is the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.”  (Photoplay, 1976)

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“I was afraid of Sophia”

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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 Golfing Tales

It’s hard to imagine that Stephen passed away 40 years ago on June 2nd! What a fine actor and a warm, Irish personality he was. He still retains a substantial worldwide fan-base (including many of you who have commented on this blog, in fact!).  I have enjoyed so many of his movies and his roles.  This blog has been devoted to sharing stories and photos about Stephen Boyd,  his movies and his life. So for this particular anniversary I thought I’d share a few fun stories about Stephen on the golf course. Why? Well, golfing was Stephen’s favorite pastime, and it was also what he was doing when he had a heart attack on June 2, 1977.

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Stephen got hooked on golfing about the time came to Hollywood full time. It was apparently actress Elana Eden, who Steve dated in early 1960, that got him interested in the sport.

Maybe it’s the influence of Elana Eden that has turned Stephen Boyd into such a wild-eyed golf enthusiast that he gets up at 6 o’clock practically every morning to get out to the links. – Louella Parsons, 10 March 1960, Philadelphia Inquirer 

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Soon Stephen was golfing at just about any moment he could- including overseas film locations, where he spent most of the early 1960’s.

“It’s crazy,” new golf addict Steve Boyd told me. “While working in Madrid this summer I played a lot of golf. One day I saw George Sanders on an opposite fairway. His caddy was lugging a bag full of clubs and Sanders was swinging away like Arnold Palmer. But he was playing without a ball.

“Later at the clubhouse, I asked him, ‘What the devil were you doing out there?’

“He explained that he was off his game and it was his method of returning to a more relaxed swing. As a matter of fact, playing without a ball in Spain is a great idea,” Boyd chuckled, “You have to search for it even if you hit it straight down the fairway. What they call a fairway looks like our rough.”

Boyd was in Madrid for filming of “Fall of the Roman Empire.” Since becoming a golf nut, with a Palm Springs home only a wedge shot from a country club, he refers to the movie as “that golf picture.”

The first letters of the words in the title, he points out, spell out “FORE”

At the moment Boyd is swinging away on Palm Springs courses after completing “The Third Secret.” in England. He once scored a 76, but has not broken 80 recently. – Erskine Johnson, 26 January 1964, The Jackson Sun

Stephen usually preferred to golf alone or with close friends, and he enjoyed the silence and calm of the golf course.

The actor says he spends half of his weekends golfing at Palm Springs- alone.

“In three and a half hours on the course along I play a better game than when I’m with a foursome. There’s no tension, no nerves. And at the end of that time, all your problems are gone.” – Gene Hhandsaker, 25 September, 1966 Oakland Tribune, Stephen Boyd ‘Filmland Loner’

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Another fun story, which I am sure Stephen told many times over, happened during the filming of “Slaves” during the summer 1968. The movie was filmed near Shreveport, LA in July and August of that year. It must have been hideously hot and humid, but this did not deter Stephen from golfing!

Stephen Boyd took time off from work on “The Slaves” to play golf at the nearby Shreveport, La., Country Club. And he got a hole-in-one he’ll be talking about for years. He got his ace on the 165-yard third hold when he belted his seven iron three feet in front of the pin and, “like it had eyes,” Stephen sighed, “the ball took one bounce and dropped in.”

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Bravo Stephen! A Hole-in-One!

Stephen appears in two of his 70’s movies practicing his golf moves (you wonder how demanding these movie schedules were if Stephen had time incorporate putting and swinging during actual filming!)

A scene from “A Million for a Blonde” in 1972—Stephen’s character in the film gets to mix a little romance with golfing here with an unnamed actress. Lucky lady!

 And also “The African Story” from 1971, where Stephen gets to show off very impressive golf swing during a scene with Marie Du Toit.

Stephen’s last day came on a golf course near his home in Tarzana, California called Porter Valley Country Club (photo below). It is located about 10 miles due north of his house. Stephen had just returned from Hawaii from the filming of the tenth season premiere episode of “Hawaii Five-O”. He was getting ready to film “The Wild Geese” with producer Euan Lloyd and a slew of great international stars, including Roger Moore (RIP!), Richard Burton and Richard Harris. Tragically, he would not get to make this film. It was a Thursday morning when Stephen decided to go golfing with his wife, Liz Mills. Somewhere between the fifth and sixth tees Stephen felt ill in the golf cart and collapsed. He had experienced a fatal heart attack, and he died a short time later.

Hopefully Stephen Boyd is still golfing in heaven as I write this blog. It was a tragedy to lose Stephen so early in life (only 45 years old), but the fact that he was doing something he loved with someone he loved (his wife Liz Mills) adds a little consolation to the tragedy.

RIP Stephen Boyd. Your fans still appreciate you and your work!

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