In early 1959, Stephen Boyd was in the midst of filming “The Best of Everything” with Joan Crawford and Hope Lange, based on the book by Rona Jaffe. The story is based around the romantic events which take place at the fictional Fabian Publishing Company. At the time this movie was being filmed, the newest teen rock n’ roll idol on the scene was Fabian, who was competing for the limelight with fellow rocker Frankie Avalon.
For a perfect photo opportunity, 20th Century took some snapshots of their current teen-idol/stud lineup, which included Stephen Boyd of course, and future “Hound-Dog Man” co-stars Stuart Whitman and Fabian, lined up in front of the Fabian Publishing Company logo on the set of “The Best of Everything.” Hope Lange was also on hand for this moment. Fabian at this point was only just 17 years old. (Whitman was 31 years and Stephen was 28.) Whitman would serve as Boyd’s replacement in the upcoming epic “The Story of Ruth” (1960) when Boyd opted to drop out of the project.
One of Stephen’s most interesting ‘what could have been’ cinema moments was his chance to star with Hollywood’s biggest star – Marilyn Monroe. Stephen was one of many actors who tried out for the part opposite the famous blonde in Let’s Make Love. the auditions took place in early 1960. Boyd was just coming off his huge success in MGM’s Ben Hur, but he was signed to a different studio, 20th Century Fox, who wanted to maximize his current popularity quickly. Around that same time, Boyd had bowed out of the part of Boaz in the Fox biblical epic with Elana Eden, the Story of Ruth.
“I wanted very much to play the role of the billionaire in “Let’s make Love” with Marilyn Monroe. It’s a wonderful role. But I knew I wasn’t ready for the role of Boaz. Maybe a year from now I’d feel differently. I know now that I’m not right for a milk-and-water juvenile roles. I must have something with guts and vitality.” (Silver Screen June 1960)
Needless to say, 20th Century Fox was not happy with Boyd’s decision to refuse the role. Fox assigned actor Stuart Whitman to the part, and Boyd did not get the part he wanted with Monroe. This part went to French actor Yves Montand instead. Most likely the Studio was putting its foot down to let the somewhat strong-willed actor know he was still under obligation to their wishes. Boyd was eventually assigned to his next role- the African adventure “The Big Gamble” with Juliette Greco.
All we can do now is imagine how Boyd and Monroe magic would have been on screen together!
Legendary actress Joan Crawford shown with Twentieth Century player Stephen Boyd in this promo photo from The Best of Everything.
Stephen Boyd filmed The Best of Everything with Hope Lange in early 1959. The film was released later that same year, about 2 months before the release of Ben Hur (the movie which would propel Stephen to stardom). The movie was filmed at Fox Studios in Los Angeles, but also some actual New York City scenes were filmed at the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue and other locations around the city and in Long Island as well. The story follows the tales of three young women living together in New York who work at the fictitious Fabian Publishing Company and their struggles. The movie was based on the sexy eponymous popular novel by female author Rona Jaffe. Stephen plays Mike Rice, an editor at Fabian’s who is also an entrenched alcoholic. As in the novel, Mike and Caroline Bender, played by the lovely Hope Lange of Peyton Place fame, become close friends. The book is more graphic about their affair, which obviously couldn’t be incorporated into the movie version, but there are some subtle hints. In the book, Mike explains how he finds release from his sexual desire for Caroline alone at night, and Caroline is embarrassed by his ‘adolescent’ confession, but Mike explains how it brings him closer to her. In the movie, you can tell that Boyd had read the book. When speaking to Caroline in one scene, he is deliberately stroking his drink glass with his left hand for a very suggestive affect.
I like the movie ending much better, however, as in the book, after a quick affair, Mike and Caroline drift apart and the novel loses its focus. Fortunately, Hollywood changed this and made these two characters hook up at the end. Obviously, as Rona Jaffe points out in the films DVD commentary, Boyd’s character doesn’t seem to be giving up his alcoholic ways, but this didn’t deter Hollywood from pairing the two good looking actors together for a romantic ending. Boyd plays Mike Rice with a touch of patronizing tenderness and empathy, as well as rugged masculine charm. Boyd received high marks for his portrayal at the time, and he looks ravishingly handsome in the 50’s suit-coats, but he was somewhat overshadowed by such a large cast, including screen legend Joan Crawford and international favorite Louis Jourdan. If you watch this picture now, Boyd does seem to give the most interesting performance, and one wishes he was on the screen more often. The movie is considered somewhat of a cult classic about the misogynist atmosphere in the 50’s work place, and was a basis for the popular AMC television show Mad Men (apparently the cast was required to watch this film to prepare for their roles). The movie also has a spectacular score by Alfred Newman and great theme song sung by Johnny Mathis. For more about the filming of “The Best of Everything”, see this link – http://www.joancrawfordbest.com/magvanityfair304.htm
Movie screen shots below and current photos of the Seagram Building area in New Yotk City. You can clearly still see the building which is shown behind Boyd and Lange at the end of the movie. The movie ends with Boyd and Lange walking past St. Bartholomew’s Church on the west side of Park Avenue and 51st street, headed towards the Helmsley Building which can be scene in the distance. You can visit this location today and see many Best of Everything landmarks!
New York Scenes 2016 of Best of Everything locations at Seagram Building & St. Bartholomew’s Church
Seagram Building 2016
Hemsley Building in distance 2016
Building which can be seen behind Boyd and Lange at the end of the movie
Corner where they cross at the end of them movie
St. Bartholomew Church
Stephen with author Rona Jaffe on the set of The Best of Everything.
Boyd at rehearsal for The Best of Everything. Note that he is still wearing his wedding band on his left ring finger. His divorce from Mariella Di Sarzana would be finalized about a month an a half later in March of 1959.
Boyd and Lange’s close friendship during the filming of The Best of Everything became popular tabloid material.
Hope Lange, Diane Baker, Martha Hyer and Suzy Parker- the ladies of The Best of Everything.
Stephen decided to drop out of this movie in late 1959 (much to the dismay of Twentieth Century Fox Studios). He was replaced by Stuart Whitman. Here is a rare photo from his costume photo- shoot. Stuart Whitman can be seen wearing this same costume towards the end of the movie.