1962 Stephen Boyd Interview regarding the runaway production of “Cleopatra”

I sometimes wonder how Stephen’s career – and the 1960’s – would have turned out had he waited just a few months longer to start filming “Cleopatra.” He would have been a part of one of the biggest cultural movies of the 1960’s. The problem was, however, he would have spent literally two years filming (or waiting to film) this project! Stephen arrived on set in London in the later summer of 1960 to start filming “Cleopatra” (he was going to be Marc Anthony, of course). By late spring of 1961 he was still waiting. Stephen opted out “Cleopatra” in June of 1961 to start work on “Lisa” with Dolores Hart. When Richard Burton replaced Boyd in July and production on “Cleopatra” finally crawled to a start in late 1961 in Rome. “Cleopatra” was still filming in the summer of 1962 when Boyd was on hand in Rome filming “Imperial Venus” with Gina Lollobrigida! Below is a fascinating glimpse at this production from Stephen’s point of view while he was filming “Jumbo” in Hollywood.

Harold Hefferman, Philadelphia Daily News, March 8, 1962

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HOLLWOOD. – Behind movie headlines:

“Runaway production” is a terrifying term striking hard at every layer of the Hollywood foundation. As to its personal impact, no actor in town has greater reason for despising it than Stephen Boyd.

Boyd came back from two years movie making in Europe with little more than wasted time and the unhappy feeling both his career and personal life had been adversely affected by his absence.

The blond actor, who spent an earlier two year period villainizing Charlton Heston in “Ben-Hur,” went back to Europe in 1960 to make “The Big Gamble” with Juliette Greco. While there 20th-Fox notified him he was to play “Anthony” to Elizabeth Taylor’s “Cleopatra,” so he remained on- and on.

“The whole two years – minus a few weeks I spent back here in Hollywood – added up to nothing short of a fiasco,” growled Steve, on the set of “Billy Rose’s Jumbo” at MGM. “While waiting for ‘Cleo’ to get started, I went to Cairo for the big lighting of the Sphinx. That was when they were planning to shoot the picture in Egypt – but, of course, that fell through.

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“I’d say that about the personal high points of those 24 months was my trip to Cairo and Lebanon. The countries are beautiful, and it’s too bad so many things came up to prevent shooting ‘Cleopatra’ there.”

A few weeks after Steve reported for the big Queen of the Nile spectacle, Miss Taylor was stricken with her first and near fatal illness, followed by innumerable script and change-of-producer- director delays. Meanwhile, he was assigned by the studio to do “The Inspector” opposite Dolores Hart in Holland. This is a film he has yet to see.

“I can only say I hope it came out better than ‘The Big Gamble,’” Steve chided candidly, “because that one, I’m sure, won’t do a thing for my career. But that did save me from doing ‘Cleopatra,’ for which I am undyingly grateful.”

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Dolores Hart and Stephen Boyd in “Lisa”

Steve doesn’t put much stock in the “Roman holiday” rumors of a romance between Liz Taylor and Richard (Antony) Burton. He attributes the notoriety to “a dream creation” by the over-imaginative Italian press.

“Why, the fan magazines and even a couple of Italian newspaper columns had me linked romantically with Elizabeth- a month before I’d even met her!” he laughed. “One headline read: ‘Will Steve divide Liz and Eddie?’ And I’d never even seen the lady, except in a couple of her movies. She and Eddie and I joked about it when we finally did meet on the set – but sometimes rumor and gossip can get way beyond the amusing stage.”

Steve blasts “runaway” for two other personal reasons. It cut into his burning romance with Hope Lange – she didn’t wait, and took up with others – and financially he took a shellacking.

I didn’t get anything resembling tax breaks,” he explained, “and, in fact, I paid both British and U.S. taxes all the time I was away. (Steve is a British citizen, of Irish descent.) I’m not dead set against pictures being made in foreign countries—sometimes they really turn out better – but in far too many cases, such as ‘Cleopatra,’ if they don’t film them on the McCoy locations, they’d do better to stay right in Hollywood and let everyone relax, including the actor.”

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Hope Lange and Stephen Boyd, 1961

Stephen Boyd, Stuart Whitman & Fabian

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.

20th Century-Fox had enjoyed success casting teen idol pop stars in movies, such as Elvis Presley and Pat Boone. They decided to do the same thing with Fabian and signed him to a long term contract. His first leading role was Hound-Dog Man (1959), based on the novel by Fred Gipson (who had written Old Yeller) and directed by Don Siegel. He co-starred alongside the more experienced Stuart Whitman and sang several songs, including the title track. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabian_Forte).

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.

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FABIAN.AKA Fabiano Anthony Forte Bonaparte.with Stuart Whitman and Stephen Boyd on the set of The Best of Everything.Supplied by   Photos inc.(Credit Image: A© Supplied By Globe Photos Inc/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)

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“I’m No Casanova,” Says Stephen Boyd – to Reassure Mother (1960 Interview)

“I’m No Casanova,” Says Stephen Boyd – to Reassure Mother

Sure, he was introduced to Brigitte Bardot (by her husband) when she was scantily clad, and lost 25 pounds making a film with her. But then, he always loses weight when making a film, even when he’s costarred with a chariot, Irishman says.

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By James Bacon, Associated Press Writer

Courier Journal Nov 13, 1960

LONDON, Nov 12 – Stephen Boyd, the virile Irishman, would like to shake the reputation that is the envy of many another star.

“I really am no Casanova,” says Boyd. “And besides, my mother in Belfast reads all these stories about my so-called love escapades – and it bothers her.

I reminded Boyd that stories linking him with Brigitte Bardot and Hope Lange undoubtedly provided many of the typewriter excesses.

“It’s basically true that I was introduced to Brigitte while he was in a state of dishabille, and that I later lost 25 pounds while making a picture with her.

“But the stories omit that her then husband introduced us, and she quickly threw a towel around herself, and that I lost 25 pounds while making ‘The Big Gamble’ and 20 pounds while making ‘Ben-Hur.’ I always lose weight while working, whether my costar is Miss Bardot or a chariot.”

Boyd said he took Hope Lange to many parties while they were working together on a picture and while she was apparently still happily married to actor Don Murray.

“Hope was separated from Murray, but few people knew it,” says Boyd. “I do not go out with happily  married women – or even unhappily married women whose marriage is still intact. I’m no cad.”

The Lange-Murray separation had long been official.

Boyd now is costarred with Liz Taylor, playing Marc Anthony to her Cleopatra. She has been sick with a mysterious ailment that has delayed production.

 “I always yearned to make Hollywood,” says Boyd, “but as soon as I did, I got sent to Rome for a year for ‘Ben-Hur,’ to France, England, and Africa for six months on ‘The Big Gamble,’ and now another six or eight months in London for ‘Cleopatra.’

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Hope Lange and Stephen Boyd, here shown in a scene from “The Best of Everything,” were linked romantically by some of the Hollywood gossip columnists.

Stephen Boyd and Hope Lange- filming “The Best of Everything”, 1959

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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.

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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!

See also:

Joan Crawford Word Press Blog, https://joancrawfordheaven.wordpress.com/

Hope Lange and Stephen Boyd, https://wordpress.com/post/stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/1102

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Seagram Building

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Walking on Park Avenue West Side and 51st street
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St. Bartholomew’s Church on the left
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The Helmsley Building Park Avenue

 New York Scenes 2016 of Best of Everything locations at Seagram Building & St. Bartholomew’s Church

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Stephen with author Rona Jaffe on the set of The Best of Everything.

CANDIDBESTOF EVERYTHINGs-l1600Boyd 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.

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Boyd and Lange’s close friendship during the filming of The Best of Everything became popular tabloid material.BOEIMG-00BOE3 (2)

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FABIAN.AKA Fabiano Anthony Forte Bonaparte.with Stuart Whitman and Stephen Boyd on the set of The Best of Everything.Supplied by   Photos inc.(Credit Image: A© Supplied By Globe Photos Inc/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
Fabiano Anthony Forte Bonaparte with Stuart Whitman and Stephen Boyd on the set of The Best of Everything.Supplied by Photos inc.(Credit Image: A© Supplied By Globe Photos Inc/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)
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Pop star Fabian visits the set with Hope Lange, Stuart Whitman and Stephen Boyd on hand –note “Fabian”Publishing!

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Hope Lange, Diane Baker, Martha Hyer and Suzy Parker- the ladies of The Best of Everything.