Stephen Boyd must have been starstruck when he met one of his early films idols in the flesh on the 20th Century Fox set for the production of “The Best of Everything” in mid 1959. The idol? The amazing Miss Joan Crawford.
Boyd had this to say in a French interview once about some of his earliest movie star favorites when he was growing up. It seems that when Stephen was watching a romance between Joan Crawford on screen, he imagined that it was himself! And why not! She was breathtaking on the cinema.
Cinemonde, May 1966
Pour le cinéma, j’aurais voulu être né vingt ans plus tôt. Les films que je voyais étant enfant puis adolescent me transportaient ! J’avais le sentiment de connaître Clark Gable et Gary Cooper mieux que mon propre frère ; et il y a eu une merveilleuse histoire d’amour entre Joan Crawford et moi…
For cinema, I wanted to be born twenty years ago. The movies I saw as a child then as a teenager transported me! I felt I knew Clark Gable and Gary Cooper better than my own brother; and there was a wonderful story of love between me and Joan Crawford…
It’s a shame they didn’t tweak the script a little to insert a little on-screen romance for the two actors in “The Best of Everything!” But like Stephen says, we can always use our imaginations. Who knows what was going on between editors Mike Rice and Amanda Farrow?
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!
Joan Crawford Word Press Blog, https://joancrawfordheaven.wordpress.com/
Hope Lange and Stephen Boyd, https://wordpress.com/post/stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/1102
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.