By Kasper Manahan, Pittsburgh Press, March 9, 1960
Suddenly everybody becomes avidly interested in Stephen Boyd, wondering where he had been all their young lives. That’s especially true of the womenfolk of Allegheny County and purlieus, judging from the many mash notes I’m receiving.
But they’re all for Stevey boy, with me in the rather undignified position of the go-between, for all the world like Juliet’s nurse. The ladies all want to know abut Stevey, even if he does lose the chariot race in every performance of “Ben-Hur” at the Warner Theater.
Somehow, Boyd has failed to make any considerable impression in about seven or eight movies and various stage plays, TV shows and radio assignments in England and this country. His last job prior to “Ben-Hur” was “Best of Everything,” but he was all but lost in the shuffle of so many comely girls and handsome Louis Jourdan, the star.
And Charlton Heston, as the nominal star of “Ben-Hur,” doing mighty well too. But while Heston gets tops billing, it’s Boyd who gets the low cooing from the girls.
And he’s way ahead in the all important “word-of-mouth” as well he might be, for he’s strong, rugged and handsome in a bristling , masculine way. Of course that death scene – the goriest death scene in movie history, what with Boyd as Messala gasping out his last tortured breath from his mangled body, torn and broken from pounding hoofs and churning chariot wheels in the dust of the hippodrome.
Any actor will tell you that an accelerator to a stymied career nothing can match a strongly dramatic death scene. Obviously, up to now, Boyd hadn’t been getting the right roles as a show case for his vital qualities. For after a flock of pictures which did little for him he suddenly explodes as a personality plus.
Needs New Film Right Now
Somehow his current studio, 20th Century Fox, doesn’t seem to be excited about him, though. Oh, some vague plans as I hear it – a picture to be called “The Lost World” to go int production when the actors’ strike is over.
Too bad– this boy Boyd is hot stuff now. The girls of all ages are eagerly awaiting his next film when he will, without question, be given star billing, this lad who was born in Belfast, Ireland on July 4, 1928, the youngest of nine children of a laborer, James A. Miller, and his wife, Martha. Stephen took her maiden name, Boyd.
He began his stage career in Ulster, appeared in England and America in stock and repertory. Then the films took him over, but he was just another player until “Ben-Hur” catapulted him into the limelight.
Sorry though, girls – he’s married. “Ben-Hur” not only did wonders for his career, it also won him a Roman beauty for his wife. While in Rome making the picture he met and wooed Mariella di Sarzana.
I came across a funny story recently when perusing an article about Boyd in the NY Daily News. The interviewer is Wanda Hale, and she briefly asks Boyd about his first marriage to Mariella di Sarzana.
While making “Ben-Hur” in Rome, Steve met a beautiful girl, Mariella di Sarzana. Four months later they were married. “That relationship, “Steve said, “Lasted less than three weeks.” In Madrid, several years later Steve made “The Fall of the Roman Empire” for Samuel Bronston. Arriving early, Steve was sent a guide by the Bronston office to show him around the city. Steve said, “And who was the guide? My ex-wife. That relationship lasted five minutes.” (NY Daily News, Feb 28, 1966)
And to prove it, we have pictures in the Spanish snow of Boyd and Sarzana in 1963 after their brief reunion. Despite the fact that their relationship was very short, you can still see a little bit of the playfulness and chemistry they had from their romance in 1958.
Below is a brand new picture I found recently of Stephen and Mariella from 1958
In the current environment of Hollywood, I think Stephen Boyd would have been very popular among female activists. Stephen had a reputation of being a perfect gentleman and consummate professional on the movie set…even when the director didn’t want him to be! The below story from Florabel Muir in 1966 tells a funny tale on the set of “The Caper of the Golden Bulls”. Stephen is asked to ogle co-star Yvette Mimieux during a film scene, which he does on cue, but only after being asked to do so by the movie’s director Russell Rouse (“The Oscar”).
The Times, Shreveport, Friday August 26, 1966
HOLLYWOOD – Invariably emphasized in picture making are the mystic emanations of ionized sex between male and female – that funny thing called love. Watching Russell Rouse guiding Stephen Boyd and Yvette Mimieux thru a scene in “Caper of the Golden Bulls” at Paramount provided a primer lesson on this subtle alchemy of movie-making.
Boyd, fully clad, was ambling by as Yvette climbed out of a pool in a scanty bikini. He did not even glance in her direction. Rouse hollered, “Hey look at her, willya?” Boyd retorted, “Why, it’s not in the script!” Rouse reminded him acidly, “The script doesn’t have glands; you do. Now try it again – and if you have a lascivious expression, use it?” So Stephen put on his best leer, and Rouse ordered, “Print it!” Boyd likes working for Rouse and his partner, Clarence Green. While “Caper” is shooting, he is talking a new five-picture deal with them. This interesting Belfast Irish- American has been a bachelor for more than six years now, having been divorced from Mariella Di Sarzana in January, 1959, after a marriage that lasted less than five months. Nowadays he doesn’t go out with girls much, preferring golf day times and good books in his bachelor pad nights.
Ogden Standard Examiner, Sep 16, 1962
BEHIND THE SCENES
He worked hard for recognition
By Alice Pardoe West
“I never want to pour another cup of coffee,” is what handsome, rugged, Irish Stephen Boyd said on the 20th Century lot. “I poured so many when I worked in a cafeteria to keep from starving, before things broke for me in show business.”
He went on to explain that although he had a good theatrical background, he went through a bleak period in 1952-53 that was unforgettable.
“I was unable to find work either in films or the theater,” he said. “I even took my guitar and played to cinema lines waiting to get in the show in London, one night, and it was my first and only experience in that.”
He laughed and went on with his delightful sense of humor: “It brought me a pound and sixpence for a matter of two hours’ work, and I blew the lot on a meal, and that meal lives in my memory as the most wonderful one in my whole life.”
He forgets his bad moments and rejoices in the luck he had in getting the role of Messala in the film “Ben-Hur.”
“My folks even named the home I bought for them while making ‘Ben-Hur’ after the character I played in it – Messala, “ he said.
Stephen is a native of Belfast, Ireland, and he began his career with the Ulster Theater Group there. In 1950 he was given an understudy part in “The Passing Day” and later took part in many radio productions. He then tried his luck in the London theater, but had no success, until one of Britain’s top stars, Michael Redgrave saw him working as a cinema doorman and guessed that Stephen was an out-of-luck actor, and talked to him.
This led to his joining the Windsor Repertory Company where he soon was playing leading roles, and later small film roles. His part in “Barnett’s Folly” proved to be the turning point in his career. Film companies were bidding for his services after his portrayal. He had many excellent roles in outstanding films and in 1956 was starred with Tyrone Power in “Seven Waves Away.”
Since then he had had numerous fine parts in American films and was starred with Susan Hayward in “Woman Obsessed.”
The surprise of his life was when Ralph Edwards had him on his show, “This is Your Life.”
“That was really something,” he said.
Dinah Shore also asked him to appear as a guest star on her program and it was then that he was discovered to have a wonderful singing voice.
“I had a lot of recording offers,” he said, “but I think I have plenty of time for vocalizing, after I get this acting business taken care of – that is, if I can sing at all.”
Stephen loves paintings and had a few on his two-bedroom upstairs apartment in Los Angeles. He likes his stereo equipment, records, books and cameras, too.
“I like to shoot home movies,” he said. “It’s fun. But my weakness is automobiles, especially sports cars. I’d but a new one every six months if my business manager would let me.”
He laughed and continued, “Do you know what I want more than anything? A cabin cruiser, so I can sail on the coastlines over the world. But that takes real money to maintain one of them.”
He has no ambition to be a pilot.
“I get bored when I’m up in the air too long, “Besides, I don’t have to go flying to have my head in the clouds. It’s there most of the time these days.”
Some of his latest films since “Ben-Hur” are “The Big Gamble, “ “Cleopatra,” and “The Inspector.”
He was married to Mariella di Sarzana in 1958 in Rome, but they are divorced now.
Stephen Boyd and Mariella di Sarzana married each other on August 30th of 1958 in London during the filming of Ben-Hur. Mariella was an Italian studio agent assigned to ‘take care’ of Stephen during his time in Rome, which she clearly did!
Ever the Irish-romantic, Stephen said, “I met Maria on my first day in Rome at a studio party, I don’t know if it was the Italian moon, or the wine, or both. But I knew I wanted to marry her.”
Above, Getty Photos of Stephen Boyd and Mariella di Sarzana in London in August of 1958, getting married.
Boyd explained to Hedda Hopper in a 1959 interview, “I met her in April. We married in August…I honestly thought that was it. She’s a lovely person, attractive, not very sexy to look at but a wonderful girl. She’s clever too.”
The pair had actually flown to London to tie the knot and returned shortly thereafter to Rome. The photos below of the reception can be seen on a great website for rare Italian movie photos and information- http://www.archivioluce.com.
The reception took place on September 6, 1958 at the Hotel Excelsior in Rome, which hosted the cast of Ben-Hur during the filming of the movie (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Westin_Excelsior_Rome)
“Yet Stephen Boyd, who enjoyed to the hilt playing this villain, was so popular with members of the film’s Italian-British-American crew in Rome that, when his assignment was completed, they presented him with a gold clock emblematic of their affection. ” (http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=7408).
The clock being presented to Boyd in the photo above.
Other members of the Ben-Hur cast, including Charlton Heston, Cathy O’Donnell and director William Wyler can be seen enjoying the festivities.
Sadly, Stephen’s hasty marriage began to fall apart a few weeks after it started.
“Filming kept us apart for long period and when we were together we were never alone. Every night when I came home a whole army of her relatives were camping in our apartment. I soon realized my love for Maria was an infatuation. I knew the marriage wouldn’t work–so it was ridiculous to keep up any pretenses.
“Everyone knew about it and I sensed they were going out of their way to make things easier for me. I resented this. I became sullen and difficult to work with. One day Haya (Hayareet) came up and said: ‘Look, you Irish lug- when are you going to snap out of it and rejoining the human race?’ That did it. We became constant friends, but only friends. We went everywhere together.”
Less than a month after their marriage, Boyd and Mariella separated. Their divorce became official on March 20, 1959, after Mariella briefly visited Stephen in Hollywood.
Before the marriage fell apart, however, Boyd and Di Sarzana can be seen dancing the night away at their Rome wedding reception in 1958 – looking overjoyed and madly in love.
Stephen met French actress Anna Gaylor in 1956 while filming “The Beast of Marseilles” for Rank films. Anna even looks a lot like Stephen’s first wife, Mariella Di Sarzana, who would met about a year and a half while filming Ben-Hur. The film seems to have been made on location in Marseilles and in London. Anna was an up and coming French starlet, and this was her first film. For Stephen, this was the first movie where he received top billing and was essentially the main star of the picture.
According to Modern Screen in 1960 and other sources, the two became very close:
He made a picture called Seven Thunders with French actress Anna Gaylor and lightning struck them both. Anna, -who still acts in Paris, is in Steve’s words, “beautiful, fascinating and a true artist.” The liaison lasted for 18 months and Steve still hasn’t forgotten Anna. In fact, he still writes her now and then. Like all romantic involvements since, it ended without hard feelings. “It always comes to the point where either you do or you don’t,” explains Steve simply. ”Anna and I reached that point and we made the right decision. But she was very, very good for me.”
Below, from Inside Story magazine in 1960:
In another interview, this time with Photoplay in July of 1960, Stephen hints that his relationship with Anna was close to being the perfect male/female companionship.
“Why do some men want to stay single? Maybe, it’s better to ask, Why should a man marry? A woman must understand what a man is looking to find in her and in marriage with her.
“I’m looking for something that I came very close to a few years ago. I met a young French actress and from our affinity in work grew an admiration, a respect, a loyalty- and finally a great affection. I feel that she is my friend and will be my friend for life and I will be hers. We had a friendship affection, but it was not enough to put in the form of romance. We never really considered marriage although we did talk about it. Immediately, it became personal and we dropped the subject. But I sincerely believe that it must be possible to be in love with a woman and have that same kind of friendship, If it isn’t, perhaps I’ll never marry.”
Hedda Hopper further confirms the close bonds had with Gaylor in an interview she had with Boyd in early 1959.
“This was Boyd’s first marriage but I understand he’d been deeply in love with another girl prior to this and had hoped to marry her. This he did not tell me but some of his friends did.” (Hartford Courant, Feb 22, 1959)
Although Hopper doesn’t mention a name, I think Anna Gaylor was the girl.
Here are some pictures and posters from “The Beast of Marseilles”, sometimes known as “The Seven Thunders”.