50 years ago today, Stephen Boyd was in Denver, Colorado, performing the last evening of “The Bashful Genius” at the Elitch Theatre Company. The performance ran from August 7-12th. He was interviewed by the local paper The Denver Post, and he speaks about the play, and specifically about the playwright he portrays, George Bernard Shaw. I have also added some pictures of the Elitch Theatre as it looks today (since it’s in my hometown of Denver!), and a few ads from the paper at the time the play was here. Look below for the excellent review which the Stephen and play received while it played in Denver!
“Genius Ends 2-Year Hunt” by Del Carnes
The Denver Post, August 8, 1967
“It took me two years to find a play I really wanted to do, ” Stephen Boyd said of his role as George Bernard Shaw in “The Bashful Genius”at the Elitch Theatre.
“The first time I saw the script, I turned it down because I felt there were certain deficiencies in it. Then producer Marshall Young told me ‘e realize there are changes that have to be made, but we can’t make them unless we do the play.’
“So I took the part, and we are making changes as we go along. We opened in Philadelphia, so Denver is only our second stop. Next week we go to Falmouth, Mass., after which we’ll do whatever rewriting and tightening up is necessary. Then it’s on to Broadway.”
“The Bashful Genius” is the story of two years in the life of the great British playwright, just prior to and immediately after he had written “the Devil’s Disciple,” and during his early friendship with Charlotte Payne-Townsend.
Boyd, a native of Belfast, Ireland, has a deep understanding of Shaw. “I’ve done about 11 plays f his and I think it’s impossible to do Shaw without knowing the man. The, of course, I use to hear him on the radio and constantly read about him in the papers when I was in England. And I’ve had long conversations with people who knew him.”
In short, Boyd has come prepared for his role as GBS and he turns in a brilliant performance on the Elitch stage. The play, by Harold Callen, is equally brilliant. The dialogue is sharp, crisp and witty.
“There has never been a play about Shaw,” Boyd said,” although a number of productions have concerned his writings and essays. I think Callen has done a masterful job in capturing Shaw, for he is not an easy man to depict. Not only has Callen written the Shaw role expertly, but he’s given the other characters a Shavian flavor at the same time.”
“I think Shaw is difficult for the audience to accept in the beginning. People unfamiliar with him don’t realize this brilliant man also was a clown, a facet that seems incompatible with his intellect.
“Yet, despite the caustic whit and his actions with people, he never purposefully hurt anyone, never cut up a person or individual. He sliced up organizations, but never people.”
“Shaw was an extremely honest person, who said exactly what he thought. But he never was sure people were ready for honestly, so he tired to color it by clowning.”
SHAVIAN BEARD SUPERB
For the role, Boyd has cultivated a superb Shavian beard, and the gestures of GBS. “The only real difficulty I’ve had is in toning down the Irish accent. If it’s too thick, the audience cant understand it. But then Shaw had the same problem himself.”
Boyd isn’t worried about the mortality rate of shows like “The Bashful Genius” on Broadway.
“If you have a good show, people will buy it. With this show, the only thing that the critics might quarrel about is whether I play Shaw the way they think he should be played. But then that’s a risk actors take all the time.”
Boyd is a product of England’s repertory theatre which he believes is the most thorough theatrical training ground in the world.
“You do 42 plays a year, sometimes 50, and you’re lucky if five of them are really good productions. I did 15 years of repertory. Consequently doing a motion picture of a single play almost seems like a vacation.”
“Anyone who does something day in and day out has a marvelous opportunity to learn something,” he said, and “it even applies to the daily grind of television acting. But there is a a much greater temptation to be lazy for it’s easy to slide over something in that kind of situation. But if you discipline yourself, you can learn a great deal.”
The Denver Post Review – August 8, 1967
The Elitch Theatre in Denver Colorado, as it looks in today in 2017, 50 years after Stephen performed here.
This has always been one of my favorite Stephen Boyd roles a the dashing Canouville in Gina Lollobrigida’s project “Imperial Venus”
A very entertaining interview Stephen gave in 1964 concerning the hold up of “Imperial Venus” by the US censors. The movie never did get released in the USA (actually, it did, but only in 1972!). Stephen also talks about changing his acting style for the upcoming “Genghis Khan” and his admiration for John Wayne!
Stephen Boyd’s Nude Scene holds up Film
July 3, 1964
By Dick Kleiner
Hollywood – (NEA)- You may have heard about nudes scenes in movies. When you think about this art form, you probably pops into your mind is a vision of a nude female.
Well, Sir (or madam), I’ll have you know that the nude male form is its way. In fact, at this very moment a motion picture called “Imperial Venus” is being held up by censors because of a 20-minute sequence which features Stephen Boyd with (theoretically) nothing on.
Boyd insists that the scene isn’t ‘naughty’. As he explains it, he plays a man who is very tired from riding hard for eight days, and when he gets to the home of his girlfriend (Gina Lollobrigida) he can’t’ stay awake. So she and her maid undress him and put him to bed.
“It’s farcical and funny, “Boyd says, “And this trouble is, it’s such an important scene and such a long scene that it can’t be cut. There would be nothing left of the movie if it were.”
Of course, all this furor about nude scenes overlooks the incontrovertible fact that Lassie has been doing them for years.
Boyd doesn’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with them. He does divulge a trade secret – nudes in nude scenes are never nude.
“The girls,” he says, “Always wear a flesh colored something. IT’s so thin and light you can’t tell they have anything on even when you’re right next to them. I guess it makes them feel better.”
He admits he wore something of the sort, too, but to the censors it apparently didn’t make a fig-leaf of difference. The Italian-made “Imperial Venus,” which has enjoyed a healthy run and gotten fine notices in Europe, he says, is apparently permanently stymied outside out gates.
Boyd is heading for Europe again, to play the heavy in a big costume epic, “The Golden Horde.” One of his most successful roles was as the heavy, Messala, in ‘Ben-Hur.’ But this time he is adding something new.
“I have finally learned,” he says, “that I must add IT. It is hard to define, but it’s something the top actors have.
“You see, I’ve always been taught, and practiced, that the best acting is the most truthful acting. If you’re supposed to be dejected, act dejected. But I’ve recently discovered that if you are truthful you can be dull. Real, truthful dejection just appears dull on the screen.
“What the leading actors have is something more than truth – they are always alive, never dull. If it means they must sacrifice truth, OK. I’m going to try it in “The Golden Horde.”
“The thing an actor must do, I have concluded, is to get himself, and add a pinch of art.”
Boyd says he has learned to have great respect for some of Hollywood’s leading men who are not ordinarily considered great actors.
“I have tremendous admiration for Duke Wayne,” he says. “He gets some of the toughest parts, parts which take the most ability.
“To make something out of these parts, Wayne becomes Wayne. It sounds easy, but it is very difficult.”
Below, photos from “Imperial Venus”, which was not allowed to play in America in 1962
Always a little too self-critical, Boyd was asked once in a a “Movieland” Magazine interview in December of 1962 to critique his own work. The answers may surprise you!
“Tell me – even though you feel you’ve done nothing to deserve the current interest in you, what performances do you feel proudest of?”
“In motion pictures?”
“No, you can include the stage, TV and radio if you like.”
He tilted his head thoughtfully. “The best performance I ever gave in my life was Stanley Kowalski in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ The second best performance that I ever gave was the part of Dr. Miller in ‘The Deep Blue Sea.’ Both were on the stage in London.” He leaned forward, counting now n the fingers of one hand. “And probably Number Three is a performance I gave on television in London in a play called ‘Barnett’s Folly.’ I played a very shy, weak young man. Next I would put ‘The Man Who Never Was.’ And somewhere in there I’d put ‘Ben-Hur.’ But only the death scene. It was the only thing I liked in my performance, the only thing where I felt I was getting close to what I wanted in that picture.”
Boyd also continued to speak about filming “Ben-Hur” and working with director William Wyler.
It lasted for one series of twenty-six episodes. Also being aimed at the American market, it was broadcast in the US from December 1957 under the name Aggie. It was written by Martin Stern and Ernest Borneman.
Aggie Anderson was an American working in London as a fashion buyer for an international company. Her job required her to travel often, and when abroad she often got into various troubles and accidents. These situations were often dangerous, and would involve spies and criminals.
Many of the actors who made guest appearances in episodes would later gain a higher profile, these include Patrick Allen, Stephen Boyd, Dick Emery, Edward Mulhare,Christopher Lee, Patrick McGoohan, John Schlesinger and Anthony Valentine.