Stephen Boyd in South Africa- “Control Factor”, 1972

Stephen Boyd filmed two movies in South Africa sometime in late 1971 to early 1972; “The African Story” and “Control Factor”. Both films feature virtually the same obscure cast members (the incredibly bland Michael Kirner and Marie du Toit) and the same Cape Town setting.   “Control Factor” (or “The Big Game”) seems to be the second of the two as Stephen’s mustache is fully grown here and would remain with him for the next couple years! The story was written by Ralph Anders, who also wrote “African Story”. It’s an action/science fiction tale which features Stephen as the main protagonist Leyton Van Dyk who is trying to help implement some sort of government mind-control device which has been invented by a scientist. The scientist has two sons, one of whom is a diplomatic attaché who gets kidnapped and brainwashed in Hong Kong by terrorists who know about this special device.  As the device is shipped out to South Africa with Van Dyk aboard, the vessel is attacked by the terrorists who want to seize the device for themselves. It was directed by Robert Day, who was also a prolific television director. The movie features a couple of other well known actors, Ray Milland  (the scientist) and France Nuyen (the terrorist).  The soundtrack is an excellent example of early 70’s Italian film music by Francesco de Masi.

This is a very low budget production, but it is entertaining to see Stephen as an action hero. This would probably qualify as one of Stephen’s ‘slumming’ assignments (or golf vacations!) for which he was probably paid a nice sum to do very little. But, hey,  it’s the irrepressibly handsome Stephen in all sorts of shades of 70’s brown; brown shirts, brown jackets, brown pants. Also, check out the plethora of 70’s wood paneling- everywhere!! It is also refreshing to see a movie filmed in South Africa. The dramatic shoreline and interesting Cape Town setting makes great scenery for the story.

Since it is impossible to find any production material on this film, I made a number of screen shots below.

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Part 3. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – A Barbarian Who Thinks

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“You’ve been too much at Rome, Commodus. You— should be more with your father.”

Commodus roared. “Will you tell me how I must live? Must I try to live as you do? Like a pupil, drinking in every word of my illustrious father’s? Live you do!” His voice was hoarse. “Oh, I’ve heard all the rumors. Why Father has gathered everyone here…Why you were at his side.” His voice broke suddenly, his mouth twisting. He shook his head. “No…No, Livius, don’t let it come from you….I need you as my friend. Don’t tell me any more…I don’t want to hear it.”

In the pregnant silence, Livius sighed, deeply moved. “I am your friend, Commodus.”

Commodus stared at him, his mouth pulled petulantly, for a long time. Suddenly then, he shook off his thoughts and heeled around, staring at Xenia.

“Ah, Princess,” he said. “You boast that you are a nation of warriors…Well, then, warrior, every solider knows that sometimes his side loses–and he becomes part of the spoils of war –even a princess becomes a slave. to be used as the master wishes.” When she did not move, he shouted at her. “Do you hear me? You are lost. You are prisoners of war.” He stood up. “Come here to me.”

Xenia did not move. There was no way to tell from her expressionless face even if she heard him at all. His voice rose. “Come! Drink with me. You may as well accept that you are lost. You may as well relax.” He laughed. “You may as well enjoy it. Wine will help you put a brighter edge on everything–Drink!”

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When the slender young girl still did not move, he went around the table to her.

He knelt, offered the beaker of wine, but she turned her head away, stiffly.

Commodus caught her head in his hand, tried to pour the wine down her mouth. It ran trickling across her lips, filling her nostrils, discoloring her cheeks.

Suddenly, gasping, she struck at him savagely, spilling the beaker of wine all over him.

Commodus yelled at her, like a child in a tantrum. “I am sill Caesar’s son! Do you understand? I could have you burned alive.”

Commodus slapped at the droplets of wine splattered upon his clothing. His eyes were wild, fixed on her, his mind churning with the indignities that would degrade her, show her the depths a woman could reach when she fought him.

Suddenly he realized that Livius was watching him silently, shocked by his lack of self-control.

Commodus, trembling, managed to get hold of his emotions. He moved to gaze over Xenia’s body and then turned slowly to face Livius.

His voice was casual. “I don’t want this one after all, Livius. I thought I did. She rouses me more to rage than to passion and–that doesn’t fit my mood tonight.” He jerked his head toward Tauna. “I’ll trade you – even before I’ve used the princess at all…This little blonde animal quivering like a frightened animal is more for me.”

Livius nodded. “Take Tauna then, Commodus. She’s yours.”

Commodus stared at Livius another moment. Then he walked to Tauna and grabbed her. She bit her lip, but did not cry out. She was quivering and kept her eyes closed. Pleased, Commodus knelt, swung her easily up into his arms and strode out of the room into his quarters.

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Livius was shaken. It was as if Commodus were full of hatred and his only satisfaction came from venting it upon the helpless.

Livius took a long drink of wine, but it was tasteless, less than water. He was troubled, wondering if he would remain cold, and beyond the touch of wine for the rest of his life.

Xenia stirred slightly across the table and, remembering her, he turned, looking at her. he said gently, almost teasing. “Is it true, girl, as Commodus fears – that you think?”

She got slowly to her feet, came around the table to him, knelt between his knees, mouth parted, looking up, pale, as if waiting.

Livius did not touch her. He drew his tongue across his dry mouth, seeing the way she trembled before him, waiting, and he remembered this morning when Marcus planned with Lucilla to give her in a marriage-alliance to Sohamus of Armenia. The only woman he had ever loved; he had feared all his life that he would never marry her, now his fear was grounded, and he would not.  What else mattered? Perhaps Commodus was partly right. If only he could hear the gods laughing as Commodus did. Perhaps this girl’s kiss might waken him, and make him forget for a little while.

Throat taut, he lifted his hands, cupped them over Xenia’s ears. He turned her pallid face up, holding her with more force than he realized, but she did not protest.

“A warrior who thinks?” he said. “You’re a fool–that’s what you are–just as I am a fool to forget I’m only a solider, and trying to think. What will it get us? Where?”  He shook his head. “But I will not threaten to burn you alive–just for your crime of thinking.” His mouth twisted. “I will offer you a more generous treaty of peace. A treaty of peace. Rome and the barbarian who thinks.” His hands tightened on her head. Her eyes searched his face, shadowed, in fear and misunderstanding. Cruelty she could understand, the force of his hands, the use of her body, all this she understood–but the tone and quality of his voice troubled and frightened her. She drew her tongue across her parted mouth, trying to move closer to him, waiting.

Suddenly Livius got to his feet. Xenia fell back, eyes wide. Livius stepped over her and walked past the guard, going out of the tent. Xenia stared after him, bewildered and chilled.

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Stephen Boyd talks about Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and “Cleopatra”

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Stephen Boyd used to joke that he should have been invited to Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding with Richard Burton. If it wasn’t for Stephen, the biggest celebrity couple of the 1960’s might never have met! Boyd, as many of his fans know, was chosen to be the original Marc Anthony in the Twentieth Century Fox mega-production of “Cleopatra”.  Boyd had spoken to a Fox producer as early as late 1959 about the role, which Boyd seemed predestined to play.

“(Walter) Wanger talked with me about the role of Marc Anthony to ‘Cleopatra’…I told him I thought I was too young to play Anthony, who was 48 by the time he got together with Cleopatra. I’ve played it on stage, though.” (Hedda Hopper interview of Stephen Boyd from January 31, 1960, “Hollywood’s New Gable?”, https://stephenboydblog.com/2016/07/09/hollywoods-handsomest-hibernian-may-be-is-stephen-boyd-the-new-gable/)

Boyd was signed as Anthony in early 1960. “She (Taylor) had the approval of all the stars who were going to work with her, ” Boyd said proudly in a Film Show Annual interview in 1964, ” She approved of Peter Finch and myself…” (Sunday Express London Interview, August 11, 1963)

In late June, Taylor was struggling with acute bronchitis which left her unable to attend a lavish New York ‘Roman orgy’ party held by the studio. The worst was yet to come. When the movie began filming in October of 1960 with director Rouben Mamoulian, the film work was taking place at Pinewood Studios in London under cold, damp conditions. Almost immediately, the bronchitis Taylor had in June flared up again in and she was confined to bed with pneomonia.  By November, she was rushed to the hospital because of an infected tooth which had caused a viral infection of the tissue at the base of her brain (‘meningism‘). The movie was postponed in December of 1960. But Taylor had more drama to come. On March 4 of 1961, with heavy lung congestion and double pneumonia, she was again rushed to the hospital in grave condition for an emergency tracheotomy.

Stephen Boyd : “I was outside the hospital door that day with Eddie (Miss Taylor’s fourth husband, singer Eddie Fisher) when the doctors came out and told us her had one hour to live. It was one of the saddest, most pathetic moments I can recall. But somehow she pulled through – nothing ever stops her when she wants something.” (Detroit Free Press, “Screen Star Stephen Boyd Since That Chariot Race”, August 1, 1969)

The Pinewood Studio Production of “Cleopatra”, 1960, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, Costumes by Oliver Messel, starring Peter Finch as Caesar, Stephen Boyd as Marc Anthony and Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

Stephen’s one regret about missing out on “Cleopatra” was not getting to work with Elizabeth Taylor.

“I think she’s marvelous. I remember one day when several of us were reading for the part, and Elizabeth was ill, and we went around to her house when she was just, as it were, getting up. And God! She’s the most beautiful thing. You know what you look like getting up? …Not Elizabeth. This vision came out of the bedroom.” (Sunday Express London Interview, August 11, 1963)

“I think she’s a dream.” (Asbury Park Press, July 3, 1964)

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Stephen Boyd talks about Elizabeth Taylor: “She’s more sensational in her beauty, her lavender eyes, without make-up, just being her natural self.” (Valley Morning Star, Sep 18, 1966)

“The only thing I didn’t like about Elizabeth Taylor in ‘Cleopatra’ was her make-up – all that heavy eye-shadow and stuff.”  (Sunday Express London Interview, August 11, 1963)

“She’s more sensational in her beauty, her lavender eyes, without make-up, just being her natural self.” (Valley Morning Star, Sep 18, 1966)

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait around until they decided to shoot. The script was being rewritten, there was a new director, the whole Shaw and Shakespeare concept of a personal drama was being thrown out in favor or spectacle. So I left. They gave my part to a fellow named Richard Burton. They even gave him my costume, and to this day every time he sees me, he says ‘Jesus, you’ve got big feet!”  (Detroit Free Press, “Screen Star Stephen Boyd Since That Chariot Race”, August 1, 1969)

Boyd and Burton- sharing Roman costumes other than footwear!

Burton and Boyd  were no strangers to epics:  Burton in Alexander the Great (1956) and Boyd in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

Boyd was also apparently mistaken for Burton occasionally in Hollywood, which caused Boyd to explain himself once : “He’s Welsh, I’m Irish. He sings Welsh songs, I sing Irish songs. He drinks, I don’t drink.” (Tintypes, Stephen Boyd, by Sidney Skolski) 

Boyd also gave his opinion at the time about the most infamous love affair in the world between Taylor and Burton, and about his own lost chance with Taylor.

“Why, you know, they were starting rumors about Liz and me before we’d even met! I think Burton is a fine actor and I like Elizabeth as an actress – during the time I spent on the picture, she was marvelous – but I think Burton would be foolish to leave Sybil. I was amused by his reply when asked if he was going to divorce her and marry Liz;  ‘It’s not bloody likely.'”  (Hedda Hopper Interview, June 16, 1962)

“She’s not my type, and I don’t think I’m hers…I’m sure the reason she fell in love with him (Burton) is because he has the strength of mind and body of Mike Todd….True, Richard Burton became a big star in Rome, because of all the gossip and slander. He’s one of the finest actors, but he was not important until his love affair with Elizabeth. I find that shocking. “ (Courier Journal Dec 30, 1962, ‘ Stephen Boyd is Glad he Escaped Cleopatra Role with Liz Taylor) 

Stephen Boyd: “My only regret is not getting a chance to be on screen with Elizabeth Taylor…the fact the I dropped out allowed them to meet, and Richard makes a great Anthony” (The ABC of Stephen Boyd interview, 1965)

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Taylor and Burton

 

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What could have been-  Taylor and Boyd…
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On set at Pinewood filming “Cleopatra” – Stephen Boyd in full costume among a crowd of spectators!

More about Cleopatra

For more about Cleopatra the Movie, see this excellent website, http://www.elizabethtaylorthelegend.com/Elizabeth%20Taylor%20-%20Cleopatra%20Contents.html

For more about Cleopatra the Historical Person, I have found that there is almost too much information out there about her and it is hard to find the best fit. For an excellent historical novel about Cleopatra, I highly recommend Margaret George’s “The Memoirs of Cleopatra” . Having just started reading it recently, I find that it really brings the character to life instead of just a caricature.

 

 

Part 2. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – What is Rome?

Excerpts from THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE Novel by Harry Whittington

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There was a silence in Commodus’ quarters that had nothing to do with noise. The sound of laughter, the tones of voices, the clatter of dinnerware did nothing against the din of silence. It seemed to Livius this terrible quiet was concentrated in him, the noises in the room did not touch him, and were absorbed in the static silence.

He glanced toward Commodus, lounging at the table, eating and drinking heartily. If there was silence or tension, he saw that Commodus was unaware of it.

The table before them was loaded with food such as Livius had not seen since his last state banquet, and wine by the flagonfuls.

At the foot of the table, neither of them touching the rich foodstuffs, the two blonde girl prisoners crouched, more like animals than women.

Tauna was disheveled, her animal-skin garment falling from her shoulders across her breasts. Her long blonde hair was matted, reminding Livius of the main of a wild horse he had seen once, imprisoned, burr-clogged.

The Princess Xenia was something else again. While Tauna was uneasy, troubled by the oil-lamp lights, the rich texture of the furnishings, the quantity and odors of strange foods, twisting, watching with awed fascination every move was made. Xenia seemed as if in catatonic trance.

Xenia’s blue eyes were dull, vacant, fixed on thoughts inside herself. Wild as she was, she had more imagination than Tauna. She knew why she had been brought here, and she gazed with deep loathing upon Commodus because she was intelligent enough to see cruelty was the kind of passion that excited him, and he would get the most sensual pleasure from debasing her since she was barbarian royalty.

Her long blonde hair gleamed in the lights, catching shafts of silver when flames flickered, but tresses fell across her face and throat, unnoticed by her and she did not even  brush them away.

Livius watched her, seeing that it was from her that this tension and silence emanated, like some mysterious aura that flooded the room. Nothing could reach her, and because of her, and because of things left unspoken, the atmosphere between him and Commodus was increasingly charged and tense.

Commodus spoke with his mouth full. “You are very silent, Livius.”

Livius wanted only to avoid the unpleasantness he saw was ahead. He had tried to get drunk, he had put away more wine than Commodus had, but it didn’t affect his senses. Steadily he became colder, more sober and aware, sensitive to every change in the brightly lighted room.

He said, placating Commodus, “Perhaps I’ve been a solider too long.”

“No. Perhaps it’s just because you don’t like the things I say- what I just said, and, ” he spoked deliberately,”what I now repeat. The Roman empire has no real meaning.” He smiled, pleased, when Livius leaned forward, cold and rigid. “If there is any logic anywhere, Livius, what Haven’t our provinces rebelled long ago?”

“Because they are not fools. Before we came to them, most of them were savages.” Unconsciously, he jerked his head toward the terrified Tauna, cringing at the tension in their voices, following each movement of their hands or heads. “We’ve brought them roads. We’ve brought them law. We’ve –”

“That was centuries ago, Livius, ” Commodus said wearily. “But now – they could build their own roads, and make their own laws, much cheaper. Why should they pay us taxes and tributes? Who are we?”

Tauna, trembling, set herself and sprinted toward the door. A guard stepped into her path, caught her roughly, and pushed her back to her place near Xenia. Her princess did not look at her, and neither Commodus nor Livius gave Tauna or the guard a glance.

“We are Rome, “Livius said.

“Rome!” Commodus laughed. “A myth holds the empire together! The truth is the provinces no longer need us. Only we never let the colonies suspect it. My father strides about, the great image of a god-like father, going about doing good for all, for them and for Romans, brining their leaders to state functions like this – or to Rome itself – dazzling them with games and banquets…and then if they still seem suspicious – crush them.”

“No. The more you talk, Commodus, the more I see your father is right. Crushing them, taxing their strength away – that’s not the sane answer. We must find new ways …change–”

“My father!” Commodus sat forward, shaken by sudden cold fury. “He is always talking about change- learning to love and understand even those who harm us! That is the one thing we must not do – change. As a matter of fact, we in Rome as living far beyond our means. If we stop, our creditors would tear us to pieces. No, no, Livius – what’s the saying? — live while there’s still light. Let’s laugh while the gods are laughing.”

Livius’ face was gray. “I don’t hear the gods laughing, Commodus.”

Commodus held his gave, their eyes clashing. They faced each other. Commodus’ cheeks were pallid. “We’re not saying everything we know, friend Livius…Something weighs on you. What is it?”

Livius was as pale as Commodus, but he did not speak. Tauna whimpered in the thick silence. Commodus shouted, “Well?”

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