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.

fabianBOEfabian4

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)

fabianbest of fabian1550

A Candid Stephen Boyd Interview from 1969

Stephen Boyd Explains His Lousy Movies

The Journal News – White Plains New York, 09 Jul 1969

By Bernard Shaw

New York – Stephen Boyd was in town briefly to publicize “Slaves” in which he plays a plantation owner and which was to open in a few days. I hadn’t yet seen the film when its publicist called and asked if I cared to meet Boyd. I hedged and said that the only burning question I had for him was why he made so many lousy pictures.

“Ask him that, “ the publicist urged. “I did and found that he’s very bright and articulate and he has no illusions about the business. He’ll speak candidly about anything.”

I agreed to see him, the date was set, and in the meantime, I attended the premive of the 70-mm elongation of “Ben Hur” in which Boyd had played Messala way back in 1960, and I found, to my surprise, that his was by the far the best performance in the film.

He had managed to endow an almost impossible villain with so much humor and intelligence, even sympathy in his 27 minutes out of a total of four hours on screen, that he rather threw the whole marathon epic out of kilter. I even found myself hopelessly rooting for him to win the chariot race against the archangel Heston.

I meet Boyd a week later in his suite at the Elysee, still not having seen “Slaves.” He is a tall, handsome Irishman from Ulster – Belfast is his home- and he was dressed in conservative black, having some kind of semiformal luncheon to attend later on.  He had a ruddy bloom on his cheeks all the Irish seem to have when they arrive here, but lose too soon. His sole concession to the now look was an elegant guardsman moustache.

After the usual amenities, my first question, predictably, was “How come you’ve made  so many lousy movies?”

“20th Century Fox,” he answered immediately, “20th Century Fox. I was under contract to them- chattel- and if you think and you are correct in thinking, I made so many lousy movies, you should see what I turned. Down. I was under contract with them for eleven, which should give you some indication of how many suspensions I took.”

Why did he ever get himself involved in such a situation? Simply because at the time the contact was waived before him, it seemed like mana from heaven. He comes from a large, poor family in Belfast, and at the age of seven he went on Ulster Radio’s Children’s Hour because the family needed the money.

At sixteen, he left school and broke with the family trade – which his father and brothers all practiced – truck driving, to work with the Ulster Theater Group, and then there were long, fruitless years in stock companies in Canada and the United States where he made alarming progress getting nowhere.

In 1952 in London, where he had gone to storm the British theater, he was literally starving, and reduced to playing his guitar and “busking” to the cinema queues in Leicester Square for pennies.

That did lead to a job as doorman of the Odean Cinema which in turn led to his becoming an usher and then to his meeting Michael Redgrave who gave him an introduction to the Windsor Repertory Theater and the Midlands Theater Company and several more years of playing all kinds of roles in addition to some small parts in British films.

So that when 20th Century Fox, impressed with his performance in “The Man Who Never Was, “ offered him a Babylonian Captivity, he had to accept.

“I don’t know how I lasted,” he said, “And I’m about the only one of the bunch of white hopes who came in when I did, who did last – there were Bradford Dillman, Stuart Whitman, Bobby Wagner – they put you in anything they want to and  there’s nothing you can do about it. When you try to speak to them, you’re told you’re a tax deduction. It isn’t so much a question of your making money for them but your’e enabling them to save money. You mean nothing.”

“But you’ve been living in Europe these last few years,” I said.

“I’ve been a resident of the United States,” he said, “ and a United States citizen for the last ten years. My home is in Los Angeles. Of course I never see it. They keep shipping me abroad which is another way of their being able to make money on you.”

“Were you forced to make things like ‘The Oscar’ and ‘The Caper of the Golden Bulls?’ ” I asked.

“I would do ‘The Oscar’ again with the original script I saw, but not with the people involved in it,” he said, “and I would do ‘Caper of the Golden Bulls’ again, but not with people involved, and many others which turned out so badly.”

“And ‘Slaves’ is different?” I asked.

He nodded, “You’ll search a long way before you find a more technically imperfect film, but that’s not what we were trying to do. We were trying to make the first true picture of slavery in America, and we did.”

“At least it’s an original of the Irish Rebellion,” I said, “I saw Sidney Poitier’s ‘The Lost Man’ which is an adaptation of ‘Odd Man Out’ and it’s terrible.”

“Sidney can’t do what he wants, superstar though he is, “ Boyd said. “He can do what he wants provided that it’s salable amd makes money. Remember, he and Jim Brown knocked themselves out, but they made it as personalities, not as blacks. The black problem was still an untouchable on the screen prior to ‘Slaves’ because the few films made that touched on the problem didn’t make money. But we’re breaking records everywhere we opened, and that’s where it counts with those boys. Will it make money?”

I asked him about some of his earlier films, about his brilliant but aborted Nimrod in John Huston’s “The Bible.” The role ended in the middle of nowhere.

“I had just made the test of Huston and had been on the film for only a couple of days when Fox yanked me off to make ‘Fantastic Voyage.’”, Boyd said. “I assumed they were going to junk what I did or do it over with someone else, but later on, Huston decided to use what little he had, so of course, the actor is blamed for it. You have to make compromises all the way. Big ones on the big picture, smaller ones on the smaller ones, you even have to make them on the good pictures, and I say the hell with it.  You can make a lot of stupid pictures that make a lot of money, so why eat your heart out?”

I wondered if he was looking for a stupid picture now, but I asked instead, “Why did you bow out of ‘Cleopatra?’”

“They changed the story on me, “ he said, “When I was scheduled to do it, when Mamoulian was supposed to direct, Peter Finch was to play Caesar and I, Anthony, and it was the story of Caesar and Cleopatra an then Anthony and Cleopatra. But then it became just the story of Cleopatra, “ he shrugged.

“And you let Richard have it, “ I said.

“I let Richard have it, “ he said.

“How come you don’t return to the theater?” I asked, “Isn’t it more satisfying for an actor?”

“From an ego point of view, yes, “ he said, “but films could be satisfying too for an actor is he was involved in the creation. We all make a picture together, but nobody talks to anybody. Nobody will sit down and discuss it beforehand, and you never do discuss it – with very, very few exceptions- unless some crisis occurs. The cameraman is off creating his mood, the actor is creating his mood, the set designed only worries about how his set looks, the costume designer, her costumes.”

He shrugged “It’s no wonder so few things turn out well. If I did do a play, I’d like to do O’Casey. ‘Juno and the Paycock.’ But it would have to be played right, as it was originally in Ireland. The first two acts are comedy and the last, tragedy. You have to be very careful about the way you do Irish drama. There are so many misconceptions abroad about Catholic and Protestant in Ireland. I heard Bernadette Devlin’s maiden speech in Parliament and I was deeply moved. She was elected, remember, in a predominantly Protestant community, and she said, “There is not a religious question in Ireland. It is simply a question of poverty.”

“Of course, that was distorted in all of the foreign press,” Boyd said angrily, “Nobody had it right but the London Times. Of course it’s a question of poverty in Ireland, and people everywhere was so ignorant of the situation. Only yesterday someone said to me, ‘But you’re Catholic,’ and I said, ‘No I happen to be Protestant, but what has that to do with it?”

“I come from an Irish family, the youngest of nine. My father was a truck driver. When he retired, he was at the height of his earning power. He was making six pounds a week, that’s about thirteen dollars. How the hell are a man and his wife and nine children going to live on thirteen dollars a week?”

Then he grew less angry and he said, “And then I think of something O’Casey said when I did ‘June and the Paycock’ in Belfast and he came up to see it. He said, ‘There are many, many, many noes in the world , but there is always a bigger yes.’”

Stephen Boyd and Marilyn Monroe

IMG_0006

One of Stephen’s most interesting ‘what could have been’ cinema moments was his chance to star with Hollywood’s biggest star – Marilyn Monroe. Stephen was one of many actors who tried out for the part opposite the famous blonde in Let’s Make Love. the auditions took place in early 1960. Boyd was just coming off his huge success in MGM’s Ben Hur, but he was signed to a different studio,  20th Century Fox, who wanted to maximize his current popularity quickly. Around that same time, Boyd had bowed out of the part of Boaz in the Fox biblical epic with Elana Eden, the Story of Ruth.

“I wanted very much to play the role of the billionaire in “Let’s make Love” with Marilyn Monroe. It’s a wonderful role. But I knew I wasn’t ready for the role of Boaz. Maybe a year from now I’d feel differently. I know now that I’m not right for a milk-and-water juvenile roles. I must have something with guts and vitality.” (Silver Screen June 1960)

Needless to say, 20th Century Fox  was not happy with Boyd’s decision to refuse the role.  Fox assigned actor Stuart Whitman to the part, and Boyd did not get the part he wanted with Monroe. This part went to French actor Yves Montand instead.  Most likely the Studio was putting its foot down to let the somewhat strong-willed actor know he was still under obligation to their wishes. Boyd was eventually assigned to his next role- the African adventure “The Big Gamble” with Juliette Greco.

All we can do now is imagine how Boyd and Monroe magic would have been on screen together!

img

fullscreen-capture-9112016-24148-pm-bmpmodern-screen-march-1960

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

bestofjoancrawford

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.

Fullscreen capture 942016 24355 PM.jpg

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

Fullscreen capture 942016 105332 AM.bmp-001Fullscreen capture 942016 105053 AM.bmp-001Fullscreen capture 942016 105244 AM.bmp-001Fullscreen capture 942016 104620 AM.bmp-001Fullscreen capture 942016 104952 AM.bmp-001Fullscreen capture 942016 104600 AM.bmp-001Fullscreen capture 942016 104537 AM.bmpFullscreen capture 942016 105632 AM.bmp-001Fullscreen capture 942016 104443 AM.bmpFullscreen capture 942016 104509 AM.bmp

Fullscreen capture 942016 104106 AM.bmp
Seagram Building

Fullscreen capture 942016 101148 AM.bmp.jpg

Fullscreen capture 942016 104139 AM.bmpFullscreen capture 942016 104155 AM.bmpFullscreen capture 942016 104326 AM.bmp

Fullscreen capture 942016 104426 AM.bmp
Walking on Park Avenue West Side and 51st street
Fullscreen capture 942016 104357 AM.bmp
St. Bartholomew’s Church on the left
Fullscreen capture 942016 104411 AM.bmp
The Helmsley Building Park Avenue

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

BestofEverythingwithRonaJaffe

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.

bestlange

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

BEST OFFullscreen capture 10202015 112522 AM.bmpBestEveryt

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)
best of fabian1550
Pop star Fabian visits the set with Hope Lange, Stuart Whitman and Stephen Boyd on hand –note “Fabian”Publishing!

BOEfabian4

bestofhopehatstephenbesthope3

besthope2

bestof2girlsbestlang

bestofhopestevebestofhopey

boegirls AA

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