Stephen Boyd had three marriages in his life. Two of those marriages were official, and one marriage, a gypsy wedding with actress Marisa Mell, which was not legally recognized. Stephen never had any children and once said, “There are certain things lacking in me–I’d hate to run the risk of transferring any of my shortcomings to any children of mine.” Stephen truly enjoyed the freedom of bachelor life for most of his years. “I definitely prefer the freedom of bachelorhood, even though it may look like trying to escape from responsibilities.” (From The ABC of Stephen Boyd article).
Mariella Di Sarzana 1958-1959
Marcella was an MCA executive who was assigned as Boyd’s guide when he arrived in Rome to start filming Ben-Hur in mid 1958. According to Stephen he knew he wanted to marry her the first moment he saw her : “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.” Mariella was a very petite, pretty Italian woman who was very highly educated (she spoke eight languages). After a four month romance they married in London in August of 1958 during a short break from the filming of Ben-Hur. When they returned to Rome, a wedding reception was held for them by the cast and crew of Ben-Hur. Unfortunately many circumstances made this engagement very short-lived. “Filming kept us apart for long periods 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.” (Picturegoer, Dec 19, 1959) Stephen blamed himself for not being ready for marriage. After a short month, they separated. The divorce was final on March 20, 1959 once Mariella made a brief visit to Hollywood. According to the divorce trial, Sarzana claimed Boyd had left her in Rome in August of 1958 and refused to assist her in getting an American visa, saying he did not want to continue with the marriage. He agreed to pay her $13,000 over the next two years. (Austin Daily Herald, March 21, 1959)
After this experience, Stephen became very leery of marital attachments and remained a very happy bachelor for most of the rest of his life. Mariella herself remarried after her breakup with Boyd. In a ironic twist of fate, Stephen would meet Mariella during the filming of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” in Spain, 1963. She was assigned as his guide when he arrived early. According to Boyd, “That relationship lasted five minutes.” (Daily News, NY, Feb 28, 1966)
Marisa Mell 1970-1971
Stephen Boyd made two films (Marta and The Great Swindle) with Austrian actress Marisa Mell from 1970-1971. During the first film, Boyd dodged Mell’s amorous advances, but by the time the second film was made a few months later, Boyd was pursuing Mell. For Boyd, Mell represented his ideal femme fatale. He once admitted that dark, exotic brunettes were his biggest trap. The pair became inseparable lovers for a few short months. Boyd whisked Mell off to become his wife by Gypsy law in a gypsy camp just outside of Madrid. The ceremony included a wrist cutting exchange of blood to seal their bond. It seems this unofficial marriage was about as hasty as his previous marriage to Sarzana. However, this attachment was overwrought with mystical and physical potency that was felt by both Boyd and Mell. The couple felt ‘possessed’ by their passion, so much so that they literally tried to exorcise it at a sanctuary in northern Italy. Boyd abruptly broke off the affair when he literally became physically ill. Marisa Mell had this unusual explanation about her break-up with Boyd: “We both believe in reincarnation, and we realized we’ve already been lovers in three different lifetimes, and in each one I made him suffer terribly.” (The Akron Beacon Journal, June 16, 1972) For her part, Marisa Mell would fondly remember Boyd years later in her autobiography Cover Love, dedicating a whole chapter to their love affair. She died of throat cancer in 1992 at the age of 53.
Read more about Marisa Mell at this amazing resource by Mirko di Wallenberg, The Marisa Mell Blog Spot.
See also more details about this relationship on my blog “Love and Magik 1971“.
Elizabeth Mills 1974-1977
Elizabeth M. Mills knew Stephen from the early 1950’s in London when she worked for the Arts Council of Great Britain. In 1960 she came to Hollywood to work as Stephen’s personal secretary, as he was getting overwhelmed with fan mail. Elizabeth lived with Stephen at his Tarzana home for many years, often taking care of his property when he was away filming overseas. Liz was Boyd’s closest confidante and they also shared the same personal friends from England, like Tony and Sheilah Till and their daughter Valerie, whom Stephen adored. The Tills were guests during Stephen Boyd’s appearance on This Is Your Life in 1960.
Liz is mentioned briefly in the Hollywood gossip columns in relation to Stephen as well. In early 1960, Louella Parsons wrote “Stephen Boyd finds both Anna Kashfi and British Actress Elizabeth Mills very attractive. But it was Elizabeth whose hand Boyd was holding after dinner.” (Jan 11, 1960, Albuquerque Journal). Sheilah Graham referenced Mills in a 1962 interview with Boyd as well : “There’s an English girl who looks after his house in the Valley here, but marriage does not seem to be on their agenda. (Dec 30, 1962, Courier Journal) In 1968, the gossip columns simply had this to say: “Stephen Boyd and Elizabeth Mills. A new steady-date.” (Nov 21, 1968, Terre Haute Tribune). And from earlier that same year : “At Stephanino’s, Stephen Boyd, back from doing Louis L’Amour’s “Shalako” with Brigitte Bardot in Europe, was with his secretary Elizabeth Mills and her date, producer Clarke Reynolds.” (May 24, 1968, New Castle News)
Later in life, around 1974, Liz and Stephen wed in a quiet ceremony in London. It seems that Stephen was finally done with playing the field and decided to tie the knot with the one woman who had remained loyal to him most of her adult life. Liz Mills had latched onto Boyd early on. For Stephen Boyd to marry the long standing live-in assistant certainly seems to be a marriage made out of convenience and obligation rather than passion.
There was a distinct age difference between them. Elizabeth was born October 3, 1912, which would make her 19 years older than Stephen (He was born in 1931). She was with Stephen when he had a heart attack golfing at Porter Valley Golf Course in Northridge, California, where she attempted to save his life by artificial respiration. Elizabeth remained in Tarzana for the rest of her life after Boyd’s death, but she moved to a different address. She passed away on January 30, 2007 at the age of 94. She was laid to rest with Stephen at Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California. (see https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/oakwood-memorial-park-stephen-boyds-gravesite)
Stephen was the youngest of 9 children (4 sisters, 4 brothers) from a poor Protestant family in Glengormley, a town just outside of Belfast . He was very close to his mother Martha; he even took her maiden name ‘Boyd’ as his stage name. She was a descendant of the Bally-castle Boyd’s of Northern Ireland, who most likely hailed from Scotland. His father William was of Canadian descent. He worked as a truck driver and was also a recovered alcoholic. Stephen was also very close to his brothers James (20 years his elder) and Alex Millar. Needless to say, Stephen had a very large extended family. During his Hollywood years he would visit Belfast at least once a year. After the Troubles began in Ireland in the early 1970’s, sadly, Stephen would not visit again. Once Stephen had earned enough money from Ben-Hur he bought his mother and father a nice home in Belfast on Swanston Road which they promptly nicknamed ‘Messala.’ Both of Stephen’s parents died in the mid-1970’s.
Below, pictures of Stephen with his father William and his mother Martha.
Stephen Boyd spent his early years at his parents small home in Glengormley, Northern Ireland, just outside of Belfast. When he moved to London in the early 1950’s, the only address I have been able to track down is from a tax withholding form which shows the address of 46 Fairholm Road in London. In 1958, when Stephen moved to the Hollywood he had a home or apartment on Sunset Boulevard and later also a home in Palm Springs. However, Stephen Boyd spent most of his time in “The Valley”, as its called. He moved into his ranch style Tarzana home in April of 1961. This house was most likely located at 5520 Donna Avenue in Tarzana, California, 91356. It was built in 1947. It’s a quiet residence just off the main city street.
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Stephen Boyd hailed from Northern Ireland, but from researching the background of his name, most likely his mother’s ancestors hailed from Scotland. According to Wikipedia, Boyd is a Scottish surname. It originated from a habitational name from the island of Bute, located in the Firth of Clyde. The surname was very common in Edinburgh in the 17th century.The Scottish Gaelic form of the surname is Boid (masculine), and Bhoid(feminine). According to Modern Screen Magazine, Boyd’s mother hailed from the Bally Castle Boyd’s of Northern Ireland (see http://www.niarchive.org/Ballycastle/Exhibitions/Collections.aspx?lc=1&id=ed4e89e5-e141-4af6-9b35-05d680e49a3c). It was in Northern Ireland that King James I introduced what was called the Plantation of Ulster in the early 1600’s. Basically this was the colonization of Norther Ireland to convert the Catholics. The Scottish people who settled there were mostly Presbyterians, and also people from England who adhered to the Church of England. Of course this would later lead to the tension between the native Catholics and sow the seeds of the Troubles which began in the late 1960’s in on-wards into the 1990’s. Of course Stephen’s true last name (from his father) was Miller. According to Wikipedia again, this name is also of Scottish origin. The origin of the Scottish surname is from a burn (rivulet) in Glasgow, namely the molindinar (Mo-lynn-dine-are), and the name has evolved over the years to molindar Mo-lynn-dar and to molinar mo-lynn-ar and to Millar and finally to Miller. The first record of the name was in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. If the surname has Highland Scottish origins, the bearers are associated with Clan MacFarlane. In 1995, Miller was the 22nd most common surname on the birth, death and marriage registers in Scotland; Millar was 77th.The name Miller also has a long history in Northern Ireland, notably County Antrim where many migrants from Northern England and Scotland settled in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Below is an interesting snippet told by Boyd of why he needed to change his name to get noticed!
What’s in a name? “Plenty,” says Stephen Boyd, star of 20th Century Fox’s “Third Secret. I couldn’t even get a chance for an audition with my real name – William Miller. My other’s maiden name is Boyd. My first agent in London thought ‘Stephen Boyd’ would be a very good name. To prove a point, he called a producer who had refused to see me. Then my agent added: ‘I have now taken over the handling of Stephen Boyd.’ And the producer replied: ‘Oh, yes, I would like to see HIM.’ And that’s how I got my first real movie role in ‘An Alligator Named Daisy’, from which I was signed to a long-term contract by Darryl F. Zanuck.” (Los Angeles Times Feb 23, 1964)