Stephen Boyd Interview, July 1964 : “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”

It’s so interesting to read some of Stephen’s interviews back in the day. Sometimes he could be too honest when speaking to the likes of journalists Hedda Hooper, Erskine Johnson, Sheilah Graham, Joe Hyams and Louella Parsons. Occasionally Stephen would completely knock down one his own current releases, like in the article below. Stephen had already disappointed Paramount executives by failing to appear at the premiere of “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” In the same summer he told Sheilah Graham that the best movie he had ever done up until then was “Ben-Hur.” This was probably an honest statement, but maybe not the safest path to steer in a sensitive town like Hollywood!  Yes, despite his overtly honest comments, Stephen still continued to thrive with a solid career there for several years, even until the early 1970’s when he truly had to seek projects abroad.

Roles Disappoint Stephen Boyd

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 London- July 3, 1964 (Asbury Park Press) by Sheilah Graham

 “The only really good film I’ve made in the past eight years, said Stephen Boyd, complete with heard and ginger mustache, “is Ben Hur.”

 Stephen is in London being fitted for his Genghis Khan costumes for “The Golden Horde” which he will film in Yugoslavia for the next three months.

 “I’m under contact to 20th Century Fox,” continued the likable actor, “but I haven’t made a film for them (in Hollywood) since 1959 – ‘The Best of Everything’ with Joan Crawford and Suzy Parker. The last picture I made in Hollywood was ‘Jumbo’ in 1961, with Doris Day. It was a poor picture.”

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 Boyd has the usual Hollywood problem of the past decade. In 1961, he bought a house in the Valley, a charming place, with the idea of living in it, of course.

 “Ever since, I have made pictures abroad and spent only a few months in the house. Now I am thinking of selling it for something smaller. With being away so much it would be more practical. The day after I moved in, I left for Egypt, to play Mark Anthony in ‘Cleopatra.’ Every time I see Richard Burton I say, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.” (On a side note, Boyd is exaggerating here – He was actually sent to Egypt in April of 1961 on a publicity tour for ‘Cleopatra’ to attend the Pyramid Light Inauguration, not for filming ‘Cleopatra’, which was already on the skids since late 1960.)

 He sounded somewhat regretful. He likes Elizabeth Taylor.

“I think she’s a dream.”

 Stephen also likes Dolores Hart, with whom he made some films when she was a movie star and under contract to Fox. Dolores is in a convent in Connecticut.

 “She wrote to me very frequently and I wrote to her. But this stopped on June 29, when she went into complete seclusion – no visitors, no phone calls,no letters for a year. After that she will decide if her future is in a convent, or she can return to the world. She seems very happy in her life. But at the beginning it was not easy for her. She was frank in her letters to me. She was climbing the movie ladder and she wrote to me that she missed the applause, and her life as an actress. But now she had made the adjustment. The chief thing, I imagine, is that you must find love within yourself before you can live with yourself.”

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We returned to Stephen’s career, and why he has not cared for most of his films. He’s attractive and a good actor.

 “But they won’t let me be myself. I’m always having to play some character. The secret to Gary Cooper’s and Clark Gable’s success is that they always played themselves.”

“I was terribly disappointed,” he laughed, “when they didn’t let me play ‘Jack the Ripper!’”

 I was surprised to have caught up with the Irish-born actor earlier this year in Europe. He flew over to star in “The Unknown Battle” in Norway with Elke Sommer.

 “But I sat on my rear end in London, waiting for it to start. A major studio was supposed to provide 50 percent of the finance. Two weeks before production, they backed out. Tony Mann, the director, had promised me we will make the picture later this year, then the snows come again to Norway.”

 Stephen is sure that pictures are coming back to Hollywood.

 “There is a definite upturn, but we won’t see the results until next year. Then maybe I can get to live in Hollywood, as I did when I first went here in 1958. But most of my movies have been abroad, as I told you. I made “The Night Heaven Fell” with Brigitte Bardot in Paris. She was very big then because this was her first movie after her hit  in ‘And God Created Woman.’”

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 “Is it true,” I asked, “that you will never make another movie in Rome?”

 “What I said was,” he replied, ”that I would never make a picture in Rome under those circumstances. In the first place this picture will not be shown in America. They can’t get it past the censors.  And more important, they didn’t pay me my full salary. They still owe me money. If I make another picture in Rome, the money will have to be in the bank first. Also, what I did receive was taxed in Italy as well as in America. It just isn’t practical to work there.”

 One picture Stephen would like to make in Hollywood is the Mildred Crem story, “Forever.”  Metro bought it years and years ago with the idea of starring Janet Gaynor.

 “I’d like to do it with Audrey Hepburn,” said Boyd.

 Another film he wants to make is “Clive of India.”

 “Terence Young had written this treatment, and of course this one would have to be made mostly in India.”

 This is a happy weekend for Stephen in London. The actor who became an American citizen last December 23 has a birthday on July 4.

 “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, and I’m looking forward to the day I can work, as well as live, in America.”

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Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart “Romance on the Run”- Movie Mirror September, 1960

Dolores Hart and Stephen Boyd were good friends after making “Lisa” together in 1961. They had previously worked together on an excellent World War 1 TV romance called “To the Sound of Trumpets”, which aired on February 9, 1960 on television for Playhouse 90. In Dolores’ autobiography The Ear of the Heart she describes working with Boyd on “To the Sound of Trumpets” :

Stephen Boyd was extremely attractive and very professional. We shared most of the scenes in the play, and he was such a generous actor. He was also a bit of a cutup. As we approached performance day, I confessed my habitual stage fright to him. Just before air time, a telegram was delivered to me. It was from Stephen. “Relax dear. Twenty million Chinese don’t give a damn.”

Later that same year the two actors were invited by Movie Mirror magazine to pose for a ‘fake’ romantic photo shoot. Stephen had done a photo ‘romance’ with Stella Stevens in 1960 as well (see https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/tag/stella-stevens/). The photos from this adorable Boyd/Hart shoot were also used in a 1960 Screenland Boyd interview called “Love Gambler” – but this time the magazine used them to actually hint at a Boyd/Hart romance instead of a fake one. To make it even more confusing, the two actors would actually later become somewhat romantically entangled during the filming of “Lisa” a year later in 1961 – at least in Dolores Hart’s eyes.

Anyway, I absolutely love these pictures! You can clearly see the camaraderie between the two of them and the sense of humor they both have about these photos.

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Above photos from Screenland Magazine, November 1960.

Movie Mirror September 1960 Layout Below.

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Stephen Boyd and Gloria Talbott in “The Wall Between”, January 1962

At the height of his career in the 1960’s, Stephen Boyd took part in three separate Television Show drama which aired on network T.V. The first was “To the Sound of Trumpets” in early 1960 with Dolores Hart. The second was this one, for General Electric TV,  which aired on Sunday January 7,  1962. The third television program for Stephen was Bob Hope Theater presentation of  “A War of Nerves” in 1964 with Louis Jourdan.

This show is particularly hard to find. Most likely the only copy is available at the Library of Congress – one visit I have yet to make! From the photos I have seen of this production, Stephen looks moody, husky and handsome with the lovely Gloria Talbott.

This sounds like a very interesting plot. First off, Stephen plays a father  – something he rarely did on screen, especially this early in his career. Gloria Talbott stars opposite Boyd as his young wife. The drama comes in the form of their baby son, who is a mentally retarded child. Other co-stars included General Electric’s own Ronald Reagan (yes, that Ronald Reagan!) as well as Everett Sloane who portrays the family doctor.

“Boyd, as one-time gridiron great ‘Bud Austin’, tries to keep secret the fact that his child is less than perfect. His personal feelings are intensified when a gift for the baby turns out to be a miniature of Bud’s famous football jersey.” (Beckley Post Herald Raleigh (August 4, 1962) “The shock of the disclosure that his son is ‘less than perfect’ so disturbs Bud that he orders his wife ‘Janet’ (Gloria Talbott) to keep the child’s condition a secret until they can put the boy away. Near hysteria from Bud’s irrational demands, Janet tearfully reveals the truth to friends during a visit, then seeks advise from Dr. Gordon. He sends her with the child to the home of ‘Sam Miller’ (Ronald Reagan) where an angry Bud follows and learns from Miller, a fellow unfortunate parent of a retarded child, what he must do in facing the reality of life.” (The Montgomery Advertiser, Jan 5 1962)

Reviews of the program were overall positive, especially for taking on such a difficult subject matter.

“Stephen Boyd played a former athlete who fathered a retarded baby and rejected him in a fit of emotional instability. Ronald Reagan co-starred as another father in a similar situation who gave Boyd the emotional backbone to face the problem.” (Asbury Park Press, Jan 8, 1962)

“Stephen Boyd debuts on TV as a father who refuses to accept the fact that is six-month old son is mentally retarded- hopelessly so. It’s grim, but powerful drama…” (Asbury Park Press, Jan 7, 1962)

“The Wall Between Us” is not entertainment in the usual sense of the word. There is not a single laugh in it. Indeed, it is a four handkerchief film from start to finish, beautifully written and beautifully played. It also carries a wallop. (Pottstown Mercury, Jan 6, 1962)

This was filmed just before or around the same time Stephen was filming “Billy Rose’s Jumbo” with Doris Day on the MGM back lot. It was a great chance for audiences to see Stephen doing something more than race Roman chariots.

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TV Guide Advertisement, Jan 6-12, 1962