Stephen Boyd Spotting at the 1959 and 1960 Academy Award Ceremony in Hollywood

Thanks to Emmanuel in France for researching on YouTube and finding some really rare live footage of Stephen Boyd at two Academy Awards ceremonies! One is at the 1959 ceremony.  Stephen is seated next to power-player columnist Hedda Hopper, who adored Stephen. The other is a quick shot of Stephen with date Romney Tree at the 1960 ceremony, when Ben-Hur won 11 Academy Awards!

1959 Academy Awards

Look for Stephen at 57 seconds in!

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Hedda Hopper and Stephen Boyd

1960 Academy Awards

Very brief shot of Stephen and Romney on the far left at 2:21

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Romney Tree and Stephen Boyd

 

Stephen Boyd and Dirk Bogarde

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When Stephen Boyd was barely scraping out a living working at the Odeon in Piccadilly Square during the early 1950’s, one of the actors he probably caught frequently on the screen would have been English actor Dirk Bogarde. Dirk Bogarde had starting acting after returning from his wartime service in WWII and swiftly became one of England’s favorite matinée stars. He was known as the Idol of the Odeons. Certainly Stephen would have watched Dirk on screen and longed for this type of success. Bogarde had certain irresistible qualities which made him so popular with audiences; he was handsome, stylish, humorous, dashing and also a very, very good actor. Bogarde, like Boyd, also was one of the few English-speaking actors to work with French icon Brigitte Bardot in one of her earliest films, Doctor at Sea (1955).

BB and Bogarde….BB and Boyd.

Stephen Boyd started making movies in 1956 and by 1959 he had already gained something which Dirk Bogarde had not achieved in more than 10 years of film-making–success in the United States. Bogarde was almost exclusively a product of England. Bogarde did, however, become more of an international star in the 1960’s. Because of the success of Ben-Hur and the fact that Stephen’s rugged masculinity resonated immediately with American audiences, Boyd rocketed to international stardom almost at the beginning of this career.

In May of 1959 Bogarde himself warily ventured to Hollywood for the first time to partake in an project called The Song Without End which was filmed in Hollywood. It was a historical/romantic movie about the life of pianist and composer Franz Liszt. Before Bogarde arrived in Hollywood, Boyd was thrilled to tell columnist Hedda Hopper all about this English film star. Hedda herself had a chance to talk to Dirk (From Tucson Daily Camera, May 1, 1959).

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When I told him Stephen Boyd said he (Bogarde) was the top young actor in London for 12 years, he said, “He’s wrong, only nine. ”

Why haven’t you been here before? “Well, I’ve been busy as home. And this was the first script they’ve sent me that I like.”

This was Dirk’s first and last visit to Hollywood. The movie was a failure at the box office and Dirk never returned to Hollywood again. He would continue to prolifically make films in England and Europe, but he never achieved a substantial success in America.

Hedda doesn’t remark whether or not Dirk met up with Stephen to say hello during that time, but I can imagine they may have. Stephen was filming The Best of Everything during that time in Hollywood. I’m sure Boyd would have had nothing but admiring things to say about this very talented and very popular English actor!

The 1950’s–The Idol of the Odeons

For more about Dirk Bogarde, please see: https://wordpress.com/page/alpheratz9.wordpress.com/617

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Dirk Bogarde was born on March 28th 1921 in Hampstead, England. He was of Dutch descent, his original name being Derek Van den Bogaerde. His mother was a former actress and his father was the editor of the newspaper The Times. Dirk had a sister named Elizabeth and later on his mother bore another son named Gareth. Lally, often mentioned by Dirk, was the beloved nurse of the Bogaerde children. Dirk began a career as a scenic designer and commerical artist but wanted to act instead. In the late 1930’s Dirk joined the army as an officer in Air Photographic Intelligence. His army carrier took him to places like Germany, India, Malaya and Java. (Dirk’s fiction book ‘A Gentle Occupation’ is a semi-biographical/fictional account of his experinces in Java) When he returned he immediately joined a small theatre group, and he was quickly noticed and given a few small parts in films, signing a contract with Rank.

In the late forties Dirk was in such movies as Ester Waters, Quartet, Boys in Brown. It wasn’t until Dirk appeared in Basil Dearden’s The Blue Lamp, where he portrayed a small-time crook, that Dirk really began to get noticed by the press. In the early fifties Dirk continued his film work in So Long at the Fair, The Woman in Question and the much lauded Hunted in 1952. More ‘trenchcoat’ -running roles followed in films like The Gentle Gunman and Desperate Moment. His breakthrough role ironically came in a comedy Doctor in the House, where he played the innocent Simon Sparrow. A range of roles continued to come his ways, from Losey’s Sleeping Tiger to Simba to Cast a Dark Shadow. The doctor roles kept coming as well in Doctor at Sea and Doctor at Large. At this time Dirk had become a home-grown matinee idol, with school-girls picketing his house, screaming audiences at his appearances, and fan mail galore. Being an eligible bachelor only lent more fervor to the craze. Dirk dealt with his fame with the utmost grace and aloofness, never letting it get to his head. Being Britain’s heartthrob lead him to such romantic roles in movies like A Tale of Two Cities, Libel, Doctor’s Dilemma, The Spanish Gardner and Hollywood’s Song without End.

By this time, circa 1960, Dirk was getting restless. He felt at his age he was outgrowing his pop-idol status. He began to search for more challenging and interesting roles, beginning with the magnificent Victim, which dealt with the controversial subject of homosexuality. Other roles like Damn the Defiant, The Singer not the Song, the Mind Benders, and I Could go on Singing followed, but Dirk continued his hunt for the appropriate collaborater. In 1963 he was paired with director Joseph Losey and it was a perfect match. Films with Losey in the 1960’s included The Servant, King and Country, Modesty Blaise and The Accident . These films and the movie Darling helped Dirk to gain actual critical acclaim, and he began to be known as one of Britains most talented actors. His matinee pop-idol tag was now an addendum to a much lauded acting career. In the later sixties Dirk would work with another well-known director, Luchino Visconti, on The Damned and Death in Venice.

In the seventies Dirk semi-retired in France but continued to choose interesting roles in films like The Night Porter, Providence, Permission to Kill and Despair in 1977. Dirk also began to write books, something he had longed to do throughout his career but had never found the time. Dirk would write several biographies and also many fiction books, even publishing a book of letters. Dirk has shown not only an incredible acting talent but also a vivid and moving talent as a writer. In the late 1980’s Dirk moved back to London to live a very private, quiet life. He also became actively involved in the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, a subject which Dirk felt very strongly about ( see the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of the UK Home Page and Dirk’s Views on Euthanasia ) In 1990 Dirk would act in his last film appearance in the French film Daddy Nostalgia.

Stephen Boyd- “The Tiger Hollywood has by the Tail” 1959-1960 articles

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This is a fascinating article released just as Boyd’s career was rocketing  at the opening of Ben Hur in late 1959. Famed  columnist Hedda Hopper, always a major fan of Boyd’s, highlights some of Stephen’s persistent characteristics – specifically his desire to have more character roles instead of leading men parts. Hedda describes Boyd has having “terrific screen impact and vitality beyond any actor I know.” That is certainly high praise! This article also includes Boyd’s notorious comment that “I won’t work in a brass hat to the end of my days,” a comment which did not please his studio Twentieth Century Fox, as they had several ‘brass hat’ roles lined up for him, including “The Story of Ruth”, “The King Must Die”, and perhaps even an off-shoot Messala project. Stephen had already talked to the studio about playing Mark Anthony at this point (late 1959) for the upcoming Cleopatra. It was a role he would eventually sign up for. This is also the comment which may have in fact prevented Stephen from even being nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Messala in Ben Hur. Stephen did win the Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor for Ben Hur, but he was strangely overlooked for an Academy Award. See below for Stephen’s opinion about being overlooked as a Supporting Actor by the Academy for Ben Hur (See below article “Supporting Actors Pose Movie Woe”.)  Stephen also mentions, interestingly, that he would have liked to have played a few famous Lawrence Olivier roles for live TV -including  Rebecca and Wuthering Heights. I have always wished that Stephen could have played Heathcliff! I am surprised this movie never got remade in the 50’s or 60’s. Stephen would have been a perfect choice!

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Boyd in Woman Obsessed, 1959– the closest Stephen got to a ‘Heathcliff’ type role

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Released by the Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1959

Even the mainstream press was shocked that Boyd was overlooked for his performance as “Messala” in Ben Hur by the Academy. He wasn’t even nominated. Stephen was quite outspoken at the time, and this article by Bob Thomas is full of rebellious Boyd quotes such as this.

 Yet he drew no Oscar nomination, because he had star billing in the film. “Ridiculous!” declares the outspoken Irishman, “I was a supporting player in the picture. Every other role in Ben Hur was in support of Chuck Heston. Why, not counting the chariot scene, my role lasted a half-hour on the screen. Now how can you call that a starring role?”

Luckily for us, Ben Hur still is well known by movie-goers, and Stephen’s amazing performance as Messala sometimes still gets referred to (mistakenly) as an Oscar winning performance! Frankie Fane would be proud.

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Corpus Christi Caller Times 23 March, 1960

“Liz Taylor’s First Mark Anthony” – Hedda Hopper interviews Stephen Boyd 1962

Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1962

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Mixing with the Royals; Stephen Boyd can be seen to the right in full Mark Anthony gear. Is that Elizabeth Taylor riding the horse? It’s hard to say.
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Stephen Boyd (center), dressed in full Roman Mark Anthony garb, observes some of the action during the filming of the initial “Cleopatra” epic in late 196o.

Stephen Boyd as Messala in Ben Hur

Later this week the 2016 remake of “Ben Hur” will be released. Hopefully this will generate more interest in the classic 1959 version of the movie, which starred Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd. The 1959 movie was the second cinematic version of Ben Hur, the first being the 1925 “Ben Hur” starring Ramon Navarro and Francis X Bushman. Below is an interview clip from Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood , a TV special from 1960. Stephen was invited along with Heston, Navarro and Bushman to unite the two Ben Hur’s and Messala’s. Heston declined to appear on Hopper’s show, but Boyd was more than happy to appear. The full version of this interview (not shown below, unfortunately)  also includes Ramon Navarro and Francis X Bushman discussing their harrowing chariot race, which was as equally impressive on film as the 1959 “Ben Hur” race was.