Photo Spotlight – Stephen Boyd and Julietto Greco in “The Big Gamble”, 1961

Apparently 20th Century Fox’s “The Big Gamble” is airing in the UK right now, so I thought I’d post a few photos from the film. It’s one of my favorite Stephen Boyd movies, and it’s a shame it hasn’t been released in it’s full wide-screen splendor on Blu-Ray! Juliette Greco, the fantastic French chanteuse, is delightful, as is David Wayne. It’s also a perfect role for Stephen Boyd’s rugged Irish demeanor. The film was made in various locations – Ireland,  Southern France, and the Ivory Coast of Africa – during the spring and early summer of 1960. Read more about The Adventure of filming “The Big Gamble” here. Of all people, the delicate but intrepid Juliette Greco made not one – not two- but three drama/ adventure movies in Africa! Talk about the African Queen! The films are “The Naked Earth” (1958 with Richard Todd),  “Roots of Heaven” (1958 with Trevor Howard) and “The Big Gamble” (1961).

The Big Gamble (Le Grand Risque) French Photo Novel 1961

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Lollobrigida, Loren, Bardot, Gréco–who were Stephen’s favorites?

Stephen Boyd had the good fortune of starring with some of the most beautiful and famous actresses in the world. He always had very high praise for each one of them individually. But occasionally he was put on the spot by a reporter and asked to pick a favorite. Stephen would always take this with a sense of humor.  So how did Stephen’s co-stars fare? Who were his favorites?

 1)      The Italian Icons – Sophia vs Gina         index.png




Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida were both the premiere movie stars from Italy in the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s. Both were legendary in their beauty and their va-va-voom figures. So which of these lovely Italian superstars was Boyd’s favorite?

Reporter Erskine Johnson asked Boyd this exact question in 1963.   – Chunky, rugged, dimple- in- the- chin Steve Boyd had just completed movies with Doris Day and Gina Lollobrigida. Now he was playing love scenes with Sophia Loren. So leave it to me. I came right out and asked him how they compared on his personal popularity chart…With a sudden, slightly startled smile he answered my candid question: “There is no comparison. I wouldn’t die exactly for Sophia, but I’d come close to it.”  (‘Boyd Flits Among the Lovelies’)

Later on in life, Stephen still was awed by Loren. In a 1976 Photo Play interview, he had this to say : Sophia would be my favorite if I had one. She is not the most attractive lady in the world at first glance but, my God, two seconds later you felt you were in a dream world. Just for her to say ‘Hello’ was enough. You just capitulated. For me she is the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.

Sophia wins!

 2)      The French Icons – Brigitte vs Juliette     index2.png


Juliette Gréco and Brigitte Bardot in 1957


STEPHEN BOYD AND BRIGITTE BARDOTFullscreen capture 5302014 85021 AM.bmp


You couldn’t think of two women who looked more opposite than Brigitte Bardot and Juliette Gréco. Bardot was the sex-kitten;  blonde, coy, curvy. Gréco was the dark chanteuse singer with the smoky voice, dark hair, and a slim almost boyish figure. Both were beloved in France –  Gréco tipping the scale in popularity among the French themselves.

In September 1961 Boyd was asked his personal opinion.

Cine Tele-Revue: Vous avec travaille avec Brigitte Bardot er Juliette Gréco. Que pensez-vous d’elles? (With working with Brigitte Bardot and Juliette Gréco. What do you think of them?)

BOYD: BB incarne le reve de tout homme: elle est sexy, belle, attirante. Juliette Gréco? Je l’ai un jour surnomme – La Eiffel Tower de la rive gauche- et la Tour Eiffel n’est pas le monument que je prefere. ( BB embodies the dream of every man : sexy, beautiful, attractive. Juliette Gréco? I nicknamed her one day – ‘The Eiffel Tower on the left-bank’ –and the Eiffel Tower is not the monument that I prefer.)

Bardot wins!


The Adventure of filming “The Big Gamble”

‘The Big Gamble’ was a great adventure movie, but the adventure in making the movie almost certainly tops the movie itself. The film was made in various locations – Ireland,  Southern France, and the Ivory Coast during the spring and early summer of 1960. During the film process, Darryl Zanuck (who was dating Juliette Greco at the time), accompanied the crew to some of these locales. While in Africa, the film crew had numerous hair-raising stories to tell. Stephen Boyd recalled dining at an African Hotel and was sure he’d been served human flesh! The owner of the hotel wouldn’t deny it. In another story, when the crew stayed in their tents, they were guarded by men who had been previously arrested for cannibalism!  Here’s an article from 1961 about the filming of the ‘Big Gamble.’


HAZARDS GANG UP ON ZANUCK ABROADFeb 18, 1961, The Spokesman Review

HOLLYWOOD – Against innumerable odds, Darryl F. Zanuck has wound up a 150,000 mile trek with cast and crew to film ‘The Big Gamble.’ Covering great hunks of land and water, he and stars Juliette Greco, Stephen Boyd, David Wayne, Dame Sybil Thorndike and Gregory Ratoff have just finished the picture, which required filming in Ireland, France and Africa.

 While filming in Dublin, the weather changed so frequently during the course of a day that arrangements were made with the city to have two fireman and a fire-hose with the unit at all times when filming street scenes to provide man-made weather as needed. Often when a sequence was about to begin a sudden shower would send everyone under cover. Within a few minutes the weather would clear, but rather than wait for the sidewalks and pavement to dry, the scene would start at once and as the action progressed, the special fireman would keep the street within camera range hosed down to maintain its glistening wet appearance until the sequence was completed.


 More urgent action was necessary when the company was in the southern part of France. Stephen Boyd narrowly escaped death in the Ardeche river and was saved only by the quick reaction of fellow-star  David Wayne. The scene being filmed concerned the attempts of Boyd and Wayne to free their 10-ton truck mired in the middle of a raging mountain stream before it is swept away in the flood swollen current. During the taking of the scene, Boyd lost his footing and banged his head against a metal projection of the truck. Unconscious, he was swept by the swift current into a deep pool just below the fording place. Wayne, an excellent swimmer, managed to reach him and hold his head above water until members of the production crew could pull the two men to safety.

In Africa the company was very much on its guard, because the Ivory coast was celebrating its newly acquired independence. The bridge which connects Awidjan ,the new republic’s capital city, and the native quarters at the port across the river where the company was working, was closed at 6am each morning and kept closed for the day.


 A more imminent threat occurred when the film unit was marooned for 11 hours on a small island off the Ivory Coast near Sasandra. The company had been taken to the island in naïve pirogues – the only available transportation in the primitive area – but were unable to return that evening when a sudden storm and riptide made it impossible for the small pirogues to reach the mainland. The stars and the company spent the night looking out for deadly brown vipers.

 Juliette Greco, as Marie Brennan, the bride of Stephen Boyd, slim, sultry and smoky-voiced, is a ‘new’ Greco. This former favorite singer and personality of the existentialists in Paris reveals a delightful and totally unsuspected talent for comedy. Stephen Boyd, as the Irish ex-seaman Vic Brennan, who is determined to build a trucking business in Africa, is properly handsome and rugged, and in this role is provided with an opportunity to enhance the popularity he holds since his portrayal of Messala in ‘Ben Hur.’ David Wayne, currently starring on Broadway in ‘Send Me No Flowers,’ has no trouble at all in perfecting an Irish dialect for his role of Samuel Brennan, the meek bank clerk cousin of Stephen Boyd. His is a hilarious and touching characterization.