Rare Behind the Scenes Photos of Stephen Boyd and Brigitte Bardot from “The Night Heaven Fell” (1957)

A press writer wrote this once about Stephen:

I have always felt that Stephen Boyd deserved to do well. For did he not essay his first star part opposite Brigitte Bardot- and if that isn’t learning to swim at the deep end, I don’t know what is.

I saw a lot of him at that time in Southern Spain. He was in despair and Bardot was in what is euphemistically referred to as the altogether. The altogether what? (“She is delighted with CinemaScope,” Boyd said at the time. “It means she can start off fully clothed at one side of the screen and be nude by the time she gets to the other.”)

I told him then that things could only get better.(Roderick Mann, London Express Service, El Paso, Herald Post, Saturday Jan 26, 1967)

The film of which he describes is the Roger Vadim flick called “The Night Heaven Fell.” Stephen Boyd was chosen specifically by Brigitte Bardot to play her rugged on-screen lover. For a young actor from Belfast, this movie had to be extremely challenging. This was only Stephen’s second starring role, the first being “The Beast of Marseilles” filmed in early 1957. And here he was – an Irishman playing a Spaniard in a French movie filmed in two different languages starring a temperamental and very famous French sex symbol. Oftentimes male stars would turn down the chance to star with Bardot because she was the show and they didn’t want to be upstaged. Stephen Boyd had no such qualms and used the opportunity to make a name for himself in conjunction with the famous star. The production in Spain (near Mijas) was also plagued by bad weather and illness amongst the cast. In my opinion it was all worthwhile as Bardot and Boyd make a very sexy and riveting on-screen pairing!

Below, Stephen Boyd, Brigitte Bardot, Alida Valli and Roger Vadim during the Summer and Fall of 1957 in France and Spain while filming “The Night Heaven Fell” (Les Bijoutiers du Claire de Lune)

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Above, Boyd and Bardot prepare to do battle, with Roger Vadim directing.

Bedroom practice!
Kissing Miss Bardot is hard work! Note the leg rest Stephen is using on the bed.
Stephen Boyd discusses the flowers-in-the-hair scene with Brigitte Bardot.

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Stephen and screen legend Alida Valli

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Brigitte Bardot’s famous first meeting with Stephen Boyd

Stephen Boyd spent most of 1958 talking about Brigitte Bardot to the press. The world was fascinated by the French sex-kitten, and the simple fact that Stephen had starred in a movie with her at the apex of Bardotmania did not hurt his career in the slightest. Bardot had hand-picked Boyd to be her co-star, so she truly did help kick start his career. Boyd would have a continued friendship with the French superstar through his life, even into the 1970’s, but the initial filming of “The Night Heaven Fell” was not easy. Boyd supposedly lost 20 pounds trying to keep up with whirlwind temper and pace of Miss Bardot. He also had to had a 5 day break from the filming of the picture because he was ‘a wreck.’  Their initial meeting was a headline itself.  Apparently Brigitte greeted Stephen in her Paris apartment completely naked with a big hug and kiss before Stephen could even say hello. Apparently it was a joke which Bardot had planned with some friends in order to impress Boyd. And it got his attention!

As Stephen would explain it :

“This is what really happened: When I arrived in Paris, Brigitte’s husband picked me up at the airport, and took me directly to their apartment to meet my new leading lady. When we got there, he asked me to be patient a moment while he told his wife I had arrived. A few minutes later, Brigitte, wearing nothing but what nature had endowed her with, stormed into the room, threw her arms around me and told me how delighted she would be to work with me. (MOVIELAND Interview, Stephen Boyd, May 1961).

“I was so flustered after is happened – and it happened even before we were introduced- that all I could say was:

“My name is Stephen Boyd”  (Austin Daily Herald, June 21 1958)

In another interview, Boyd would have this to say about Brigitte.

“I never enjoyed anything more in my life. This lady is so vibrant and that just working with her in a scene overwhelms you. She is childlike mentally but she is like a stalking panther physically.” (Salt Lake Tribute, June 24, 1958)

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Stephen Boyd and Brigitte Bardot- The filming of ‘The Night Heaven Fell’ 1957

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TCM will be airing The Night Heaven Fell in August for Brigitte Bardot day. The filming of The Night Heaven Fell started in late 1957. It was Vadim and Bardot’s first venture following the iconic movie And God Created Woman.’ Erotic content was still the name of the game in Les Bijoutiers du Clair de Lune.

“Brigitte runs off with Boyd, who has murdered her uncle in a vendetta, and holes up with him for a week of violent sado-masochistic sex in the Spanish mountains.” (Bardot by Glenys Roberts) Being both a Bardot fan and a Boyd fan, I think this is actually one of Bardot’s best roles. I like this movie much more than And God Created Woman as I think Bardot seems to be more herself in this role.  I also think Boyd is fantastic in this film, even though he is over-dubbed in French. His physical presence is potent. Along with Bardot’s own physicality, the two make for a stunning duo on screen. As far as the movie goes, Vadim does a marvelous job highlighting the visceral physical chemistry between Boyd and the sex-kitten. Bardot’s derriere is highlighted, as well as Stephen’s muscular, lean body. They are like two wild cats going after each other. It’s probably more of a lust story than a love story. Stephen also has great chemistry with the older but still beautiful Alida Valli. “As the simmering aunt who carries a load of hate, Alida Valli is sharp and vital and Mr. Stephen Boyd plays the homme fatale with a trenchant primitiveness.” (Pittsburgh Post Gazette July 24 1958).

The filming took place in Madrid first for several weeks of studio shot scenes, then the cast boarded a train to the Costa Del Sol in October to film in Southern Spain. Brigitte Bardot specifically mentions the fact that Sputnik had just been launched (October 4, 1957). (Initials BB by Brigitte Bardot, page 148). The crew settled into a hotel/bungalow in Torremolinos. Much of the film work took place in a  beautiful little white-washed town called Mijas. This is where the bull ring is located. There was severe flooding in this part of Spain during the filming, and many of the crew, including Boyd, Bardot and Vadim, got sick. It was not an easy shoot. At the time Boyd said that Brigitte was terrific, but also difficult to work with and unpredictable. “She had me so frustrated that they had to call off shooting for five days to allow me to calm down.” (Daily Record, 4/7/1958)  “I’ve been here two months and still haven’t seen a script. None of the phones work. Half the town’s been washed away by floods. We’re filming in three languages -two if which I don’t speak. I’ve been terribly ill..this picture is a nightmare.” (Sunday Express)  Even though Boyd would mention in the article below that he would be wary of working with Bardot again, it was a statement he would later retract and the two of them would actually work together again about 10 years later on Shalako.  (see https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/stephen-boyd-and-brigitte-bardot-in-1968-initials-bb/).

When released, the movie received poor reviews. The posters were more than titillating with images of Bardot’s bare bloodied back or scenes of Boyd grabbing Bardot by the hair. Some of the reviews are pretty funny to read now:  “The cinematic high priestess of Eros, Brigitte Bardot, battles Stephen Boyd for the life of a pig while facing starvation. During the battle, Boyd, hungry for pork, begins to hunger for Bardot instead. The swine!” (Lincoln Evening Journey, 11/9/1958) ; “The peasant hero (Boyd) arrives, stabs Uncle, and rushes off to the mountains with a donkey, a piglet and an infatuated B.B. in tow. They swim through lakes, dry out in caves, frolic and fight, claw and clinch, until the police arrive and shoot the wrong one. ” (The Age, 11/2/1959) ;  From The Films of Bardot by Tony Crawley , “Shocker. Stephen Boyd was a heavy hero. An Irishman as a Spaniard in a French film. And sadistic with it. Enough so for one critic to call the film pornographic!” After surviving the filming of this movie and losing, according to Boyd, 20 pounds while filming it, Boyd would go on to praise Bardot personally in all subsequent interviews. From an interview in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1958: “I thought of the message which Boyd had given me for her. (I had met him a week before in Rome, where he was acting Messala in the film Ben Hur). The message consisted of one code word which he had spelled out of me – beddibize. “Just tell her, she’ll get it,” he told me. “I’ve just finished making The Night Heaven Fell with her. We got to be great friends. ‘Beddibize‘ is just a house joke between us. She’s a very wonderful, complicated girl, impulsive, extraordinarily beautiful, and a little off her rocker. Since she discovered sex he’s been overboard. She used to chase me all over the set.” In another interview; “She gives adults that same feeling of sneaking cookies out of the cupboard that they had at the age of six. They giggle and try to explain their interest as pure amusement, but actually it’s their animal adolescence showing….it’s the sort of thing that the man in the street can’t resist. It’s a symbol of things that are not openly discussed…How can a mere hunk of a man compete with a bundle of curves like Bardot?” (Corsicana Daily Sun 3/3/1958)

So be sure to tune into TCM on August 23rd to catch The Night Heaven Fell!

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From Ottawa Citizen, 2/15/1958

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