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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Stephen Boyd and Clark Gable

At the start of Stephen Boyd’s Hollywood career, he was quickly compared to the legendary Clark Gable as a handsome, tough heart-breaker on the big screen. Gable himself had started out in villain roles then proceeded to become the King of Hollywood,  starring as the witty, masculine and charismatic Rhett Butler in 1939’s “Gone with the Wind”. Advertiser’s for both “The Night Heaven Fell” in 1958 and “Woman Obsessed” and 1959 tag-lined Stephen as “The Young New Clark Gable” or simply just “the New Gable”. Even Hedda Hopper liked to compare Boyd to Gable, and Boyd himself agreed modestly that some of the Gable type roles would have suited him as well. These comparisons faded, obviously, after Boyd’s career took a different path. He did not become the next Clark Gable in Hollywood. But the comparison is still intriguing. In fact, in one of Stephen’s later movies “Slaves” in 1969, Boyd resembles Gable’s Rhett Butler more than ever in his looks with his debonair mustache and 19th century Southern gentleman’s wardrobe!

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QUOTES ABOUT BOYD AND GABLE

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When I told him I thought of him as the new Clark Gable of this era, although a far more vital type than Gable, he (Boyd)  shook his head, puzzled: “It’s difficult to associate myself along those lines,” he said. “But I daresay the roles Gable has played are roles I’m suited for. I prefer a two line part with genuine character to an innocuous one such as I had in ‘Woman Obsessed’…after I read a story I ask myself whom do I remember. That is the part that will be remembered on screen. I’d like to try some kinds of roles Arthur Kennedy plays- something with guts and vitality. (Pittsburgh Press, Hedda Hopper Interview, Jan 31, 1960)

Charlton Heston as “Ben-Hur” gives a performance of  utmost convection and sincerity, while Stephen Boyd as “Messala” brings to the screen one of the most vital portrayals since Gable’s Rhett Butler. (Pittsburgh Press,  Jan 20, 1960)

Clark Gable couldn’t love the billing Stephen Boyd gets in the Brigitte Bardot picture, “The Night Heaven Fell.” The advertising refers to Steve as “The Young New Clark Gable…”  (Anderson Daily Bulletin, Aug 12, 1958)

He (Boyd) thinks they’re nuts when they call him “another Gable.” (Modern Screen, June 1960)

Asked once how it felt to be labeled Hollywood’s biggest sexboat since Gable in his prime, Steve replied, with a slightly forlorn look, “I’d rather be known as a good actor. Sexboats recede with their hairlines, but actors get better and better.” (Unknown clipping, 1960)

PROMOTIONAL ADVERTISING ABOUT BOYD AS THE NEW GABLE

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An interesting newspaper clipping from 1969 that happens to shows Boyd’s Nathan McKay from “Slaves” and Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler from “Gone with the Wind” on the same page. It is striking how similar they look in these two movies. (Terre Haute Tribune, Aug 24, 1969)

Filming the English version of “The Night Heaven Fell”, 1957

This is a fascinating article about the filming of “The Night Heaven Fell” in August of 1957. Despite what this article implies, this movie was released in the U.S.A. in 1958, but it was considered X rated (for adults only).  I would love to get my hands on the English Language version of this film, not only to hear Stephen Boyd’s actual voice but to also see any differences from the French version. If anyone has a clue where a copy might be, let me know!!

Hollywood in Madrid

“Columbia Movie Not for U.S.”

By Joe Hyams

Orlando Sentinal, August 30, 1957

MADRID – The other day we visited the set of The Moonlight Jewelers, a film being made in French and English for release by Columbia pictures.

The film stars Brigitte Bardot, Alida Valli and Stephen Boyd and, while it is being filmed in English, it is unlikely that American audiences will see it, because there are too many censorable elements.

In a two-minute scene we watched being filmed, Miss Bardot appears nude from the back. When she drapes a mantilla over her, she displays her thigh. Boyd kisses her on the bare shoulder while they are sitting on a bed. All this is frowned upon by Hollywood censors which we called to the attention of Raoul Levy, the producer.

“So?” asked Levy. So why make the film in English at all if it won’t be seen in America? we asked.

“The fact is the English version is for the Far East, Australia and South America –but not for North America,” said Levy.  “Also, we are making an English version because Peter Viertel, who worked on the screen play in French, said it would be east to adapt to English. And Alida Valli speaks better English than French, and Stephen Boyd, who’s Irish, doesn’t speak French at all and had to learn it as he went along.”

Vadim, the director and about-to-be ex-husband of Miss Bardot, told us that directing a film in two languages was a novel experience for him. “I found that every scene about charm and love is played better in French,” he said, “In scenes where you need strength and humor, English is better.”

Despite its censorable aspects The Moonlight Jewelers is being financed by Columbia, an American film company, and therefore is technically an American film. The original budget was $750,000, but with the recent devaluation of the French franc it is now budgeted at $600,000.

The film is typical of many being made in Europe today by American film companies because it has a truly international cast and crew. The producer, Mr. Levy, is Belgian, Miss Bardot is French, Miss Valli is Italian, Mr. Boyd is Irish, and Vadim, the director, is Russian. An American wrote the screen play based on a French novel, and the film crew is a polyglot of many nationalities including American, French and Spanish.

For the English version, the director shouts “Action!” For the French he shouts “Moteur!” To stop the action in English, he says “Cut” and in French he says “Coupe.” Instructions to the actors are given in their own language. The crew is given instructions in either French or Spanish, and it is safe to say that half the time the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

Photos below by Peter Basch

Stephen Boyd talks about his famous co- star Brigitte Bardot, 1958

Best of Hollywood

Joe Hyams, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 13, 1958

One of the world’s most envied men is here starring in ‘The Bravados,’ a film for 20th Century Fox. His name is Stephen Boyd. He is a handsome Irishman, but what sets him apart from other men is his last film, ‘The Night Heaven Fell,’ in which he was Brigitte Bardot’s leading man.

Boyd worked with Miss Bardot for 22 weeks last summer. As one might imagine, it was an interesting experience from start of finish. As an authority on Miss Bardot and a man who has seen her in the flesh, Boyd is a popular after-dinner conversationalist everywhere he goes.

Recently, he recalled for us the circumstances of his first meeting with Miss Bardot. “I went to her house in Paris with Roger Vadim, her about-to-be-ex-husband, and director of our film. Brigitte was in bed, nude. When we came into the room she jumped out of bed and kissed Vadim. Then she kissed me and said, ‘I know I’m going to enjoy working with you.’”

Since Boyd brought up the subject of Miss Bardot in her customary film wardrobe we asked if it was difficult playing a scene with her under such circumstances.

“No,” he said.

Was it disconcerting, we asked.

“No,” said Boyd, “it was just embarrassing, but enjoyable. In fact, I never enjoyed anything so much in my life. And to think I got paid for it.”

What do you think is the secret of Miss Bardot’s fascination, we asked.

“I think she has a higher percentage of animal in her than any other woman on the screen. When she moves it’s like a panther and she gives off an attractive sheen whether dressed or not.”

Is she intelligent?

“I think she is a bright girl, but she’s not a woman. I don’t think she has grown up yet. She is like a wild child. Her complete life has been movies and there’s no one in France who can control her or who dares say no to her. She had had her own way too long.”

Is she an easy actress to work with?

“You used the word ‘actress’, not me. I’m not sure I want to work with her again, but I’d sure like to see her again.”

Boyd said two versions of the film were made in French and Spanish and English and Spanish. The censors have already cut some of the love scenes and trimmed some dialogue.

Boyd said when he started the film he spoke no French. “When the picture was over, however, I used to quote from the script in French to my date,” he said. “It was quite a success.”

Stephen and the Bombshells! – Stephen Boyd talks about filming sexy scenes

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Anecdotes of Sexy Scenes

by Dorothy Manners, September 11, 1966

Stephen Boyd and I were talking about the hot love scenes, particularly in foreign films. They have become so completely accepted by American audiences there’s considerable talk about up-dating and revising the Code (Motion Picture Association of America’s Seal of Approval- in other words the guide-line of the censor) to allow for more leeway for mature sex in scripts.

“Everyone seems to be in a swivit about sex on the screen except the actors who actually play the scenes. There’s a good reason. Nine out of ten times the big, passionate kiss-and-clutch sequences are literally a pain in the neck if not downright ludicrous!” said Stephen.

He knows

He should know what he’s talking about. The good looking Irishman has wallowed around romantically with more sex sirens than almost any other actor. His list of the ‘kissed’ includes Brigitte Bardot, Joan Collins, Diane Cilento, Gina Lollobrigida, Francoise Dorleac, Eleanor Parker, Elke Sommer, Yvette Mimieaux, Sophia Loren.

Ironically, in his newest picture on display, “Fantastic Voyage,” there’s not one kiss- even a little one with the newest sex symbol, Raquel Welch! The 20th Century Fox hit is concerned with other matters.

As Steve pits it: “Our director Richard Fleischer was too busy with our cast of millions – of antibodies, the red and white corpuscles, cells, dendrites, lymph nodes, arteries – in the inner-body sequences. I guess he rightly figured there’s enough dangers and suspense in that strange, weirdly beautiful, fantastic inner-body voyage we take to food around with outer-bodies.” To know fully what Stephen’s talking about – see the picture.

But in every other film he’s starred in, Steve has done his share of osculatory research.

Never forget

Boyd chuckled, “I’ll never forget the big moment of passion between Gina Lollobrigida and myself in ‘Imperial Venus.’ I had to grab Gina, kiss her so passionately that our knees gave out from under us, and we sank gradually and gracefully to the floor- it said in the script. And that’s the way the director insisted we play it.

“What actually happened is that I’d grab Gina and she’d swoon. But as we tried to sink to the floor our knees would bump together, we’d have to fight to keep out balance and rehearsal after rehearsal we’d wind up roaring with laughter. Censors? They never crossed our mind.

In steel armour

“In ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’ with Sophia Loren, I was encased in steel armor in our big love scenes! As I’d lift my arms to embrace Sophia, the neck of the armour went up and pressed on my Adam’s apple and at the same time the helmet was being pressed downward on my head. The ensuing kiss we exchanged felt more like the survivors of an endurance contest.

“With Brigitte Bardot in ‘The Night Heaven Fell,’ we had a pip of a passionate moment. Because of the unusually beautiful camera effect the director, Roger Vadim, had us posed on a rocky cliff for the big clutch. The implication was that we were literally on the point of disaster. It proved to be right. Just as we kissed, my feet slipped and we fell Jack-and-Jill style right down the hill! We were both so bruised we couldn’t work for days.”

Steve looked at his watch because he was due at the airport to catch a plane to San Francisco for an appearance with ‘Fantastic Voyage.’ But he had time for one more anecdote of the non-sexiness of sexy scenes.

“It’s the REAL topper,” he grinned. “In ‘The Oscar,’ Elke Sommer and I were making mad love in a car speeding down the freeway to Tijuana. It was sufficiently disconcerting to be speeding and kissing at the same time into a camera mounted on the hood of our car. But driving directly behind us was her husband, Joe Hyams! And he’s JEALOUS! Try that for a romantic mood sometime,” said Steve before he sped away.

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