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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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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Stephen Boyd (as Messala) talks about that famous chariot race in “Ben-Hur”

Stephen Boyd gives a fun, facetious account of how Messala should have run that famous chariot race!

Stephen Boyd Interview from The Miami News July 10, 1960

The Good Guys Finish Last

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by Art Buchwald

Paris  – The greatest race of the year was in the motion picture “Ben Hur.” The winner of the race was Charlton Heston, who received an Academy Award for it. The loser was Stephen Boyd, who, as Messala, was the favorite until he got knocked out in the seventh round. Mr. Boyd is now in Paris making a filme called “The Big Gamble” for Darryl F. Zanuck. The picture stars Mr. Boyd, David Wayne and Juliette Greco.

When we saw Mr. Boyd on the set he still felt he should have won the race. He believes that if he had won, things would have been a lot different for him now.

“I should have used my spikes sooner,” he said. “It was my fault.”

For those who haven’t seen the picture, the chariot race, which goes on for about fifteen minutes, is its establishing feature. Messala has challenged Ben-Hur and, unbeknownst to Ben-Hur, has fitted a razor-sharp spike to this chariot to cut the spokes of Ben-Hur’s wheel. This, according to the Imperial Chariot Jockey Club, was fair.

“What went wrong?” we asked Mr. Boyd. “Did your trainer give you bad advice?”

“No,” he replied, “I never took orders from anyone. I had won my last seven races and I figured this would be a piece of cake. I bet more money on myself than I had ever bet before. The only thing that bugged me was that Ben-Hur intended to ride a clean race, which is much more dangerous. I should have fixed his chariot before the race, but I was over-confident.”

“It happens a lot with Romans.”

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“My strategy was perfect,” he said. “I was running second on the first round on the outside, an excellent position. If anyone tried to pass me I could knock him against the Spina, the giant inside wall of the track.

“I wasn’t worried about the other chariots. Most of them were dogs and broken-down pace-setters. But my big mistake was the way I played it when Ben-Hur made his move.”

Mr.  Boyd relieves it as if it had only happened yesterday. “I should have gone for his wheel with my blade. Instead, I decided to close in and whip him. I had ripped open the side of his chariot, and instead of concentrating on his axle, I tried to pull his wheel off. It was a great mistake, because I pulled off mine instead.

“But everyone had complained over the fact that I used my whip on Ben-Hur. Why don’t they mention that he used his whip on me? My trainer complained to the stewards after the race was over, but even after viewing the film they gave Ben-Hur the race.”

Mr. Boyd said he had an opportunity to do away with Ben-Hur in the third round, but he became overconfident. “I should have killed when I had the chance. Maybe then I would have gotten the Academy Award.”

Instead Ben-Hur killed Mr. Boyd, this ruling out a chance for a rematch.

“What is your advise to other young charioteers?” we asked.

“If you’ve got a blade on your wheel, use it. If you try to use your whip on the other guy, you don’t have enough control of your horses. Chariot racing is a dirty business and the good guys finish last.”

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Stephen Boyd attends the Academy Awards, April 4, 1960

Stephen Boyd attended the 32nd Academy Awards on April 4, 1960 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/32nd_Academy_Awards)

On his arm that evening as his date was a young woman named Romney Tree, who was a Belfast socialite (actress?). This was a HUGE night for Stephen as Ben Hur was nominated for 12 Academy Awards that evening, and by the end of the night it had won 11 of those awards, including Charlton Heston for Best Actor. Sadly, Stephen was not even nominated for his performance as Messala, even though he had won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.  Apparently that fact was the elephant in the room that night. Hedda Hopper was puzzled, as were several other Hollywood press writers. This was Hedda’s comment:

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Apparently the studio had forbidden Boyd to pick up Griffith’s award in person should Griffith not attend the ceremony:  Hugh Griffith was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor for Ben Hur instead of Boyd. Griffith was on hand to receive this award, so that awkwardness was avoided.

Stephen took the evening in stride, however, and was the first to congratulate Charlton Heston on his award at the after parties.  Here was a few pics of Stephen that evening.

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Can you find Stephen Boyd  in the crowd?

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Photos of Stephen Boyd from “Ben Hur”, 1959

Easter is almost upon us, and that means it’s Ben Hur time! TCM will be airing Ben Hur on Sunday afternoon, April 16th, 2017. To celebrate, here are some pictures of Stephen Boyd during the filming and promotion of the epic classic, Ben Hur, from 1959.

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Stephen Boyd and Charlton Heston in the  ‘Circus’ at Cinecitta Studios, Rome.

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A tall order –  Six footer Stephen Boyd gets to test out a plumed Roman helmet for size.

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Ready for the cameras to roll – Messala comes to life!

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Stephen Boyd as Messala

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Friendly adversaries : Heston and Boyd pose for the press on a Vespa in the back lot of Cinecitta Studios in Rome.

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American actor Charlton Heston and British actor Stephen Boyd, wearing stage costumes, having fun in riding a Vespa and a bicycle on the set of the film ‘Ben Hur’ in the studios of Cinecittà. A background actor is with them. Rome, 1958
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Heston offers his help to Boyd, who has fallen off the overturned Vespa.
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Stephen chatting with the Roman Centurion extras of Ben Hur.
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An iconic Messala pose- whip in hand.
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Heston, director Wyler, and Boyd are ready for the chariot race.

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The magnificent chariot race of Ben Hur!
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Messala (Stephen Boyd) takes a soda-pop break during the chariot race.
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Boyd and Heston are prepped by director William Wyler for their initial meeting.
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Stephen Boyd : ready to ride into cinema history as the Roman Tribune Messala
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Hail Caesar! Messala (Stephen Boyd) makes the Roman salute before the chariot race begins.

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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