Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1962
Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1962
LONDON – Drinking afternoon tea in the Hilton Hotel is like having one foot in England and the other in the United States. Stephen Boyd sipped tea in the Hilton this week and the tea seemed his last link to home.
Mr. Boyd, tall, blue-eyed, sparkingly smiling, is a man who looks all film-star in the old-fashioned sense. He’s Irish by birth.On the hard way up the ladder he did a stint once as commissionaire at the Odeon, Leicester Square.
Now he is an American citizen, resident in Los Angeles and Ireland. London, the Hilton Hotel and the Odeon, Leicester Square are all just part of the land he left behind him. Some people, these days, go to Hollywood and then can’t wait to get out again. Mr. Boyd seems to have been gobbled up by Hollywood in one gulp.
It was not a step he took lightly, he explained. “I thought long and hard about what I was leaving behind me. This place with its centuries old tradition, its art and its theater.
“when I got back to Los Angeles, I suddenly discovered that all the art and culture you need can be found in Los Angeles. I can also be in San Francisco in 15 minutes. I can reach snow for skiing and the coast for water skiing within hours. And i just love the sun. When I wake up in the morning and see that beautiful sun I realize I just wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
People who talk of Hollywood as a cultural desert anger Mr. Boyd. “When I hear people talk like that I feel I want to ask them, ‘How hard did you look?’ In London art is right under your nose, in Los Angeles you have to seek it out. Remember that Los Angeles is not a city, it is a holiday resort. There are things going on in Bournemouth that the tourist never sees and the same goes for Los Angeles.”
Hollywood, thinks Mr. Boyd, is still a place that grips the imagination of the world. “Every great person comes to stay in Hollywood at least once. Many buy houses there and come regularly. I have been privileged to meet many of these people.
“Salvador Dali told me that being asked to design in Hollywood was the greatest thing that ever happened to him. Picasso said to me that he hoped that one day he might be asked to do some work there.”
Taking up American citizenship had its practical side, Mr. Boyd explained that he had his money in property in Los Angeles. He had an interest in getting a vote.
He also discovered that America is Mecca for the single man. Mr. Boyd was married and divorced fairly quickly and shows no urgent desire to get married again.
“In America a single man doesn’t need a wife,” he said, “The whole life is geared for the housewife. A man comes around and refills my refrigerator. The cleaners come and collect, collect mark you, my cleaning in the morning, and return it in the evening. My cleaning people noticed I’d lost a little weight and left a note inquiring if I’d like them to alter my clothes for me. And servicing the flat is all handled by people who run the apartments for an extra dollar a month. I would sooner pay an extra dollar a month than pay for a wife. Who needs a wife?”
Stephen Boyd at the age of 37, has espoused Hollywood with a convert’s fervor. He looks back with approving and nostalgic eyes to its golden age. His latest film is a story about Hollywood called “The Oscar”. he thinks it is a film for the unsophisticated and the barbs of the sophisticated may bruise his flesh but they don’t draw blood.
He is, as it happens, armoured by he knowledge that American unsophisticates have so strongly rallied to the cause that the film has already made its money.
“We created a film in the spirit of Mildred Pierce and in the tradition of the Bette-Davis-Joan Crawford pictures,” he said.
I will preface this blog post with a plea – IF YOU HAVE A COPY OF THIS MOVIE ON VIDEO OR DVD PLEASE LET ME KNOW!.
This 100th telecast of the Hallmark TV movie special, which aired on NBC in November of 1972, is one of my all time favorite Stephen Boyd performances for several reasons. But unfortunately it is very hard to track down. You would think an intrepid Boyd fan or Hallmark movie collector would have taped this on TV back in 1972, and may have a copy lurking for sale somewhere??? Luckily it is preserved and you can view it in two locations- one being the Paley Center for Media in New York City, or at the UCLA media center in Los Angeles.
What makes this such a great part for Stephen is it truly epitomizes his love for the ‘character’ role. He also gets to speak in his full Ulster accent throughout the movie, and it is also based on the location of the Aran Islands in Ireland. The movie itself was filmed on Phillip Island off the coast Australia, probably in early 1972. It pairs him with some other excellent actors including Cyril Cusack (who also shared a scene with Stephen early on in “The Man Who Never Was”) and the inimitable Colleen Dewhurst. It was based on a brief novel by Leonard Wibberley.
Stephen plays the father, Cormac Joyce, who is the apple of his son’s eye. A storm is brewing off the coast, and as the islanders flee for the mainland, Cormac is determined to stay. When he injures his hand while trying to pull his curragh ashore, his son decides to stay with his father to protect their home from the storm. The wife also stays and the weather the huge waves of the Atlantic storm together. Stephen seems to relish this role as the rough Irish fisherman. It’s great to see him playing a father on-screen – something he rarely ever did. Cormac is both tender and stern with his young son, played by the 15 year old Dominic Guard. Boyd’s chemistry with Colleen Dewhurst is also incredible. They have a couple of intense quarrels, and when Cormac is injured, Dewhurst’s worry is palpable as she mends his hand. The filmmakers were also keen enough to let Stephen sing a quiet Irish folk tune throughout the movie – “The Star of the County Down.” The way Stephen sings this melancholy tune is haunting.
Stephen himself said in 1974 interview that “The Hands of Cormac Joyce” was “the favorite performance and favorite show I’ve ever done.”
This is a very insightful interview from April 7, 1963, in the Longview News Journal (Texas) about the opening of “Jumbo”. Stephen had a very fun time filming “Jumbo” on the MGM lot with Doris Day, Martha Raye and Jimmy Durante during the early part of 1962. “I’ve never had so much fun working in my life.” (Hedda Hopper Interview, Chicago Tribune June 17 1962). Initially MGM had wanted Richard Burton for the role, but since Burton had taken Boyd’s place as Mark Anthony in the re-vamped version of “Cleopatra”, Boyd was the studio’s alternate choice. Burton and Boyd essentially swapped roles! Boyd describes in this interview his favorite scene in “Jumbo” – the merry-go-round duet with Doris Day and the waltz through the empty circus grounds. He also points out his favorite movie actor, John Wayne, and his favorite stage actors, Laurence Olivier and Michael Redgrave. “I’ll never forget the kindness of the trouble he (Redgrave) took to help me when I had nowhere to turn,” Boyd says. It also mentions his passion of golf and his fascination with bullfighting. It sounds like Boyd may have wanted to become an amateur bull fighter in his off time. Considering how much time he spent in Spain making movies, I’m surprised it never happened in real life! In addition, the article praises Stephen’s courage for piloting a monoplane in “Jumbo” (he also acted as a pilot years later during the filming of “The Treasures of Jamaica Reef”) and entering the cage of lions as the circus lion-tamer in movie’s finale sequence. “I’ll try anything once,” he says “like any good Irishman.”
The 1960’s was rife with British spy movies, starting of course with first James Bond movie in 1962 starring Sean Connery, and later the Harry Palmer spy movies starring Michael Caine, along with endless spy caper movies. It’s hard to count how many spy movies came out in the 1960’s – which of course makes sense due to the Cold War tension at the time. The course of spy movies – and Stephen Boyd’s life- would have been drastically different had Stephen been chosen to be the lead in “Dr. No”. Stephen was the primary choice for this role! However, due to a number of conflicts with studio contracts apparently, Stephen was not able to accept the role. For someone who preferred character parts to a leading man part, this was probably a blessing for Stephen as Sean Connery himself later found out that trying to escape the role of James Bond was a daunting task. Luckily for us, Stephen still got the chance to be a spy on-screen, and in a movie which was much more fitting to his personality. The movie, “Assignment K”, was based on a book by Hartley Howard and it was filmed in February and March of 1967 in wintry Germany and London under the direction of Val Guest. Besides Boyd, it also featured svelte Swedish newcomer Camilla Sparv and veteran actors Leo McKern, Jeremy Kemp and Sir Michael Redgrave. Stephen’s character runs a sort of spy within a spy organization, and when one of his operatives is killed in Germany by another branch of the English spy circuit, his world begins to unravel. The highlight of the film is actually the layered romance between Stephen and Camilla Sparv. They have a sparkling chemistry together,and you end up following their romantic moments more than the intrigues of the spy story itself. It is also great to see Stephen on-screen with his early career mentor Sir Michael Redgrave. The late 1960’s fashions are also on display with Stephen dressed in stylish slim 1960’s suits and ties, and he even gets to try his hand at some amateur skiing! Below are some pictures from the filming of “Assignment K”.