Love and Magik 1971- Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell



“I would prefer that the story of my love for Stephen Boyd not be told. It inspires me today, and it hurts me today. It was so difficult, strange, beautiful and sad that I can hardly bear to think of it.” (Marisa Mell from “Cover Love”, 1990)

Stephen Boyd’s whirlwind romance and marriage with actress Marisa Mell had elements of the truly bizarre and mystical in it, including exorcisms, a gypsy ritual blood exchange and reincarnation.

Where to begin? This story begins in 1971, an era steeped in all sorts of social occult phenomena. “There has always been a current of magic and mysticism under the mainstream of Western culture…for a few years in the 1960’s and early seventies this exploded into a fully fledged ‘occult revival’, involving some of the most famous people in the world, like the Beatles.” (“Turn off Your Mind; the Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius” by Gary Valentine Lachman) The sixties saw it all, from drugs to rock n roll to magicians to Charles Manson. In Lachman’s preface he explains that by the late 1960’s, magical ideas and the occult had reached an unprecedented audience through all forms of media.

“Marta”, a lush, Giallo film which starred Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell, was filmed in Spain in early 1971. Marisa Mell recalls first seeing Boyd when they met to begin the filming of the picture, and she felt immediately attracted to him, as if she had known him from before.  Boyd was reluctant to engage Mell during this time. As she was desperately trying to begin an affair with him, he was cold and dodged her attempts. The hooks were already set, but Boyd was not willing to acquiesce to Mell’s more than obvious attempts to seduce him. He was friendly and professional above all.  Amidst all of this underlying tension, Mell and Boyd were called upon to act out a few very intense, graphic love scenes for the film. According to Mell, it was torture, as she so longed for Boyd, but yet he would not succumb to her charms off screen.

wp-1490933084298.jpeg Filming “Marta”

After the movie was over, Mell and Boyd were apart for about 6 months. When they were reunited for their next film, “The Great Swindle”, Boyd was now interested in pursuing Mell, who was still hurt from his previous rejections. Boyd was gentle and persistent, according to Mell’s account, wooing her with flowers and dinner dates. Eventually on one of these dinner dates, Boyd invited her back to his apartment, and then the love affair began in true earnest.  Mell was a stunning beauty and Boyd had always seemed to fall for exotic brunettes. But this relationship was far beyond a whim. After years of enjoying bachelorhood, Stephen Boyd suddenly proposed to Marisa Mell after the first night they spent together. Mell describes a whirlwind marriage in a gypsy camp, including horse carriages, a bonfire, singing, dancing and a blood exchange between her and Boyd as their wrists were cut and pressed together to seal their bond as husband and wife. She also describes how they both became obsessive about each other afterwards, spirituality intertwined to the point of being inseparable. It’s a heart wrenching account to read. After the “Great Swindle” was a wrap, the two actors didn’t even stick around to complete the English overdubs. They immediately left for Rome. Once there we can assume they stayed in Mell’s Rome apartment for several weeks.

Boyd and Mell during the filming of The Great Swindle…inseparable.

At some point, concerned that their obsessive passion was somehow ‘evil’, Mell and Boyd took a trip up to a small Italian town called Sarsina. It was here they tried to expel the ‘evil’ from their relationship by partaking in the local cult exorcism ritual of St. Vicinius. This involved wearing a mystical metal collar around their necks and receiving a blessing from the priest. This type of blessing is used to free people from ‘evil spirits’.

“Perhaps you smile today over such hocus-pocus. At that time I felt is was not ridiculous, although I see myself as a clear-headed woman. But my connection to Stephen just had something very mystical, inscrutable in itself, and he felt the same way. Sometimes love is like a deadly disease, sometimes it makes you feel that you are damned for all eternity.” (Marisa Mell, “Cover Love”, 1990)

To explain the Sarsina visit and the ‘collar blessing’ which Boyd and Mell partook in, you can read more about the cult of St. Vicinius here. – http://www.sarsina.info/en/culto-religioso/st.-vicinius.htm

Pilgrims visit a church in Italy where a priest puts the relic on them and says a prayer. ‘You feel protected from the forces of evil,’ one says. ….In rural, Roman Catholic Italy, many people remain very religious, and very superstitious. The two belief systems coexist, tightly intertwined and surprisingly complementary.The cult that has emerged here in Sarsina, a town in the hills between Tuscany and the northern Adriatic Sea, centers on the metal collar. Legend has it that St. Vicinus, bishop in Sarsina around AD 300, used it first as a form of self-castigation when he prayed. It resembles a shackle that might be used on a slave. He would put it around his neck attached to a heavy stone to focus his mind in penitence. Eventually he began to use it to ward off evil spirits. St. Vicinus became one of the church’s early exorcists, and the fame of the collar and its purported powers have endured. (The one used now is not said to be St. Vicinus’ original but is believed to date to the 8th or 9th century, roughly the same time the church was built.)

June 1956: A man being restrained while an Italian priest performs an exorcism. The ring in the priest’s hand is the penitent-ring of Saint Vicinius, which will be placed around his neck.
Keystone Features/Getty Images

Stephen was into his share of mystical religions and peripheral interests, including Scientology and astrology. From even as far back as 1957 he used to consult a clairvoyant in London concerning his film choices and life decisions. “I am superstitious, though, even to the point of having a clairvoyant in London to whom I turn for suggestions. This man usually contacts me every week…He’s an amazing person who is incredibly right most of the time.” (Stardom Magazine Stephen Boyd Interview, 1960)

Stephen was also attuned to astrology, which attracted his interest in in the mid-1960’s.  “I’m Cancer, and Leo rising, and if you want to get a clue to my character you must read up on Cancer and Leo and combine the two…I take it quite seriously. We Cancers tend to attract strong people. We open our arms to them, and then strangle and crush them. They can’t breathe….The Water is Cancer, see. It embraces the key, but the key can’t breathe.” (1967 El Paso Herald Post Stephen Boyd interview)

Marisa Mell herself was a Pisces (A Water sign like Cancer), and also very in touch with astrology. “I believe in astrology but I don’t need it…It ruins your nerves if you take it daily.” (1967 Marisa Mell Interview)  Per Mirko Wallenberg, who has intensely studied Marisa Mell’s life, “Marisa was very religious by upbringing, less during her career, but picked it up again when she came back to Austria after her career ended in Rome. She was very into spiritual things like hand reading, parapsychology, fortune telling, talking to the deacesed… and even at the end of her life she became a follower of Sai Baba; she hoped that this would turn her life around and when she became sick with throat cancer hoped to be healed by him”

Marisa Mell getting her palm reading. Above photos courtesy Mirko Wallenberg. Visit Mirko’s amazing Marisa Mell blog http://marisa-ell.blogspot.com

Apparently the exorcism did not work as Boyd and Mell had hoped. In fact, Stephen Boyd became physically ill and feverish because of the intensity of their ‘passion’, as Mell explained it.  He literally picked up his bags one day and walked out the door in order to extricate himself from the relationship. Mell begged him to stay, but with no avail. Boyd hopped on a plane to Belfast and she never saw him again.

Marisa Mell, in early 1972, after Boyd’s departure, had this to say about the break-up of their relationship. It was not your usual explanation.  “We both believe in reincarnation, and we realized we’ve already been lovers in three different lifetimes, and in each one I made him suffer terribly.”

Marisa Mell was so overpowered by her brief relationship with Boyd that she dedicated an entire chapter about it in her autobiography, “Cover Love”. I am indebted to Mirko Wallenberg who runs a fabulous Marisa Mell blog (http://marisa-mell.blogspot.com/search/label/Stephen%20Boyd) for sending me this chapter. You can read the full account here. https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/stephen-boyd-and-marisa-mell.

To compound the mysticism of this relationship, Marisa Mell would end her chapter about Boyd in the 1990 autobiography “Cover Love” by saying that after Boyd’s death in 1977, she could feel his spirit speaking to her from another place. Considering the bizarre and occult nature of this love affair, you have to consider the possibility of this. It seems Marisa Mell and Stephen Boyd were destined for each other, but tragically could only find a very brief interlude together in this lifetime.

Above three photos by Frontoni, Angelo

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Above photo by Gianni Ferrari during filming of Marta, 1971

Stephen Boyd, obviously aglow during his brief love affair with actress Marisa Mell.

Happy One Year Anniversary from the Stephen Boyd Blog!!!

Dear Blog Readers and Visitors,

I wanted to say a huge thank you for all of you who have visited and perused my Stephen Boyd WordPress Blog! A year ago on March 27, 2016,  I started this blog to get some material out there about the movies, life and personality of this talented, unique, sexy & ruggedly handsome actor who seems to have been somewhat forgotten by Hollywood. Obviously, Stephen has amazing fans worldwide! This blog has had almost 30,000 views and over 3000 visitors. I have had views from more than 75 countries worldwide from every continent except Antarctica. The United States, France, Poland, South Korea, Argentina, Spain, UK and Japan are the big hitters, but I’ve also had visits from places like Russia, India, China, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Uganda, Faroe Islands, New Caledonia, Jordan, Benin, Turkey, The Seychelles and Jersey. Now THAT is a worldwide audience! For an actor who’s popular height was in the 1960’s, this really show that Boyd’s popularity is still going strong.

I am always on the lookout for rare Stephen Boyd photos, mementos, articles and films, so please feel free to share! My hunt for some copy of “The Hands of Cormac Joyce” and television show “The Wall Between” are ongoing!

Thanks again for keeping Stephen’s film career and memory alive and please keep visiting and revisiting the Stephen Boyd WordPress Blog!

Stephen Boyd’s fascination with Scientology

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For being a person that valued his individuality, it does seem odd that Stephen Boyd would become so fascinated with a dogmatic, controlling religion like Scientology. But Stephen had been interested in religion since his youth. He had even considered studying theology and becoming a minister when he was growing up in Belfast.

“I was sure hard to convince,” says Steve. At the Scottish Presbyterian church he even argued with the Reverend Nicholson about his sermons. “It amazed me.” states Steve, “that a man could read a text from the Bible and then have the nerve to tell others what it meant. Why, it means some- thing different to everyone who reads it!” He’d tell the good man this and they’d have word battles after church, to the preacher’s delight. But later, when Billy Millar briefly thought he’d like to study theology and be a minister himself, Reverend Nicholson shook his head.

“I know your mind, Billy,” he counseled.  “And you won’t do for organized religion. You’d never accept it.” (Modern Screen 1960)

His intense conversations with Dolores Hart during the filming of Lisa in 1961 also revolved around religion and spirituality. “I found him deeply spiritual. We had many discussions about religion, in a general way, but occasionally we spoke of Catholicism. Stephen was adamant that although he was genuinely interested in the broad spectrum of religion, he was not attracted to any specific church. He would come to change that stand.” (The Ear of the Heart by Dolores Hart)

From an interview in 1966, Boyd expressed his interest in “esoteric” religion.

“I am deeply interested in the esoteric form of all religions….Basically it is the development of the inner you. I’m not a member of any church. I don’t subscribe to any one belief except the one true belief. I believe IN GOOD.”

Around 1966 is when Boyd began his interest in L Ron Hubbard‘s Church of Scientology, which would make him one of the first Hollywood stars to follow this religion. Boyd had always expressed an interest in esoteric religions.[33]  Dolores Hart expressed her alarm in Stephen’s Scientology interests when he paid her Abbey a visit in 1966. “Remembering his distaste for organized religion, I cautioned him to think twice before getting too involved.” (From The Ear of the Heart) Apparently Boyd’s interest intensified during a stay in New York City in 1968 where he was given his first ‘auditing session’ by a Scientology group.  From a Scientology newsletter, Boyd had this to say:

“The first reaction at the ORG offices was rather strange. Here were a bunch of people sitting, talking, walking about busily…and everywhere in that place, people were talking about thing being ‘beautiful.’ Anyway, we signed up for processing to being the following day. And again, while we were there, everything was ‘beautiful’. What the hell is this ‘beautiful’?”

In an interview in August 1969 with the Detroit Free Press, he said that Scientology helped him through the filming of Slaves, and that it is “a process used to make you capable of learning. Scientology is nothing. It means only what you want it to. It is not a church you go to to pray, but a church that you go to to learn. It is no good unless you apply it. It is the application”.[34] Boyd apparently had been elevated to a Scientology Status of OC 6, a position beneath that of Clear.

Part of the religions appeal to Boyd may have been it’s mysticism. “Those attracted to Scientology often have an interest in the occult – “the powers of the mind” religions…What Scientology is basically saying is, ‘If you clear your mind of problems, you’d be happy.” (Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1969)

Author Gary Valentine Lachman has an even better description from his booked Turn off Your  Mind; The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius. 

“He (Hubbard) had set off into a terrain that offered endless variations and appeal: the mysteries of the human mind…The aim of Scientology is to awaken its practitioners to their real selves, to regain their true Thetan heritage, and become, more or less, supermen.”

Boyd would actually go on to star and narrate a Scientology recruiting film called Freedom in 1970.[37] A copy of this film can be found at the Library of Congress, but it is not available online via any Scientology resource,[38] which may indicate a falling out Boyd had with the Church later on for using his name for recruiting purposes. 

Dolores Hart again mentioned in her memoirs some of her last communication with Boyd concerning Scientology. “(In 1970) he announced his plans to become an active member of the organization (Church of Scientology) and said that his life and mine could never find a crossing point, which saddened me.”This sounds exactly like what happens when Scientologists are called to disconnect from people who are opposed to their beliefs. Is this what happened between Boyd and Hart?

It’s hard to track Boyd’s connection to the Church of Scientology past 1970. Did he have a falling out with the Church? Did he continue to be a member? And why was he attracted to the complexities of this dogmatic, cult religion to begin with? It’s impossible to say. It’s just an intriging mystery about Stephen Boyd which we will never solve.

Stephen Boyd attends the London Premiere of “Cleopatra” July 31, 1963

On July 31 of 1963, Stephen attended the London opening of the  Twentieth Century Fox epic, Cleopatra. What a good sport! Stephen was originally set to play the main male character Mark Anthony, but due to Taylor’s long illness during the filming of the movie in London during 1960, Stephen,  as well as most of the rest of the original cast, moved on to other projects.  Stephen was in London filming “The Third Secret” during the summer of 1963. Apparently Burton and Taylor both boycotted the London premiere because of the scathing London critical reviews of Taylor’s performance at the time.

As for Boyd’s opinion – from The Sunday Express London on August 11, 1963:

“My only regret in not being in it was not working with Elizabeth Taylor,” he said. “I think she’s marvelous.

“I remember one day when several of us were reading for the part, and Elizabeth was ill, and we went around to her house when she was just, as it were, getting up. And God ! She’s the most beautiful thing. You know what you look like getting up ?” Mr. Boyd collapsed his face and looked extremely unwell. “Not Elizabeth. This vision came out of the bedroom”.

“The only thing I didn’t like about Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra was her make-up – all that heavy eye shadow and stuff. Ugh ! I can see why English girls wear so much of it : you’re walking up the Kings-road in the cold, and you’ve got to do sumpin to cover up the purple.

“But I’ve never liked a lot of make-up on women. You don’t know how to break through. It’s almost like being in prison. You know ? Let-me-know-when-I-touch-skin. What do they put so much on for ? Huhh ? It takes longer to take off. And time is a very important thing” (http://leglatin.pagesperso-orange.fr/boyd/boyde.htm)

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Look for Stephen at about :19 seconds into the video….

 

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