Stephen Boyd- “Tiger by the Tail” 1959-1960 articles


This is a fascinating article released just as Boyd’s career was rocketing  at the opening of Ben Hur in late 1959. Famed  columnist Hedda Hopper, always a major fan of Boyd’s, highlights some of Stephen’s persistent characteristics – specifically his desire to have more character roles instead of leading men parts. Hedda describes Boyd has having “terrific screen impact and vitality beyond any actor I know.” That is certainly high praise! This article also includes Boyd’s notorious comment that “I won’t work in a brass hat to the end of my days,” a comment which did not please his studio Twentieth Century Fox, as they had several ‘brass hat’ roles lined up for him, including “The Story of Ruth”, “The King Must Die”, and perhaps even an off-shoot Messala project. Stephen had already talked to the studio about playing Mark Anthony at this point (late 1959) for the upcoming Cleopatra. It was a role he would eventually sign up for. This is also the comment which may have in fact prevented Stephen from even being nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Messala in Ben Hur. Stephen did win the Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor for Ben Hur, but he was strangely overlooked for an Academy Award. See below for Stephen’s opinion about being overlooked as a Supporting Actor by the Academy for Ben Hur (See below article “Supporting Actors Pose Movie Woe”.)  Stephen also mentions, interestingly, that he would have liked to have played a few famous Lawrence Olivier roles for live TV -including  Rebecca and Wuthering Heights. I have always wished that Stephen could have played Heathcliff! I am surprised this movie never got remade in the 50’s or 60’s. Stephen would have been a perfect choice!

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Boyd in Woman Obsessed, 1959– the closest Stephen got to a ‘Heathcliff’ type role


Released by the Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1959

Even the mainstream press was shocked that Boyd was overlooked for his performance as “Messala” in Ben Hur by the Academy. He wasn’t even nominated. Stephen was quite outspoken at the time, and this article by Bob Thomas is full of rebellious Boyd quotes such as this.

 Yet he drew no Oscar nomination, because he had star billing in the film. “Ridiculous!” declares the outspoken Irishman, “I was a supporting player in the picture. Every other role in Ben Hur was in support of Chuck Heston. Why, not counting the chariot scene, my role lasted a half-hour on the screen. Now how can you call that a starring role?”

Luckily for us, Ben Hur still is well known by movie-goers, and Stephen’s amazing performance as Messala sometimes still gets referred to (mistakenly) as an Oscar winning performance! Frankie Fane would be proud.

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Corpus Christi Caller Times 23 March, 1960

Stephen Boyd and Michael Caine in”A Hill in Korea” 1956

In 1956, Stephen Boyd joined an assortment of actors to film a gritty Korean War movie called “A Hill in Korea.” The movie was filmed in Portugal and England. Ronald Lewis, George Baker and Harry Andrews were the big name stars, but it also features other young actors before they were famous;  Michael Caine, Stanley Baker and Robert Shaw. This was also one of Stephen’s first roles in movies, and he has a pivotal scene –  even as a minor actor – in the film.  Stephen makes a great impression as young Private Sims who is shot in his handsome rump by a Korean war patrol. He is carried up to a Korean temple with his injury and dies quite elegantly with his eyes hauntingly wide open.  Michael Caine  was used as a technical assistant /actor on the film as he had actually served in the Korean War. In his book “What’s it all about?”, Michael Caine had this to say about Stephen:

The director of A Hill in Korea was a wonderful man called Julian Amyes, who gave me my first speaking role not only in film, but television as well. Some of the other unknown actors in the cast were Stanley Baker, Stephen Boyd and Robert Shaw. Stephen and I became friends, and when were were shooting back in England, he used to give me a lift to the studios every day in an old banger of a car that he owned at the time. He was the first one of the cast to make it as a star, and shortly after the film opened he disappeared into the rarefied atmosphere of Hollywood. I never saw him again and he eventually died of a heart attack while still very young.

Here’s what Caine had to say about the filming of the movie itself:

My function as a technical advisor was completely ignored during the making of the film. For example, I advised he crew to spread the troops wide as the latter advanced, which was militarily correct, but they replied that they didn’t have a lens sufficient width to take it all in! I also pointed out that the officer would have removed his signs of rank and worn a hat, the same as the other men, to disguise which one was in command, but George (Baker) was allowed to go int battle with all badges and hat gleaming, ever inch an officer. In a real fight, he would have lasted all of ten seconds. The most glaring mistake that I never brought to their notice was that Portugal did not in the least resemble Korea…

Below are some ad’s for the film from December 1957. Already, even though a minor character in the movie, Stephen’s name is mentioned prominently.


“Stephen Boyd Captures Her Fancy, His Ire” – 1968 Newspaper Feature

Sadly, the general public today seems to have forgotten about Stephen Boyd. But when you look back in time at newspaper articles and magazines, Stephen was such a well-known celebrity in the 1960’s! The buzz Stephen created when he hit the screen in “Ben Hur” as the complex villain Messala truly kept humming for an entire decade after the movie came out.

This is a fascinating article from the Baltimore Sun on February 18, 1968, that relates the simple excitement a British housewife experiences when Stephen Boyd is set to film a scene for “Assignment K” in their apartment.

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From a Window In Fleet Street: “Stephen Boyd Captures Her Fancy, His Ire”

by Charles Flowers

LONDON. “Well, too bad,” he smirked. “It looks like Brigitte Bardot beat you out.”

“Beat me out of what?” she asked.

“Beat you out of Stephen Boyd,” he said. He handed his wife a tabloid newspaper containing a large picture of Brigitte being fondled by Stephen Boyd in Southern Spain. Stephen Boyd is probably her new boy friend, the article said.

She studied the pictures and then said in a wistful smile: “I have my memories.”


It all began nearly a year ago when a movie company was filming “Assignment K,” with Stephen Boyd and Sir Michael Redgrave.

“Guess what?” she demanded one night when the husband came home for dinner. “A movie company wants to rent one room of the house for one afternoon. Stephen Boyd will rest and be made up in the room while the camera men set up and all. The house two doors away is supposed to be his London home and he will be filmed going in and out of it.”

“What’s the movie about?”


“A spy story. Stephen Boyd is the agent and Sir Michael is his boss- the head, or chief, or whatever.”

Two or three weeks passed until, one night, she said that a date had been set for the filming in their alley, called a mews.

“Be sure to put on clean pillow cases,” he said, “I’ll bet Stephen Boyd always rests on clean pillow cases.”


The arranged date had to be postponed, though, because the movie company was having trouble blowing up a house out in Hampstead for another scene. In mid-afternoon one day the following week, the wife phoned to say that demolition in Hampstead had been successful and that the film company had moved in.  “He’s upstairs in the bedroom,” she said.

The husband went home early for dinner, finding the mews full of cameras, generators, electrical cables and a huge chuck wagon to feed the 40 or 50 technicians and directors. His wife had asked a few friends in for dinner to share the occasion and perhaps her a glimpse of Stephen Boyd.

When she peeked, she said, a girl was putting makeup on Stephen Boyd while he read aloud from Dr. Spock’s baby-care book. Stephen  Boyd and the girl were laughing, she said.


The husband groaned. “I thought of clean pillow cases but forgot to mention to put some impressive books in the room. We could have borrowed some.”

Shortly after dinner, huge, dazzling lights were turned on and Stephen Boyd was summoned. He emerged fro his afternoon of rest and merriment, tall, very handsome and considerate. “How are the children?” he asked an assistant camera man, Doubtless, he had been influenced by Dr. Spock.

Stephen Boyd walked to the end of the mews, where police were holding out traffic and gogglers and where a car awaited him. His leather heels clicked properly on the bricks,and he smoked and flicked his cigarette as an actor should.

“Tell me when you’re happy, Cyril,” a camera man called.


After Stephen Boyd got into the car and turned on the lights, Cyril said he was happy. Stephen Boyd was given the sign and the cameras began turning.

Stephen Boyd drove rapidly up the mews, stopped in front of one of the houses, turned off the lights, picked up his trench coat off the seat, climbed out of the car and went into the house.

They went through the thing once more, turned off the lights, began packing up and Stephen Boyd went whereever handsome movie actors go at night.

“Stephen Boyd can really drive,” the wife said.


“I’ve got more good news,” he said as his wife kept glancing at the picture of Stephen Boyd and Brigitte Bardot.

“Such as what?”

“Assignment K has just opened and I saw it this afternoon. I genuinely am reluctant to tell you, both he and it aren’t much.”

“I’ll decide that,” she told him after advising him that he was supposed to work in the afternoons rather than go to movies. “You can baby-sit Saturday while I go to see Stephen Boyd, who has been in my bedroom. Dr. Spock is still there.”

She smirked last and best.


Stephen Boyd Fan Tribute Webpage….Le site Internet de la famille LE GLATIN

This is a great tribute page published online many years ago! This may be the first ever Stephen Boyd fan page there was on the web. It is packed full of Stephen photos, articles and movie information. Take a look! Below are some of the pictures you will find on this webpage.

Above, Stephen Boyd as ‘Stanley’ in the British Stage production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” 1953.

Stephen Boyd poses in full costume as Mark Anthony in “Cleopatra” 1960.

Stephen Boyd and Miss Brigitte Bardot during “The Night Heaven Fell”

Stephen Boyd and Gina Lollobrigida in “Imperial Venus” 1962

Dolores Hart and Stephen Boyd at “Lisa” premiere 1962

Sean Connery and Stephen Boyd filming “Shalako” in 1968

Stephen Boyd as Messala in Ben Hur, 1959

Stephen Boyd as Livius in “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, 1964

“Patience of a saint, eyes like blue sin” – Hollywood mystery actress describes Stephen Boyd

In 1962, Hedda Hopper asked a mystery Hollywood glamour girl (I speculate it was Joan Collins, but that’s just a guess!) what she thought of several of Hollywood’s leading men. He is what our mystery girl said about Stephen Boyd:

Stephen Boyd. Very exciting performer. Patience of a saint, eyes like blue sin, in a huge head which gives him the appearance of being bigger than he is. He is sensual, but not sinable. You have the feeling that nothing selfish or mean crosses his mind. He will have a long and successful career.

In CINEMONDE Magazine in 1964, Stephen’s other famous female co-stars were asked to describe their leading man’s vivid blue eyes.

 Jugez ! Taille : 1 m 85 pour 77 kg ; boucles châtain doré et des yeux bleus comme ces lacs de l’Irlande dont il est issu. De ces yeux, Sophia Loren elle-même a dit : “Ils sont un irrésistible mélange de volonté magnétique, de séduction passionné, de poésie aventureuse.” Susan Hayward, avec qui il tourna Woman obsessed, affirmait crûment, elle : “Stephen possède une virilité du tonnerre.” …. Dans ce film, ils formèrent un couple splendide, et B.B. reconnaît aujourd’hui : “Boyd a ces yeux extraordinaires de volonté rêveuse, d’un bleu si pur et lumineux, qui furent ceux des frères Kennedy…”

Judge! Size: 1 m 85 for 77 kg; Golden chestnut curls and blue eyes like those lakes of Ireland from which it is derived. From these eyes, Sophia Loren herself said: “They are an irresistible mixture of magnetic will, passionate seduction, adventurous poetry.” Susan Hayward, with whom he turned Woman obsessed, said bluntly, she: “Stephen has a virility of thunder.” …. In this film (Night Heaven Fell), they formed a splendid couple, and B.B.  (Brigitte Bardot) recognizes today: “Boyd has these extraordinary eyes of dreamy will, of a blue so pure and luminous, which were those of the brothers Kennedy …”


Los Angeles Times, September 3, 1962


Stephen Boyd, filming “Lisa” (The Inspector), 1961

The movie “Lisa” (The Inspector) was filmed in London, The Netherlands and Wales in the summer of 1961. Stephen Boyd has been languishing for months waiting to film “Cleopatra”, so by the summer of 1961 he was more than ready to start the filming of a post Nazi- era drama with Dolores Hart. In Stephen’s unauthorized biography by Joe Cushnan, Cushnan quotes the author of “The Inspector”, writer Jan De Hertog.  In  the novel, the Inspector, Peter Jongman, is an older man, and there is no romance between himself and the girl he is rescuing, Lisa Held. The author had envisioned an actor like Spencer Tracey in the role. Obviously, 20th Century Fox wanted to add some level of romance between the characters, so they cast the much younger Stephen Boyd in the role of Jongman. Apparently Natalie Wood was the top choice for Lisa Held, but casting eventually led to actress Dolores Hart as the concentration camp survivor and heroine in search of Palestine.  As Dolores Hart described it to journalist Sheilah Graham, “Now I’ve got Anthony, and Cleo has King Arthur” – meaning Richard Burton.  Boyd and Hart had both already met and acted together about a year and a half earlier on the Playhouse 90 WWI drama, “To The Sound of Trumpets”.  This movie was directed by Philip Dunne and included a host of top notch character actors; Finley Currie, Leo McKern, Donald Pleasance, Harry Andrews, Hugh Griffith and Robert Stevens. Much of the filming took place in damp weather in the Amsterdam and the Netherlands as the film crew searched for idyllic Dutch scenery. The filming then moved onto London, which is where most of the later Tangier scenes were filmed on a soundstage. The dramatic desert exterior shots of what is supposedly Palestine actually took place in Wales at Three Cliffs Bay. The crew and cast had to be rescued by a local lifeboat at one point when the converted trawler they were using was stranded in mud. The skipper feared the craft might roll over, so Boyd, Hart and director Dunne, and 32 other people had to be evacuated. Boyd and Hart also became close friends during the filming of this movie, to such an extent that Hart became quite enamoured with her co-star. At the time, Hart would deny any romance, but later in her autobiography “From the Ear To The Heart” she would confess that she on the verge was falling in love with Boyd, and was heartbroken when he rejected her overtures. The two would remain friends for many years after the filming of the picture, even after Hart made a life-long commitment as a Catholic nun in 1963.

The Courier Journal (Louisville Kentucky) featured an extensive look at the making of “Lisa” in January 7, 1962.