from the trailer for the film Ben-Hur (1959).
4 July 1931
Glengormley, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
|Died||2 June 1977
Northridge, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Resting place||Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Mariella di Sarzana (1958-1958; divorced)
Marisa Mell (1971), gypsy wedding not recognized as legal marriage
Elizabeth Mills (1976-1977; his death, 10 months later)
|Parent(s)||James Alexander Millar (father)
Martha Boyd (mother)
Boyd was born William Millar in 1931. One of nine siblings, he attended Ballyclare High School. He starred in a radio play in Belfast and worked at a cinema in London. He is said to have busked outside the cinema to get money. Boyd caught his first break while ushering at the Leicester Square Cinema during the British Academy Awards in the early 1950s. During the awards ceremony he was noticed by actor Michael Redgrave, who used his connections to introduce Boyd to the director of the Windsor Repertory Group. Boyd's first role which brought him acclaim was as an Irish spy in the movie The Man Who Never Was, based on the book by Ewen Montagu. The movie was released in 1956. Shortly thereafter he signed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox.
Boyd starred in two Rank productions after this film. Hell in Korea was a small role for Boyd but an interesting movie as it featured several renowned actors in early roles, such as Michael Caine and Robert Shaw. The Beast of Marseilles was a WWII romance set in Nazi-occupied Marseilles with Boyd as the main star. For Twentieth Century Fox, Boyd would be cast in the racially provocative movie Island in the Sun, based on the Alec Waugh novel of the name. For Columbia pictures he was cast in the nautical, ship-wreck adventure Abandon Ship starring Tyrone Power. In early 1957 Brigitte Bardot was given the opportunity to cast her own leading man after her success in Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman (1956 film), and she chose Boyd. During late 1957, Bardot, Boyd and renowned actress Alida Valli filmed the lusty romance The Night Heaven Fell, directed by Roger Vadim, in Paris and in the region of Malaga, Spain, specifically the small town of Mijas. Being in the Bardot spotlight added much to Boyd’s film credit, in addition to bringing him notice in Hollywood.
Boyd's first true Hollywood role came as a renegade cowboy in the Fox western The Bravados, which starred Gregory Peck and Joan Collins. It was during the filming of this movie in Mexico in the early part of 1958 that Boyd was finally convinced to audition for the coveted role of Messala in MGM's upcoming epic Ben-Hur. Many other actors had tried for the role, and Boyd initially wasn’t interested. But he eventually signed and began filming in the summer of 1958. Boyd was required to wear brown contact lenses as Messala, which irritated his eyes and caused vision problems for a few months after the movie was completed. Despite this, Boyd described the filming experience of Ben-Hur (which took place in Cinecitta Studios in Rome), as the most exciting experience of his life.
After Ben-Hur filming was completed, Boyd starred with Academy Award winner Susan Hayward in the California-based drama Woman Obsessed. Some advertisements for this movie labeled Boyd as "The New Gable." He was then part of another excellent ensemble cast in the adaptation of Rona Jaffe's novel The Best of Everything, filmed in early 1959.
Ben-Hur was released in December 1959 and made Boyd an international star overnight. His portrayal of the Roman tribune Messala brought in rave reviews. Press columnist Erskine Johnson said: "A brass hat and the armor of a Roman warrior in Ben-Hur does for Stephen Boyd what a tight dress does for Marilyn Monroe." Ruth Waterbury, in her Boyd feature in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, would describe Boyd's character as "the dangerously masculine and quite magnificent Messala." Modern Screen magazine in 1960 stated that Boyd's ruthless Messala had "lost the chariot race but captured the sympathy and sex appeal of Ben-Hur." He was featured in the popular TV program This Is Your Life on 3 February 1960, a show which featured many of Boyd's family members and acquaintances (including Michael Redgrave) telling stories about his early life and film career. This should be some indication of how "Stephen Boyd fever" was catching. Newspaper columnists were getting swarmed with letters from female fans of all ages wanting to know more about Boyd. He was being sent dozens of starring roles, which most he had to turn down due to other obligations, or he himself turned down. He opted out of the biblical epic The Story of Ruth, which didn’t please Fox studios, and he was one of the front-runners to star with Marilyn Monroe in her picture Let's Make Love. He received a Golden Globe for his performance in Ben-Hur.
In January 1960 Boyd made a guest appearance alongside the silent-era Ben-Hur stars Francis X. Bushman and Ramon Navarro on Hedda Hopper's special TV program Hedda Hopper's Hollywood. In February 1960 he starred in the Playhouse 90 TV performance called The Sound of Trumpets with Dolores Hart, which garnered good reviews.
Boyd himself chose to do roles which he felt comfortable in. His next choice was The Big Gamble, which featured Darryl Zanuck's current paramour and French icon Juliette Greco. It was filmed on the Ivory Coast of West Africa, Dublin and the Southern Part of France in the spring and summer of 1961. The adventure of making this movie almost outdid the adventure in the movie itself as the crew slept in tents in the jungle that were guarded by natives on parole for cannibalism. Boyd nearly drowned in the Ardèche river during the filming of the movie. Luckily he was saved by his co-star and excellent swimmer David Wayne. Boyd spoke about this incident during his appearance on the popular TV program What's My Line, which aired on 11 December 1960.
Boyd was originally chosen to play Mark Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in 20th Century-Fox's epic production of Cleopatra (1963) under the direction of Rouben Mamoulian. He began film work in September 1960 but eventually withdrew from the problem-plagued production after Elizabeth Taylor's severe illness postponed the movie for months. (Cleopatra was later directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and the role of Mark Antony went to Richard Burton.)
After several months without active work, Boyd was thrilled to finally get his first post-Cleopatra role. The movie was The Inspector, based on the novel by Jan de Hartog, starring actress Dolores Hart. The movie was filmed in Amsterdam and Ireland during the summer of 1961. In January 1962 Boyd starred in a TV movie from General Electric Theater called The Wall Between. Next, Boyd was again loaned out to MGM Studios to star with Doris Day in the circus-musical Billy Rose's Jumbo, filmed during the early part of 1962. Boyd flew back to Rome in the summer of 1962 to act with Italian superstar Gina Lollobrigida in her long-time pet project Imperial Venus, a romantic epic about the many loves of Paulina Bonaparte, the sister of Napoleon. This movie was the first movie to be banned by the Motion Picture Association of America for male nudity. Boyd appeared in a humorous bedroom scene, naked, but covered by a sheet. The suggestion of nudity was too much for the censors and the movie was never released in the United States.
Immediately upon finishing this film, Boyd arrived in Spain to begin work on The Fall of the Roman Empire. This was filmed during the early part of 1963 during a severe winter in Europe. Boyd's co-star was another Italian legend, Sophia Loren. Boyd also had the opportunity to ride another chariot in this movie. Boyd returned to Hollywood in the summer to star in a General Electric Theater TV Program with Louis Jourdan called War of Nerves. Then he returned to Europe to film a suspense movie starring the very talented, young Pamela Franklin and Sean Connery’s wife, Diane Cilento. Throughout 1964 Boyd continued to make movies in Europe, traveling to Yugoslavia to star as the villain Jamuga in the epic Genghis Khan. Boyd was the top billed and therefore the top paid star in the epic, and this apparently caused friction with up-and-coming star Omar Sharif. After completing Genghis Khan, Boyd trekked to Cairo, Egypt for a short stint in yet another epic, The Bible.
After all this globe-trotting, the world weary Boyd was very happy to return to the United States to start work on the Twentieth Century Fox science fiction adventure Fantastic Voyage, co-starring with soon-to-be icon Raquel Welch. This was filmed in the early part of 1965. In the summer of 1965, Boyd joined Swedish star Elke Sommer and music legend Tony Bennett to film the Hollywood drama The Oscar, based on the eponymous Richard Sale novel. The movie was a popular success, but maligned by film critics. The producer of the movie, Joseph Levine, however, was so pleased with Boyd's performance that he hired him for his next project as well, The Caper of the Golden Bulls. This movie was filmed in Spain in the summer of 1966, and the actors took part in the famous Feria del Toro de San Fermin festival in Pamplona (known as the Running of the Bulls). Next, Boyd starred in a James Bond-like spy thriller Assignment K with Swedish model/actress Camilla Sparv, which was filmed in Germany and London during the winter of 1966.
In 1967 Boyd was excited to get back to the stage to star in a play called The Bashful Genius, about Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. The play had a very brief run during the summer of 1967. Boyd was cast opposite Sean Connery in the western adventure Shalako, which was based on the Louis L'Amour novel. It also cast him opposite Brigitte Bardot again, 10 years after the first film they made together. Shalako was filmed in the early part of 1968 in Almeria, Spain. Returning to the United States, Boyd was cast as the cruel slave master Nathan MacKay in the Southern "Slavesploitation" drama Slaves, also starring Ossie Davis and songstress Dionne Warwick. The film was loosely based on the famous Harriett Beecher Stowe novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was filmed during the summer of 1968 at the supposedly haunted Buena Vista plantation near Shreveport, Mississippi. The film was released during the volatile civil rights era and in May 1969 Boyd attended the premiere alongside Dionne Warwick in Baltimore, Maryland Closely following Slaves, Boyd starred in another story about racial tension, this time a WWII made-for-television drama called Carter's Army (or Black Brigade) which aired in August 1970, featuring a young Richard Pryor.
During this time, or earlier, 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. 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”. Boyd apparently had been elevated to a Scientology Status of OC 6, a position beneath that of Clear. Boyd would actually go on to narrate a Scientology recruiting film called Freedom in 1970. The film was used for a few years, and his name was linked to this film. Mysteriously, the film is nowhere to be found, and it could indicate a falling out that Boyd had with the Church Scientology. There is no documentation of his later involvement with this religion.
During the 1970s demand for Boyd in Hollywood had diminished, so he focused his attention on European films and several TV pilots and shows. He made several movies in Spain with director José Antonio Nieves Conde, including Marta in 1970, The Great Swindle in 1971, and Casa Manchada in 1975. He worked with cult director Romain Gary in the drug thriller Kill! in 1971. He also made several Westerns, including Hannie Caulder with Raquel Welch in 1971, The Man Called Noon in 1973, Those Dirty Dogs in 1973, and Potato Fritz in 1976. He also kept traveling to exotics destinations to act, including Australia for The Hands of Cormac Joyce in 1972, South Africa for Control Factor and The Manipulator in 1972/1973, Jamaica for the scuba diving adventure The Treasure of Jamaica Reef in 1972, Florida for the TV Pilot Key West in 1973, and Hawaii in his last acting stint as a guest star on the popular TV show Hawaii Five-O in 1977. The episode Up The Rebels was the premiere episode of Hawaii Five-O's tenth season, and it aired after Boyd's death on September 15, 1977. His most critically acclaimed role during the 1970s was as a colorful Irish gangster in the UK crime thriller The Squeeze in 1977.
A letter from film producer Euan Lloyd (who produced such films as Shalako, The Man Called Noon and The Wild Geese), states that "Stephen Boyd was one of the nicest, kindest people I have met in my lifetime, rare in this profession."
Boyd lived most of his life in California, where he enjoyed his favorite pastime, golf. At one point in the 1960s, he had three homes there - one above the Sunset Strip, one in Tarzana, and another in Palm Springs - though he would make frequent trips back to his hometown of Belfast  to visit his family. On one particular visit to Belfast in 1971, Boyd exclaimed his dismay about the situation in Northern Ireland at that time: "Because of the divisiveness, the potential for displaying to the world all that is good in that lovely land is lost, perhaps even destroyed." Boyd was valued so highly by his native city of Belfast that during his visits he was always given a military escort from the airport to his home for security reasons.
Boyd died of a heart attack at the age of 45 while playing golf at the Porter Valley Country Club in Northridge, California. He was in talks to play the role of the Regimental Sergeant Major in Euan Lloyd's The Wild Geese before his death. Boyd was interred in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California.
Silver Screen Magazine in 1960 wrote this about Boyd:
A supreme individualist, like most Irishman, he has a wonderful actor's face that easily switches from an engaging smile to sinister menace. Far handsomer in person than on the screen...Stephen Boyd is a lean (180 pounds), well built (six-foot-one) charmer of 31, with a dazzling dimple, light brown curly hair, fair skin, and the kind of gray eyes which take on color from what he is wearing. A man of tremendous vitality, moody and volatile, a typical Celt, he veers from humor to anger in the wink of an eye. He dresses conservatively; speaks wittily, and extremely well, though he confesses that he's had almost no formal schooling; is genial and friendly ('I have my brooding hours which wipe that grin off my face').
Boyd was first married in 1958 to Italian-born MCA executive Mariella Di Sarzana during the filming of Ben-Hur. They separated after just three weeks. Concerning his short-lived marriage to Sarzana, Boyd would explain, "It was my fault. I'm an Irish so-and-so when I'm working. I hadn't been married a week when we both knew we had made a mistake. She is a nice girl but we were just not meant for each other. I suppose I wasn't ready for marriage. Maybe I was still too much of an adolescent."  They officially divorced in early 1959.
Boyd lived as a bachelor for most of his life. He was very popular with the Hollywood columnists, including his friend Hedda Hopper and her rival Louella Parsons due to his honest, open comments and sense of humor.
He dated some very prominent women in Hollywood, including Anna Kashfi (Marlon Brando’s ex), Belfast socialite Romney Tree, actress Joan Collins, TV star and Playboy centerfold Marilyn Hanold and Israeli actress Elena Eden. Hollywood columnists would also make note of Boyd's flirtation with Hope Lange. Hope Lange would later say in a Vanity Fair interview about The Best of Everything: "During the film we had a great camaraderie. He had that wonderful Irish charm, and wonderful humor. And anyone who has humor I'm a sucker for." Boyd was rumored to have been a romantic interest of Doris Day during the filming of Jumbo, which Boyd vehemently denied. Boyd seems to have been much enamored of his co-star Sophia Loren during the filming of the epic The Fall of the Roman Empire. Boyd said during an interview in 1963 that "I wouldn't die exactly for Sophia, but I'd come close to it.". He would also comment in an interview in 1976 that Sophia was "the most beautiful person I've ever met". Raquel Welch would claim in 2013 that during the filming of Fantastic Voyage in 1965, she became infatuated with Boyd, who rejected her advances. In her comments she would imply that Boyd was gay. No other mention of Boyd being gay exists, though he did play his most famous character Messala in Ben-Hur with a homosexual twist, as confirmed by screenwriter Gore Vidal. In Gore Vidal's own autobiography he describes his discussion with Boyd concerning the character Messala and his subsequent arguments thereafter with director William Wyler about Boyd's performance (Wyler didn't believe that a homoerotic undertone existed in Ben-Hur).
Boyd had a deep and lasting friendship with actress and French icon Brigitte Bardot. Boyd starred in two movies with Bardot - The Night Heaven Fell in 1958, and Shalako in 1968. During the filming of Shalako in Almeria, Spain, Bardot and Boyd’s close relationship sparked numerous rumors. It even caused Brigitte's husband at the time, Gunther Sachs, to ask for a divorce. In Bardot's autobiography, she described the events and states that Boyd "was never her lover, but a tender and attentive friend." In an interview with Photoplay Film in 1968, Boyd said, "Bardot is always Bardot. She's marvelous. She's an enormous star and she's a unique, marvelous woman. I adore her." 
Boyd also had a close relationship with actress Dolores Hart. Dolores Hart describes what would be her only romance with a co-star in her autobiography The Ear of the Heart. Boyd eventually rejected her advances, but they remained close friends even after she turned to the cloistered life of a nun in 1963. He visited her in Connecticut at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, and remained in communication with her up until the 1970s.
Boyd’s short but most passionate affair seems to have been with beautiful Austrian actress Marisa Mell. They met while filming the movie Marta in 1970. Boyd also initially rebuffed Marisa Mell's advances, but during the second film they made together, The Great Swindle, the two became inseparable lovers. They married in a gypsy style wedding outside of Madrid, which included a ritual wrist-cutting ceremony. The marriage was not considered legal, but Marisa Mell said, "Who cares? In our minds it will be real." According to Marisa Mell, their affair was so passionate that while living in Rome they made a trip to the Italian town of Sarsina for a ritual exorcism at the Cathedral of St. Vicinius. A short time later, Boyd became physically ill over the affair, and abruptly left Rome to return first to Belfast, then onto Jamaica to begin filming The Treasure of Jamaica Reef in early 1972.
Boyd's last marriage took place in 1976 (or earlier) to Elizabeth Mills ), a secretary at the British Arts Council, whom he had known since 1955. Elizabeth Mills followed Boyd to the US in the late 1950s and was his personal assistant and secretary for many years before marrying him about 10 months before his death.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Stephen Boyd.|
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- Profile, daggy.name/cop/bkofdead; accessed 28 June 2014.
- Movie Screen Stephen Boyd Interview, June 1960
- "Irish-Canadian Film Actor Gains Stardom in Big Part". Ottawa Citizen. 5 April 1956. p. 28. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- Lambert, John (4 May 1958). "Bardot Picks a Co-Star". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- The Salt Lake Tribune, 24 June 1958, Ireland's Boyd- A Man Apart- And all Because of Bardot
- Heffernan, Harold (4 December 1958). "Stephen Boyd Endures Agony for Art's Sake". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- Toledo Blade 12 August 1958
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- Waterbury, Ruth (15 July 1961). "Boydie". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- Modern Screen, Stephen Boyd "Introducing the Sensational Star of Ben Hur and Best of Everything", October–December 1960
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- IMDb profile, imdb.com; accessed 28 June 2014.
- "Hedda Hopper's Show on Sunday" Ocala Star Banner, 8 January 1960
- "Trout Fly With Sequins- That's French Fishing Flair". Ocala Star-Banner. 1 August 1960. p. 5. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
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- "She Slept with the Cannibals". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 25 September 1960. p. 5C. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- "Wayne Saves Drowning Actor". Milwaukee Sentinel. 5 July 1960. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
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- "Names Etcetera". Reading Eagle. Knight-Ridder. 4 December 1984. p. 30. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- "Some Portuguese See Their First Snow". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (London). Associated Press. 5 February 1963. p. 10. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- Miami News 25 June 1965, "More Dramatics than Spectacle in Genghis Khan"
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- "Movie Actor Seeks Hollywood Home". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Hollywood). UPI. 18 March 1965. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
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- Cushnan, Joe Stephen Boyd: From Belfast To Hollywood; ISBN 9781782990864
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- Wiedrich, Bob. Chicago Tribune "Tower Ticker", 5 November 1971
- Euan Lloyd interview, Cinema Retro #1
- Stephen Boyd at Find a Grave
- Silver Screen Magazine, June 1960; "Stephen Boyd - Sex Appeal + Blarney" by Maxine Block
- Screen Album, August–October 1960, page 46.
- The Free Lance-Star 20 December 1958, "The Divorce Set"
- "Stephen Boyd Serious In Romantic Ventures" Toledo Blade, 28 April 1960
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- (http://www.whosdatedwho.com/dating/stephen-boyd and http://leglatin.pagesperso-orange.fr/boyd/sbarte9.htm)
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- Jacobs, Laura (March 2004). "The Lipstick Jungle". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
- Anderson Daily Bulletin 5 December 1962
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- Village Voice, 13 February 2012
- Palimpsest 1996
- The Milwaukee Journal, 8 March 1968
- "Stephen n'ayant jamais été mon amant, mais uniquement un ami tendre et attentionné!" Bardot, Brigitte. Initials B.B., 1995
- Photoplay Film, September 1968, "Boyd and Bardot- the Truth Behind Those Rumors"
- Hart, Dolores. The Ear of the Heart, 2013
- "Stephen Boyd to Visit Dolores Hart, now Nun" Milwaukee Sentinel, 7 February 1966
- The Record Argus, 26 October 1971, "Boyd's Bride will be Blood Brother"
- The San Bernadino County Sun, 10 November 1971
- Mell, Marisa. Coverlove, 1990
- Schneider, Andre. Die Feuerblume: Über Marisa Mell und ihre Filme, 2013
- (Detroit Free Press June 9, 1977 'Just a few of the late Stephen Boyd's closest friends knew that three years ago in London he married Elizabeth Mills, whom he had been going with for many year)
- Stephen Boyd infosite; accessed 28 June 2014.
- "Stephen Boyd: The Busker Who Became a Screen Idol" BBC News; retrieved 23 July 2011
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