Stephen Boyd

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Stephen Boyd Pencil Portrait
To see a larger preview, please click the image.

Shopping Basket

The quality of the prints are at a much higher level compared to the image shown on the left.


A3 Pencil Print-Price £45.00-Purchase

A4 Pencil Print-Price £30.00-Purchase

*Limited edition run of 250 prints only*

All Pencil Prints are printed on the finest Bockingford Somerset Velvet 255 gsm paper.

P&P is not included in the above prices.


Last update: 24/01/2017

Surrounded by the picturesque green rolling hills of the Santa Susana Mountains, the Porter Valley Country Club boasts an 18-hole golf course and driving range, and remains an ideal setting for business and social events. Designed by the course architect Ted Robinson in 1968, this extraordinary golf course in the San Fernando Valley offers challenging greens with kikuya grass fairways and rough.

The irish born actor Stephen Boyd – an avid golfer – was playing a round at the club with his devoted wife in June 1977, when he complained of feeling unwell. Seconds later, he collapsed, and was rushed to the Granada Hills Community Hospital in a fire department ambulance, where he would be pronounced dead within the hour. He was just shy of his forty sixth birthday.

He first came to cinematic prominence in the 1956 movie The man who never was,” an almost prophetic title for an actor who has undeservedly slid more and more into obscurity since his untimely demise. Theories abound as to why his once promising career derailed so badly, but most amount to little more than pure conjecture. What appears clear however, is that this versatile star and affable individual, was undeserving of such a fate.

For the uninitiated, Stephen Boyd was born in Glengormley, County Antrim, liked acting, went to London, got an acting job, went to Hollywood, starred in ‘Ben Hur’, didn’t do much else except to play golf, and died with a putter in his hand. It’s cruel, but for millions, that’s about the size of it. Luck, of course, and sometimes a distinct lack of it, can also play its part in an actor’s career. At the onset of the 60’s, Stephen Boyd was seemingly assured of a long and successful career in Hollywood. it never materialised.

Born William Millar in County Antrim in 1931, he was working with the Ulster Theatre Group in his early 20s, but started at the bottom when he came to London, busking with his guitar for change in Leicester Square, and working on the door at the Odeon Cinema. It was this job that led to an encounter with Michael Redgrave, who took a shine to Boyd and put in a word for him at the Windsor Repertory Company. From there, he went onto roles in many early TV plays – which were broadcast live – and a handful of British films. By 1956, aged 25, he was signed to a lengthy contract with 20th Century Fox; The Man Who Never Was his first assignment for the studio. When the film caught the eye of Hollywood hotshot William Wyler, he asked Fox to loan Boyd out for the MGM project he was preparing, Ben-Hur (1959), the biggest movie of the day.

Even next to a veteran of such thunderous epics — Charlton Heston — Boyd (as Messala) manages to steal all his scenes in Ben-Hur.’ He may have had an advantage, of course. According to the film’s script doctor Gore Vidal, when he rewrote a scene to subtly evoke Messala’s unrequited homosexual love for Ben-Hur, Boyd was in the know and nuanced his performance accordingly. Heston remained in the dark; no-one thought it was a good idea to tell him about it.

Ben-Hur turned out to be the premature peak of Boyd’s career. This was unfortunate; at 28, he had a lot more to give. But a run of bad luck and underperforming Hollywood movies threw him off course. He was a serious contender for James Bond in the first film of the series, Dr. No (1962), but whilst Messrs Brocolli and Saltzman were searching for their man, conflicting schedules would derail his chance for screen immortality. The actor couldn’t be released from his Fox contract; and was waiting to start work as Marc Antony in Cleopatra (1963). As it turned out, the the gargantuum epic would face endless production delays and the role would ultimmately pass him by – the character being eventually portrayed onscreen by Richard Burton. Instead he took part in what looked like the next best thing, The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). That turned out to be just as big a flop.

Boyd nonetheless signed on for more historical epics — Genghis Khan (1965), The Bible (1966) — but they did little to challenge him, or raise his profile, and the genre was fast going out of fashion. He did make a couple of interesting diversions, taking the starring role in the uber-camp indictment of Hollywood excess, The Oscar (1966), and leading a great cast (including Donald Pleasence and Raquel Welch) in the lively, offbeat sci-fi Fantastic Voyage (1966). But when his contract with Fox finally came to an end, so did the high profile roles.

If ‘self promotion’ is about confidence and ‘self importance’ about arrogance, then Stephen Boyd – throughout his twenty year plus career – would involve himself spasmodically in the former, whilst displaying few natural signs of the latter.

Recommended viewing

The Man who never was (1956)

Ben Hur (1959)

Jumbo (1962)

Boyd makes an obvious career move – a major co-starring role opposite Doris Day, the biggest box office star of the day in a big league musical – and Goddamnit, the film stiffs.

Day’s final musical role finally came to the screen almost thirty years after it had played at the legendary Hippodrome Theater for 233 performances in 1935. Henceforth, all of the star’s screen comedies would feature a title song or the occasional vocal interlude, but ‘Jumbo’ would be her last true musical.

Ripe with classic chestnuts from the Rodgers and Hart songbook – ‘My Romance,’ ‘This Can’t Be Love,’ ‘Why can’t I?’ and one of the most plaintive ballads of heartbreak ever written, ‘Little Girl Blue,’ – the film caught the tail end of the musical genre, and was the solitary failed entry in Day’s box office bonanza run. Oh, and Boyd’s singing voice was dubbed. Wasn’t everyone’s?

Still, worth checking out.

Lisa (1962)

The Third Secret (1964)

An intriguing mystery thriller, beautifully filmed in black and white cinemascope, and featuring Boyd as news reporter Alex Stedman, a man investigating the suspected suicide of a leading psychiatrist. Some interesting, offbeat locations – notably the Thames riverbank scenes – and an effectively ominous score from Richard Arnell, ramp up the tension.

Convinced that her father was murdered, the psychiatrist’s teenage daughter (Pamela Franklin) enlists the help of Stedman, himself a former patient of the deceased. As Stedman delves into the lives of his three suspects a tormented art dealer (Richard Attenborough), a beautiful, lonely woman (Diane Cilento) and one of Britain s most respected judges (Jack Hawkins) he learns that the doctor knew secrets about some of his other clients which may have given one of them a motive for murder. Along the way, he has to battle with his own, re-emerging psychological terrors and unravel The Third Secret.

The rather dramatic theatrical poster for the film’s release was prepared by the British designer and artist Tom Beauvais, and can be viewed via the following link:

Keen eyed aficionados will spot Dame Judi Dench in her debut appearance as Attenborough’s assistant, and the film’s dramatic cinematography gives it a timeless noirish quality.

The fall of The Roman Empire (1964)

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Overlook the obvious plot flaws – and Lord knows there are enough of them, including a successfully accomplished mission in literally more time than possible – and revel in Richard Fleischer’s stunning 1966 sci-fi classic. Featuring one dying communist defector, a secret Government facility, a shrinking ray gun, a miniaturized submarine, an obvious villain in Donald Pleasance – “No shit Sherlock? Really?” – some leaden acting, and Raquel Welch in a white,tight wetsuit! What more can any movie buff ask for? Some improved special effects perhaps, which is why this film is repeatedly mentioned in remake circles.

A perennial entry in 70’s terrestrial television scheduling, Boyd handles his role as secret agent Grant efficiently, despite the limitations of acting against a pre-special effects blue screen.

Now available on a 2013 blu ray re-issue in it’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1., the picture quality is outstanding, pin sharp imagery combining with vibrant colours and an optional surround sound track to provide a viewing experience that now looks better than ever.

The Squeeze (1977)

Stephen Boyd: The Man Who Never Was (2011)

A woefully short biopic, but sadly, all there is for now.

Hollywood is an ‘unforgiving town,’ and if Tony Curtis suffered professionally for ending his marriage to Janet Leigh, then Boyd’s gradual demise was unintentionally due in part to his own making – not playing the star game, and publicizing himself long after the release of his last film.

In this documentary, the actor is described by friends and family as a shy, warm-hearted man who didn’t care for the bright limelight, splashy parties, and getting his name in print. The massive attention surrounding Ben-Hur and its impressive cast, perhaps pushed him farther into his private shell, and when Oscar nominations were announced, he was completely ignored. His studio, Twentieth Century-Fox, hired him out several times, and after Ben-Hur’s release most producers saw Boyd as ideally suited for costume dramas – a factor that frustrated the actor when the material started to lose quality.

Boyd also didn’t care to attach himself to glamorous actresses for the tabloids, and he maintained a long relationship with non-star Elizabeth Mills, with whom he shared a fervent love of golf. Most likely the sampling of Hollywood’s glitzy lifestyle was simply annoying to him, and golf provided a refuge which, unfortunately for his career, took over most of his joie de vivre; as one friend recalls, “Stephen didn’t live to act, Stephen acted to live,” and key to living was hitting that white ball across the links whenever he could.

Recommended reading

Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood (Joe Cusham) 2012

“Stephen Boyd was one of the nicest, kindest people I have met in my lifetime, rare in this profession.” So said Euan Lloyd, film producer of ‘Shalako,’ ‘The Man Called Noon’ and ‘The Wild Geese.’

Not long before his death, the actor James Ellis (best known to television viewers for his long running appearance in the hit series “Z Cars”) spoke about his friend. “Joe Cushnan’s excellent biography of Stephen Boyd, the forgotten film star and a fellow countryman of mine, fills a disgraceful gap in cinematographic history and should be read by all who are interested in that fascinating subject.”

Boyd was one of the biggest film stars of the late 1950s and 1960s (‘The Man Who Never Was’, ‘Ben Hur,’ ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire,’ ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ etc), an ordinary boy from Northern Ireland who made a dream journey to Hollywood, starring alongside some of the most prestigious names in cinema including Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Gregory Peck, Brigitte Bardot, Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, James Mason, Gina Lollobrigida, Omar Sharif, Doris Day, Sean Connery and Raquel Welch.

This is the first book to celebrate his life and work, and available at an extremely affordable price. He had a 20-year film career, sadly cut short by his sudden death, aged 45, in 1977.

Boyd’s biographer Joe Cushnan, is a freelance writer and reviewer, who has also authored several poetry books.


The Stephen Boyd Blog

Launched in early 2016 and a superb repository of articles, photos, screen shots and magazine articles about the late actor.

All about Stephen Boyd

Not too much of any note – a mini biography, filmography, galleries and screenshots – but in all honesty, devoid of any co-operation from Boyd’s family, what exactly could anybody compile in a tribute site to the actor?

Stephen Boyd interview about "Ben Hur"