Actor Stephen Boyd Dies
of Apparent Heart Attack
Actor Stephen Boyd Dies at 49 ; Played
Aside Heston in "Ben-Hur" Chariot Race
by Richard West (Times)

 

Played Major Roles in "Superspectacular" Films Such as "Ben-Hur"

Irish-born actor Stephen Boyd, who lost the memorable chariot race to Charlton Heston in the 1958 motion picture "Ben-Hur", was fatally stricken with an apparent heart attack Thursday while playing golf in Northridge. He was 49.
Police Sgt. Lou Bobbitt said Boyd was riding in a golf cart with his wife Elizabeth, at the Porter Valley Country Club when he complained of not feeling well and collapsed at 12:27 p.m.
A Fire Department ambulance took Boyd to Granada Hills Community Hospital, where he died at 1:20 p.m. An autopsy will be performed.
Besides his role in "Ben-Hur" as the villainous Messala, who used whirling saw toothed spikes on the axles of his chariot in an effort to demolish Heston's rig, Boyd had top parts in such other "superspectaculars" as "The Fall of the Roman Empire", "The Bible", "Genghis Khan" and "Jumbo".
After Heston won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ben-Hur, Boyd quipped that if he had used his spikes sooner in the 15-minute race he would have won the race and possibly the Academy Award.
Among Boyd's other films were "Fantastic Voyage", "The Oscar", "The Bravados", "The Best of Everything", "The Inspector" and "The Third Secret".
He spent six weeks in Britain portraying Marc Antony in "Cleopatra" opposite Elizabeth Taylor, but his scenes never appeared in the picture.
There were so many delays caused by Miss Taylor's illnesses taht Boyd had to drop out of the picture to meet other film commitments. He was replaced by Richard Burton.




Boyd as Messala in "Ben-Hur"

Stephen Boyd in 1973
AP photo

"Tis the luck of the Irish," Boyd lamented when shooting resumed on "Cleopatra" with the Welchman Burton in the choice Marc Antony role.
Boyd, who stood 6 feet 1 inch and weighed 185 pounds, was noted for his ability to switch easily into any mood for which a script called.
"Indeed", Times critic Charles Champlin wrote in 1966, "the variety of parts Boyd has played over the years has been such as to forestall the emergence of a clearcut and indelible Boyd trademark, that magnetizing personality which attracts the manic clamor of fandom, which is in turn the mark of the star.
"It is probably an ironic tribute to Boyd's craft that he should, in effect, be remembered for his roles rather more than for himself."
Boyd was born William Miller near Belfast on the Fourth of July - a prophetic day, he said in 1963 when he took the oath as a U.S. citizen. He was the youngest of nine children.
He made his debut as a radio actor at 8, and, when 18, he joined the Ulster Group Theater.
Boyd later went to England to further his acting career. He toured with smal theatrical groups and, between engagements, held various jobs, including that of a cafeteria worker and a doorman at a movie house.
It was while holding down the doorman job that he met Sir Mickael Redgrave, who arranged for Boyd to try out with the Windsor Repertory Company. Within two weeks, Boyd landed the lead in one of the company's plays.
He appeared as a leading man in more than a dozen productions, including "A Streetcar Named Desire".
In the late 1950's he made several movies in Britain. One of them, "The Man Who Never Was", in which he played an Irish fanatic, won him critical acclaim and offers from Hollywood.
Boyd appeared often in television roles in recent years, including the lead in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Hands of Cormac Joyce", based on a story by Leonard Wibberley, in 1972.
Boyd and his second wife made their home in Tarzana. They had no children. He was formerly married to Mariella di Sarzana. That marriage ended in divorce in 1959.