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Ben Hur - History
One of the greatest challenges in movie making is to take a novel about ancient times and bring it to life on the big screen. The sets, costuming, dialects, and every-day details are tough enough. Now add in a naval battle with galleons and hundreds of oarsmen – a chariot race in a full scale circus maximus, and the passion, pathos, and pageantry of the Crucifixion. All that and more were necessary to film Lew Wallace’s immensely popular novel Ben Hur.
Several attempts have been made; the best known being MGM’s 1959 version, starring Charleton Heston and Steven Boyd. More recently MGM re-made its own movie in 2016.
But to many the best rendition of Wallace’s masterpiece is the first one, Fred Niblo’s 1925 Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ. Whether you’ve seen the ’59 or 2016 versions or not, see if you agree. Why do so many film historians prefer the 1925 Ben Hur? We’ll explore all that it took to make Ben Hur on location in Italy, amidst the violent, turbulent political atmosphere of Mussolini’s fascist regime. Your movie-making tour guide through this amazing story is our colleague, film historian John O’Grady.