Ben-Hur (1925 film)
|Directed by||Fred Niblo
|Produced by||Louis B. Mayer|
Francis X. Bushman
|Music by||William Axt|
|Cinematography||Clyde De Vinna
|Editing by||Lloyd Nosler|
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Original Release)
Channel 4 (1989 Restoration for Turner Entertainment)
|Release date(s)||December 30, 1925|
|Running time||143 minutes|
Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ is a 1925 silent film directed by Fred Niblo. It was a blockbuster hit for newly merged Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. This was the second film based on the novel of the same name by Lew Wallace. The first version was released in 1907.
Ben-Hur is a wealthy Jew and boyhood friend of the powerful Roman Tribune, Messala. When an accident leads to Ben-Hur's arrest, Messala, who has become corrupt and arrogant, makes sure Ben-Hur and his family are jailed and separated.
Ben-Hur is sent to work in the galley of a Roman warship. Along the way, he unknowingly encounters Christ, the carpenter's son who offers him water. Once aboard ship, his attitude of defiance and strength impresses a Roman admiral, Quintus Arrius, who allows him to remain unchained. This actually works in the Admiral's favor because when his ship is attacked and sunk by pirates, Ben-Hur saves him from drowning.
Arrius then treats Ben-Hur as a son, and over the years the young man grows strong and becomes a victorious chariot racer. This eventually leads to a climactic showdown with Messala in a chariot race, in which Ben-Hur is the victor. However, Messala does not die, as he does in the more famous 1959 remake of the film.
Costing $3.9 million to make, Ben-Hur was the most expensive film of the silent era. (It's the second most expensive silent film ever made, after 2011's The Artist, but only because of modern inflation.).
Ben-Hur had been a great success as a novel, and also as a stage play. Stage productions had been running for twenty-five years. In 1922, two years after the play's last tour, the Goldwyn company purchased the film rights to Ben-Hur. The play's producer, Abraham Erlanger, put a heavy price on the screen rights. Erlanger was persuaded to accept a generous profit participation deal and total approval over every detail of the production.
Shooting began in Italy in 1923, starting two years of difficulties, accidents, and eventually a move back to Hollywood. Additional recastings (including Ramón Novarro as Ben-Hur) and a change of director caused the production's budget to skyrocket. The studio's publicity department was relentless in promoting the film, advertising it with lines like: "The Picture Every Christian Ought to See!" Although audiences flocked to Ben-Hur after its premiere in 1925 and the picture grossed $9 million worldwide, its huge expenses and the deal with Erlanger made it a net financial loss for MGM. In terms of publicity and prestige however, it was a great success. It helped establish the new MGM as a major studio.
A total of 60,960 m (200,000 ft) of film was shot for the chariot race scene, which was eventually edited down to 229 m (750 ft). This scene has been much imitated. It was re-created virtually shot for shot in the 1959 remake, copied in Prince of Egypt, and more recently imitated in the pod race scene in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace which was made almost 75 years later. Some scenes in the film were in two-color Technicolor, most notably the sequences involving Christ. One of the assistant directors for this sequence was a very young William Wyler, who would direct the 1959 remake.
A 1931 reissue added music, by the original composers William Axt and David Mendoza, and sound effects. As the decades passed, the original two-color Technicolor segments were replaced by alternate black-and-white takes. The Technicolor scenes were considered lost until the 1980s when Turner Entertainment (who by then had acquired the rights to the film) found the crucial sequences in a Czech film archive.
Current prints of the 1925 version are from the Turner-supervised restoration. The restoration includes the color tints and Technicolor sections, set to resemble the original theatrical release. There is an addition of a newly recorded stereo orchestral soundtrack by Carl Davis with the London Philharmonic Orchestra which was originally recorded for a Thames Television screening of the movie.
It can be found on DVD, complete with the Technicolor segments, in the four-disc collector's edition of the 1959 version starring Charlton Heston. As well as in the 2011 "Fiftieth Anniversary Edition" Blu-ray Collector's Edition three-disc box set.
This remains one of the few films at Rotten Tomatoes to maintain a 100% freshness rating.
Box Office 
The film earned $9,386,000 on its initial release, meaning it recorded an overall loss of $698,000. However the film was successfully re-released in 1931, earning $1,352,000 and making a profit of $779,000 meaning it had an overall profit of $81,000.
See also 
- "Ben-Hur (1925)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
- H. Mark Glancy, 'MGM Film Grosses, 1924-28: The Eddie Mannix Ledger', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 12 No. 2 1992 p127-144 at p129
- "Plot Summary for Ben Hur". Classic Film Guide. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- "Box office / business for Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)". IMDB. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
- "Box office / business for The Artist (2011)". IMDB. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- Hoffman, Scott W. (2002). "The Making and Release of Ben-Hur". findarticles.com. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- "Commentary on Ben-Hur". www.albany.edu. Archived from the original on 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- Brownlow, Kevin (1968). The Parade's Gone By... New York: Bonanza Books. p. 409. ISBN 0-520-03068-0.
- http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/benhur_a_tale_of_the_christ/ Rotten Tomatoes: Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ
- Ben-Hur at the Internet Movie Database
- Ben-Hur at SilentEra
- Ben-Hur at AllRovi
- Ben-Hur (1925 film) at Rotten Tomatoes
- Getting It Right the Second Time — an comparative analysis of the novel, the 1925 film, and the 1959 film, at BrightLightsFilm.com
- A detailed article about the background of the movie