BEN-HUR (1959)

Dir. William Wyler

If this epic had done no more than save MGM from bankruptcy, it would have earned a place in the history books. But with William Wyler at the helm and a cast including stage veterans like Stephen Boyd, Hugh Griffith and Martha Scott, BEN-HUR was much more than just a box-office winner. After decades of biblical epics focused primarily on spectacle, Wyler introduced a more intimate, character-driven approach. The big scenes—the sea battle and the justly famous chariot scene—still dazzle the eye, but they don’t distract from the personal story of how Judah Ben-Hur’s (Charlton Heston)quest for revenge on the childhood friend (Boyd) who betrayed him gives way to the most fundamental Christian principles of love and forgiveness. The film’s design elements reflect the characters, with sets and costumes that look real and lived in. With BEN-HUR, Hollywood embraced “the thinking man’s epic,” paving the way for such films as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and A Man for All Seasons (1966).

In attendance: David Wyler.

BEN-HUR
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