The first part tells the story of Moses leading the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land, his receipt of the tablets and the worship of the golden calf. The second part shows the efficacy ... See full summary »
Cecil B. DeMille
Charles de Rochefort,
Hugh Carver is an athletic star and a freshman at Prescott College. He falls in love with Cynthia Day, a popular girl who loves to go to parties. He finds that it is impossible to please ... See full summary »
Henry B. Walthall
Erstwhile childhood friends, Judah Ben-Hur and Messala meet again as adults, this time with Roman officer Messala as conqueror and Judah as a wealthy, though conquered, Israelite. A slip of a brick during a Roman parade causes Judah to be sent off as a galley slave, his property confiscated and his mother and sister imprisoned. Years later, as a result of his determination to stay alive and his willingness to aid his Roman master, Judah returns to his homeland an exalted and wealthy Roman athlete. Unable to find his mother and sister, and believing them dead, he can think of nothing else than revenge against Messala. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
An Entertaining & Often Impressive Version of the Story
While it is now largely neglected in favor of the more familiar 1959 remake, the 1925 silent version of "Ben-Hur" is quite entertaining, and it is often impressive in its own right. Fred Niblo had a lot of good resources for this film, and he used them well. Although Niblo made some other enjoyable films, this one has to be by far his best. As Ben-Hur and Messala, Ramon Novarro and Francis X. Bushman work pretty well as the rivals whose complex relationship drives so much of the action. At an hour shorter than the 1950's version, this one moves at a good pace while keeping most of the best material.
The story lends itself easily to a large-scale production. The characters, the historical settings, and the themes all offer many possibilities to film-makers. The screenplay for this version does a good job of focusing on the parts of the story that are interesting to watch while also developing the story's key relationships and themes. Like the later version, it makes some changes from the novel, but it still contains most of the same best-known scenes.
The large-scale set piece sequences from the story work very well here. The naval battle sequence actually seems more realistic here than it is in the color and sound version. The chariot race scene is approached a little differently than it is in Wyler's version, so that direct comparisons may not be possible, but in any case Niblo's version is very good. The action is tense and exciting, and it is also fun to try to pick out the silent screen stars who appear in the audience.
There are certainly a number of reasons for the enduring popularity of the Wyler/Charlton Heston version. Fortunately, there is no need to choose one over the other. This adaptation of "Ben-Hur" deserves to be remembered in its own right, as a successful, entertaining movie that also captures the important ideas of the story.
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