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Inspired by the tale from Hebrew scriptures and the Christian Bible, the Moabitess child Ruth is sold to the temple of Chemosh. Years pass and she serves as a priestess to the idol. While arranging a temple ritual, she encounters a Judean family of artisans: Elimelech, his wife Naomi, their sons Chilion and Mahlon, and daughter-in-law Orpah. Ruth is curious about their God, and begins to meet secretly with Mahlon. After tragedy strikes, Ruth follows Naomi and begins a new life in Bethlehem... Written by
When Boaz explains the purpose for the levirate law to Ruth, he says his mother was such a widow. In fact, it was his ancestress, Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, that was such a widow. Two of Judah's sons died before she could have children, and he refused to marry Tamar to his third son. See more »
Yonder is a city whose name will one day be known in the far places of the Earth... Bethlehem of Judah. Generations have yet to pass before its star shall rise in the east. Much shall happen in these lands and be told. For nearby, across the Jordan in the land of Moab, lives a people who of old have hated the God of Israel and who serve a god of stone, Chemosh, thirsty for the blood of the young and the innocent.
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Anyone expecting an elephantine spectacle with a cast of thousands for this Old Testament story will be sadly disappointed. The Story of Ruth simply does not lend itself to that kind of treatment. In fact for the screen quite a bit of liberties were taken with the story in terms of adding plot that the Old Testament Book of Ruth simply doesn't have.
Ruth is an unusual character in the Bible. First she's a female protagonist, one of a select few there. Secondly her story gets its own book in the Old Testament, a short item of only four chapters. Lastly she's the first non-Hebrew protagonist in the Bible since Abraham sired the Hebrew people.
It's a simple story in the Old Testament. Ruth is one of two Moabite women who marry the sons of Elimelech and Naomi. When Elimelech and sons Mahlon and Chillion die, leaving Naomi a widow with two widowed daughters-in-law, Naomi decides to return to Israel. One daughter-in-law, Orpah, bids her goodbye. Daughter-in-law Ruth however says she will not desert her. She's going to give up the life and culture of Moab and her people will be Naomi's people in the most famous line from the Book of Ruth.
That's all there is to explain Ruth the Moabite coming to live in Israel with her mother-in-law. Director Henry Koster directed a film with a whole involved plot which goes into Ruth being a Moabite priestess and the reason for the death of all the men in that family. It's a nice story, but not the Old Testament.
The second half of the film involves Ruth and Naomi and a blood relative's named Boaz and Boaz's courtship of Ruth. Boaz has a rival in another relative who is closer to Naomi who's name isn't mentioned, but the film names as Tob. We get a few more details from the Bible for the screenwriters to work with in this part.
Henry Koster directed many a film with a religious theme and had success with The Robe and A Man Called Peter among others. This film is not as good as the other two, but still is both reverent and entertaining.
The cast performs well. Israeli actress Elana Eden is in the title role and like her fellow Israeli thespian Haya Harrareet from Ben-Hur saw her career dissipate in the Sixties. The two men in her life are Tom Tryon as Mahlon and Stuart Whitman as Boaz. Broadway veteran Peggy Wood is Naomi and the best in the film is Jeff Morrow as the overbearing and drunken Tob who with a little bit of trickery Eden gets to renounce his claim on her. It was the law back in the day.
The real story of Ruth is in that title phrase. Before there was a New Testament and a group of men were told to spread the faith, this story shows that God is taking converts. His wisdom and mercy are not the exclusive property of one race, but are universal. And in fact the children of Boaz and Ruth start the royal line of Israel beginning with their great grandson David.
But it all begins with how Boaz and Ruth get together.
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