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Ben-Hur (1959)  IMDB   Website
Genre Action/Drama MPAA NR
Director William Wyler Rating
Writer Lew Wallace Runtime 212 minutes
Producer Sam Zimbalist Type Movie
Cinematographer Robert Surtees Format DVD
Studio MGM Disk No. 1/1
Language English Edition
Country USA UPC
Color Color    
Plot Summary

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Judah Ben-Hur lives as a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. Together with the new governor his old friend Messala arrives as commanding officer of the Roman legions. At first they are happy to meet after a long time but their different politic views separate them. During the welcome parade a brick falls down from Judah's house and barely misses the governor. Although Messala knows that they are not guilty he sends Judah to the galleys and throws his mother and sister into prison. But Judah swears to come back and take revenge.

Summary written by: Matthias Scheler {tron@lyssa.owl.de}
Actor / Character

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Charlton Heston ..... Judah Ben-Hur
Jack Hawkins ..... Quintus Arrius
Haya Harareet ..... Esther
Stephen Boyd ..... Messala
Hugh Griffith ..... Sheik Ilderim
Martha Scott ..... Miriam
Cathy O'Donnell (I) ..... Tirzah
Sam Jaffe (I) ..... Simonides
Finlay Currie ..... Balthasar
Frank Thring (I) ..... Pontius Pilate
Terence Longdon ..... Drusus
George Relph ..... Tiberius
André Morell ..... Sextus
Awards

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(1959) Academy - Best Actor (win) ..... Charlton Heston
(1959) Academy - Best Adapted Screenplay (nom) ..... Karl Tunberg
(1959) Academy - Best Art Direction (win) ..... Hugh Hunt
(1959) Academy - Best Art Direction (win) ..... William Horning
(1959) Academy - Best Art Direction (win) ..... Edward C. Carfagno
(1959) Academy - Best Art Direction (win) .....
(1959) Academy - Best Cinematography (win) ..... Robert Surtees
(1959) Academy - Best Costume Design (nom) .....
(1959) Academy - Best Costume Design (nom) ..... Elizabeth Haffenden
(1959) Academy - Best Director (win) ..... William Wyler
(1959) Academy - Best Editing (win) ..... Dunning, John D.
(1959) Academy - Best Editing (win) ..... Ralph Winters
(1959) Academy - Best Picture (win) .....
(1959) Academy - Best Score (win) ..... Miklos Rozsa
(1959) Academy - Best Sound (win) ..... Franklin E. Milton
(1959) Academy - Best Supporting Actor (win) ..... Hugh Griffith
(1959) Academy - Best Visual Effects (nom) ..... Robert MacDonald
(1959) Academy - Best Visual Effects (nom) ..... Arnold A. Gillespie
(1959) Academy - Best Visual Effects (nom) ..... Lory, Milo
(1959) British Academy Awards - Best Film - Any Source (win) ..... William Wyler
(1959) British Academy Awards - Best Film - Any Source (win) ..... Andrew Marton
(1959) Directors Guild of America - Best Director ..... William Wyler
(1959) Golden Globe - Best Actor - Drama (nom) ..... Charlton Heston
(1959) Golden Globe - Best Director (win) ..... William Wyler
(1959) Golden Globe - Best Picture - Drama (win) .....
(1959) Golden Globe - Best Supporitng Actor (win) ..... Stephen Boyd
(1959) Golden Globe - Special Achievement Award (win) ..... Andrew Morton
(1959) New York Film Critics Circle - Best Actor ..... Charlton Heston
(1959) New York Film Critics Circle - Best Direction ..... William Wyler
(1959) New York Film Critics Circle - Best Film (win) ..... Andrew Marton
(1959) New York Film Critics Circle - Best Film (win) ..... William Wyler
(1959) New York Film Critics Circle - Best Screenwriting ..... Karl Tunberg
(1998) American Film Institute - 100 Greatest American Movies (win) .....
Review

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William Wyler's Ben-Hur is the quintessential Hollywood biblical epic: a huge story, given a suitably exalted treatment, splashed across a broad canvas, and centered on a pair of well-drawn central characters. It's easy to forget that the film was the culmination of a cycle of religious epics which dated back slightly more than a decade, and closed out the genre as a viable Hollywood phenomenon. Since Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah in 1949, the public had shown a willingness to spend money on screen stories adapted from (or inspired by) the Old or New Testaments; the advent of the Cold War and the threat of thermo-nuclear annihilation likely made filmgoers start thinking about God, heaven, and the hereafter more than usual. Apart from MGM's trouble-plagued Quo Vadis and 20th Century-Fox's The Robe and its sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators, however, few of the resulting movies did more than modest business at the box office, and none received any serious critical respectability. Ben-Hur proved to be an exception: Wyler's direction is sure and carefully balanced, avoiding any hint of the campiness and awkward line delivery that broke the verisimilitude of many of the other films; Charlton Heston, though far from the first choice for the title role (Paul Newman and Rock Hudson both turned it down), brings a compelling intensity to his performance; and Jack Hawkins' work as father figure Quintus Arrius lent the film a dignity comparable to Finlay Currie's St. Peter and Leo Genn's Petronius in Quo Vadis. Coupled with Yakima Canutt's stunt direction, those virtues proved unbeatable. Ben-Hur was the most expensive movie in MGM's history --- perhaps not coincidentally, the 1926 silent version of the story had also been the most expensive non-sound production in the studio's history --- but it ended up playing for two years in venues all over the world. The film earned enough money to keep the studio solvent, allowing them to acquire other films of this kind for distribution, most notably Nicholas Ray's King Of Kings. Ben-Hur was virtually the last film of its kind made in Hollywood, or by Hollywood --- costs were too high to do too many more, and it also seemed as though audiences had seen most of the religious stories that were worth their moviegoing dollars. With the exception of box office disasters such as The Greatest Story Ever Told and The Bible, most subsequent examples of the genre would be produced in Europe. --- Bruce Eder

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