Ben-Hur (50th Anniversary Edition) (1959)

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Overview

Anno Domini: the seventh year of Augustus Caesar's reign. In the Roman province of Judea, Jews return to the city of their birth for the census. A bright star in the night over Bethlehem marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Years later, Roman commander Messala (Stephen Boyd), who was brought up in Judea, takes command of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. His Jewish boyhood friend Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) greets him. Messala is delighted. But when Judah refuses to name Jewish patriots, Messala sentences him to the slave galleys and imprisons his mother, Miriam (Martha Scott), and sister, Tirzah (Cathy O'Donnell). Judah vows revenge.

In BEN-HUR, William Wyler's much-lauded epic, the story of Judah's search for his mother and sister and his quest for revenge intersects with crucial biblical events such as the Sermon on the Mount and the crucifixion. Wyler gets fine performances from Heston, Boyd, Jack Hawkins (as a Roman admiral who befriends Judah), and Hugh Griffith (as an Arab sheik who dreams of racing his beautiful white horses against Messala). Among BEN-HUR's vivid dramatic sequences are a violent sea battle and the famous chariot race that pits Judah against Messala in one of cinema's great action sequences.
William Wyler's biblical epic is a production of unheard-of scale, exhibiting the work of literally tens of thousands of people. The film tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Judean prince who as a galley slave saves the life of a Roman nobleman, changing his life forever. The 1880 novel by Lew Wallace had previously been filmed to great acclaim in 1927 with Ramon Navarro.
Theatrical Release Date 1959
Format DVD
Number of Discs 1
Awards
  • Academy Awards, Best Art Direction - Set Decoration (Color), Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Costume Design (Color), Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Picture, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Sound, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Sound Effects, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Special Effects, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Actor, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Director, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Film Editing, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Film Editing, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Original Score, Winner, 1959
  • Academy Awards, Best Cinematography, Winner, 1959

Additional Crew:

Portions of content provided by Rovi Data Solutions. Copyright © 2009 Rovi Data Solutions, Inc. For personal non-commercial use only. All right reserved.

While it strives for accuracy, Best Buy reserves the right to make changes at any time, without prior notice, to prices, description, images and policies. Web store prices, products and promotions may differ from those in retail stores.

Unrated

  • Release Info
  • Collector Edition
    N
  • Director Cut
    N
  • Number Of Discs
    1
  • Genre
    Dramas
  • Distributor
    Warner Home Video
  • Area
    USA
  • Video
  • Runtime (minutes)
    212
  • Picture
    (unknown)
  • Audio
  • Language
    English
  • Dubbed
    French
  • Subtitles
    English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Closed Caption
    English
  • Release Note
  • Notes:
    DVD Features:

    Region [unknown]
    Audio:
    English
    Theatrical release: November 18, 1959.

    Shot on location in Fiuggia, Folliano, Nettuno, and Rome, Italy.

    Upon its release, it was the third longest movie and most expensive movie (at $16 million) ever made. It was a spectacular success at the box office, grossing almost five times its cost in its initial run and subsequently taking more than twice its cost in video rentals.

    On November 4, 1958, five months into the movie's seven-month-long shoot, BEN-HUR's producer Sam Zimbalist collapsed and died. Director William Wyler said, "It was as if the roof had fallen in on me. I felt alone. I'd never felt alone with Sam around." The MGM studio executives asked Wyler to take over as producer as well as director of the mammoth undertaking.

    The script went through many hands. After Wyler read the first version by Karl Tunberg, the director said it was "very primitive, elementary." He was still unhappy after the playwrights S. N. Behrman and Maxwell Anderson had worked on the dialogue. Novelist Gore Vidal was on hand for the first month and a half of location shooting; he contributed the idea of motivating the conflict between Messala and Judah--and providing a spine to the movie--by suggesting there was an emotional bond between Messala and Judah that was broken when Judah refused to help Messala against his countrymen. (Years later Vidal admitted that there were serious homosexual undertones to the relationship, a fact that the cast and crew purposely never discussed with Heston.) English playwright Christopher Fry was on location for the last six months of the shoot. He acted as dialogue doctor--providing the formality that suggested earlier times--and undertook overnight revisions of the script. Wyler wanted to add Fry's name to Tunberg's on the script. Fry suggested Vidal should be credited as well. But, after arbitration by the Writers Guild of America, Tunberg alone received credit.

    It is well known that the chariot race--which cost one million dollars alone--was created by second-unit directors Andrew Marton, Yakima Canutt, and Mario Soldati. It is less well known that the slave-galley action sequences were directed (uncredited) by Hollywood veteran Richard Thorpe (1896-1991). Thorpe made 180 movies in his long career, but it was the series of costume dramas that he made early in the 1950s--IVANHOE (1952, with Robert Taylor), THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1952 with Stewart Granger), KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE (1953, with Taylor), ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953, with Taylor and Granger), and, best of all, THE ADVENTURES OF QUENTIN DURWARD (1955, with Taylor), that showed he was the right person to help Wyler in his epic undertaking.

    BEN-HUR was nominated for 12 Academy Award and won a record 11 Oscars--including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Charlton Heston), and Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith). This record was tied 40 years later by TITANIC.

    There were many marketing tie-ins for BEN-HUR. In addition to new editions of General Lew Wallace's novel, there were BEN-HUR jewels and perfumes, neckties and T-shirts, candy bars, toys, and chariot scooters, and, even, Ben-His and Ben-Hers towels.

    Mort Sahl's brief sardonic review of BEN-HUR was "Loved him, hated Hur."
  • Release Date
    09/27/11
  • Theatrical Release
    1959
  • Rating
    Unrated
  • Format
    DVD
  • Unedited Version
    N

Portions of content provided by Rovi Data Solutions. Copyright © 2009 Rovi Data Solutions, Inc. For personal non-commercial use only. All right reserved.

While we strive for accuracy, Best Buy reserves the right to make changes at any time, without notice, to prices, descriptions, images and policies. Web store prices, products and promotions may differ from our retail While we strive for accuracy, Best Buy reserves the right to make changes at any time, without prior notice, to prices, description, images and policies. Web store products, prices and promotions may differ from those in our retail stores. For full terms and conditions, visit BestBuy.ca

Editorial Reviews

Variety 03-05-2001 "...William Wyler's 1959 Roman drama still has a self-confidence and sheer scope that's jaw-dropping..."
Premiere 10-01-2005 "[H]istorically significant and fascinating."

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