Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a 1925 American silent epic adventure-drama film directed by Fred Niblo and written by June Mathis based on the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace.
Starring Ramon Novarro as the title character, the film is the first feature-length adaptation of the novel and second overall, following the 1907 short.
Ben-Hur is a wealthy young Jewish prince and boyhood friend of the powerful Roman tribune, Messala. When an accident and a false accusation leads to Ben-Hur’s arrest, Messala, who has become corrupt and arrogant, makes sure Ben-Hur and his family are jailed and separated.
Ben-Hur is sentenced to slave labour in a Roman war galley. Along the way, he unknowingly encounters Jesus, the carpenter’s son who offers him water. Once aboard ship, his attitude of defiance and strength impresses a Roman admiral, Quintus Arrius, who allows him to remain unchained. This actually works in the admiral’s favour because when his ship is attacked and sunk by pirates, Ben-Hur saves him from drowning.
Arrius then treats Ben-Hur as a son, and over the years the young man grows strong and becomes a victorious chariot racer. This eventually leads to a climactic showdown with Messala in a chariot race, in which Ben-Hur is the victor. However, Messala does not die, as he does in the more famous 1959 adaptation of the novel.
Ben-Hur is eventually reunited with his mother and sister, who are suffering from leprosy but are miraculously cured by Jesus Christ.
- Ramon Novarro as Ben-Hur.
- Francis X. Bushman as Messala.
- May McAvoy as Esther.
- Betty Bronson as Mary.
- Claire McDowell as Princess of Hur.
- Kathleen Key as Tirzah.
- Carmel Myers as Iras.
- Nigel de Brulier as Simonides.
- Mitchell Lewis as Sheik Ilderim.
- Leo White as Sanballat.
- Frank Currier as Arrius.
- Charles Belcher as Balthazar.
- Dale Fuller as Amrah.
- Winter Hall as Joseph.
- Claude Payton as Jesus Christ (uncredited).
- Costs rose to $3.9 million compared to MGM’s average for the season of $158,000, making Ben-Hur the most expensive film of the silent era.
- In 1997, Ben-Hur was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
- Ben Hur (1907) (Film).
- Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) (Film).
- Ben-Hur (1959) (Film).
- Ben Hur (2003) (Film).
- Ben Hur (2010) (Miniseries).
- Ben-Hur (2016) (Film).
- In the Name of Ben Hur (2016).
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Fred Niblo, B. Reeves Easton, Charles Brabin (uncredited), Christy Cabanne (uncredited), and J.J. Cohn (uncredited).
- Producer(s): June Mathis (uncredited), Louis B. Mayer (uncredited), and Irving Thalberg (uncredited).
- Writer(s): June Mathis (adaptation), Carey Wilson (scenario and continuity), Bes Meredyth (continuity), H.H. Caldwell (titles), and Katharine Hilliker (titles).
- Music: William Axt, David Mendoza, and Stewart Copeland (2014 edition).
- Cinematography: Clyde DeVinna, Rene Guissart, Percy Hilburn, and Karl Struss.
- Editor(s): Lloyd Nosler, Basil Wrangler, William Holmes, Harry Reynolds, and Ben Lewis.
- Production: MGM.
- Distributor(s): MGM.
- Release Date: 30 December 1925 (US).
- Running time: 143 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: Silent (English intertitles).