Filmed in Rome at Cinecitta Sudies in 1959 and directed by William Wyler, the debate over pacifism also surfaces in Ben Hur. The film had an advertised cost of some fifteen million dollars. The running time of the film was nearly four hours. Upon its release, viewers were immediately greeted on the screen by something they had never seen. The trademark MGM lion, which customarily growls, was silent.
The Wyler film has an appropriate subtitle: A Tale of the Christ. This tale
of Ben Hur is set in its entirety within the framework of the life of Jesus.
Even before the title frames and credits, the viewers are introduced to a
Christmas pageant as Mary and Joseph make their way to Bethlehem for the
census and are greeted there, after the birth of their child, by shepherds
(Luke) and wise men (Matt)
Ben Hur became the greatest success among the alternative Jesus film that
subordinated the Jesus story to a tale with a Roman/Christian theme. The
film represents one of the most successful films in the history of cinema.
The biggest box-office draw if the decade 1951-1960 the film garnered eleven
This excerpt was taken from Jesus at the Movies: A Guide to the First
Hundered Years by W. Barnes Tatum; 1997; Polebridge