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The Best Picture Project – Ben Hur (1959)

File:Benh.jpgDirected by William Wyler

Screenplay by Karl Tunberg

Based upon the novel by Lew Wallace

Starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Stephen Boyd and Hugh Griffith

There were lots of ways to approach my take on Ben-Hur.  I could have dwelt on the fact that it won 11 Academy Awards and was the all-time king of the big winners for nearly four decades, until Titanic, and later The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King joined the club.  I could have posited why it was the Biblical epic, Ben-Hur, that won a Best Picture Oscar and be largely forgotten outside the chariot race while The Ten Commandments could become an Easter staple without being able to manage even a Best Picture nomination.  Or I could have gone ahead and really broke down the movie and talked about how, after the chariot race and vengeance has been achieved for Ben-Hur, the film loses it’s way, dramatically, and tries to foist a Biblical parable on us – Ben-Hur somehow stumbles on the crucifixion of Christ – in order to get to the end of the film.  Maybe, just maybe, we could talk about whether Charlton Heston is the worst Best Actor ever, or if the title should go to Broderick Crawford or Ray Milland – incidentally, my vote would be with Milland who, even his director thought, wasn’t good enough. Continue reading

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