William Wyler is the director of the 1959 award-winning version of Ben-Hur. The film is an adaptation of General Lew Wallaces novel. Karl Tunberg is credited with the actual screenplay. Sam Zimbalist was the original producer of Ben-Hur, but he died before the completion of filming. The two main characters are Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd). Another important person involved in this film is Miklos Rozsa. He composed the award-winning musical score in a total of eight weeks.
Ben-Hur was released in New York City on November 18, 1959, and in Los Angeles on November 24, 1959. It was re-released in the USA in 1969. This film has grossed $70 million in the United States alone. As for location, this film was shot in entirely in Italy. Ben-Hur is one of two films to win eleven Academy Awards, the other movie being Titanic. The awards include best leading and supporting actors, best cinematography, best director, best music, best sound, and more.
This film has some interesting behind the scenes trivia, most of which is in connection to the stadium or the chariot racing. According to The Internet Movie Database the design of the stadium was a controversy. MGM asked an archaeologist what the stadium in Jerusalem had looked like. Roman, came the reply. A second archaeologist was asked. It was in a Phoenician style, he said. A third archaeologist was consulted, who said: Stadium? I was not aware that Jerusalem had one! MGM engineers eventually sat down and carefully studied Ben-Hur (1926), and based their design on that. Another intriguing fact is during the chariot race Charlton Hestons stunt double was flipped out of the chariot. The stunt man hung on to the reigns and climbed back into the chariot. That blooper was left in the film to add more action. Marketing for this film was almost as big as the movie itself. Hundreds of toys were created, as well as Ben-his and Ben-hers bathroom towels.
The Internet Movie Database also points out another big goof in editing. Nine chariots start the chariot race. After the first crash, there appear still to be nine chariots in the race. After the third crash, six are shown, but as Ben Hur passes to catch up, clearly there [are] a total of seven in the race. After five have crashed, five are left. Messala is the sixth chariot to crash, but Ben Hur and three others finish the race. Thus, nine chariots start the race, six crash, and four finish.
This film takes place during 26 A.D., which is not in concordance with the events portrayed. Judah Ben-Hur and his family are fictitious characters. Some of the real life characters are Messala, Pontius Pilate, Tiberius Caesar, Jesus and Balthasar. Tiberius fit into the time period correctly. He was emperor from 14 to 37 A.D. Pontius Pilate was governor from 26-36 A.D., which puts him in the same time period as Tiberius. Balthasar and Messala were influential men; just not in the time period we are given in the movie. It is believed that Jesus crucifixion took place sometime between 12 B.C. and 14 A.D, which shows that Jesus does not fit into this time period either. The chariot races were true to the period, except that Jerusalem did not have a stadium.
The scene I have chosen to analyze goes from Judah Ben-Hur winning the chariot race, defeating Messala, to Judah being crowned by Pontius Pilate (Frank Thring). This paper will cover the filmic elements of mise en scene and sound as they are represented in Ben-Hur.
The dominant figures in this shot are the Roman soldiers, and the Roman spectators. The Romans are set apart from the native people by the color of their clothing. Roman soldiers stand out because they wear red capes, with bright white tunics underneath. The upper class Romans shown are costumed in bright colors while the Jews are wearing drab earth-tone colors. The Jews seem to blend in with their desert-like surroundings, and the Romans call attention to themselves with their flashy clothes.
As for lighting, it seems to be natural sunlight. This scene takes place in hours the sun is out full; it was not