Silent Sunday Nights and
TCM airs Silent Films on Sunday Nights. Last Night they showed the 1925 Ben-Hur film.
Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ
1925 Drama, History. Silent. Black & White (with some Technicolor).
8 out of 10 All Stars
Stars: Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy.
Short Synopsis: An enslaved Jewish Prince (Novaroo) meets his Roman betrayer (Bushman) in a chariot race.
My Thoughts: I think I liked this film a lot more than than the 1959 remake (which I still haven’t fully watched), mostly because I am not a Charlton Heston fan. At all!! And I found Ramon Novarro to be a much better actor. By far. Hands down.
This movie was on Sunday night. I’m just posting this now because even this movie needed an intermission. A day long intermission. This is pretty long for being a Silent Film. But I’m still glad that I finally saw a full version of a Ben-Hur now. I recommend this one.
And if you think Charlton is the last of the Ben-Hurs, think again. Another Ben-Hur movie is being released in August 2016.
The Facts of Life: (and some of my opinions too)
“The great decade of the progress of motion picture art reaches its summit! A cast of 125,000!”
Money: This movie is still the most expensive movie ever made, $4 million dollars (now maybe $400 billion) according to TCM Host, Ben Mankiewicz.
Black and White and Technicolor: Turns out, not all silent films are just black and white. The Technicolor technique started in 1916, and in the early 1920s, a “Process 2” technique was used with only a few films.
This Ben-Hur film was was one of the Process 2 Technicolors, which means that someone painstakingly colored in each reel by hand. Thankfully for them it was mostly the scenes with Jesus.
Why would they do that? Well I asked my Grandpa and he said it was because it was sacred.
But they did have the Technicolor parts for other crucial scenes too, like Ben-Hur being acknowledged as a great athlete after some time of being Quintus’s adapted son.
Religion: Oh and if you’re looking for some more religious footage, forget it. Jesus and religion is a very small role in this movie, even though it sometimes got graced with Technicolor. Jesus is in just a few scenes. Even when he gives Ben-Hur the water, we only see his hand. I think the remake shows more than this film did. Even when they show Jesus’s sermons, all you see is a hand (well, that white blur is his hand, the coloring didn’t help in this scene).
I have no complaints about that though because I’d much rather see the story of Ben-Hur’s. That is the main part of the movie after all.
Where’s the Stuntman?: Now I wouldn’t be surprised about all the actual slave labor and pain the Extra Cast members and staff went, let alone the main cast, because this is a huge production. 120.000+ cast members we’re talking here.
The Roman and Pirate ships: I was really impressed with these real ships. And there’s quite a few for a Silent Film. But they’re all made of wood it looks like. And a lot of them catch on fire, so abandoning the ships is a must! Maybe the film makers should’ve given swim tests to pass for the Extras instead of word-of-mouth (some couldn’t swim after all).
And the 1959 film, Charton Heston helps Quintus from surrendering, thereby both being heroes.
1925 looked to me like a total defeat. See picture above with Ramon Novaroo freezing in the ocean with just a lion-cloth outfit, and then there’s the text throughout the scene saying that the Romans are being defeated too.
Oh but then they’re rescued by the Romans, who were sent to look for Ben-Hur and Quintus stranded on a little plank from the destroyed ship.
The Great Chariot scene: A huge influence, without it, the 1959 film wouldn’t have replicated it. Or there wouldn’t be any “Pod Races” in Star Wars. The producer, Louis B. Mayer, takes a lot of credit for the race.
“In Rome, one of the drivers was killed during filming when one of the wheels loosened from the chariot.”
(Blu-Ray.com – good article too, compares all the Ben-Hur movies, 1907, 1925, and 1959)
So this is definitely a movie to add to your bucket list.