2015 Reviews · 5 Star Worthy · Classic · Favorites · movie · Sundays · TCM

1925 Ben-Hur

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Silent Sunday Nights and

1925 Ben-Hur

TCM airs Silent Films on Sunday Nights. Last Night they showed the 1925 Ben-Hur film.

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Ben-Hur: A Tale of The Christ

1925 Drama, History. Silent. Black & White (with some Technicolor).

8 out of 10 All StarsΒ images (3)

Stars: Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy.

Short Synopsis: An enslaved Jewish Prince (Novaroo) meets his Roman betrayer (Bushman) in a chariot race.

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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.

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Ramon Novaroo and Jesus’s hand
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Charlton Heston (I’m not a fan!)

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)

MGM’s Tag-Line:
“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.

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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.

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Ramon Novaroo

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).

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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.

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It’s freezing out here, and our stuntmen are cowards.

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.

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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.

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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)

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So this is definitely a movie to add to your bucket list.

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