The 1925 Ben-Hur: Epic End to an Era

The 1925 Ben-Hur cinematic adaptation marked the end of two eras. MGM’s colossal production epitomized and culminated the tradition of spectacular silent epics. Additionally, the film came at the end of almost six decades in which Wallace’s “Tale of the Christ” was never far from the center of American religious life and popular culture. When MGM remade Ben-Hur in 1959, it would have to, in effect, re-introduce the General’s novel to America.

In 1921, Henry Wallace sold the film rights for Ben-Hur to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for the unprecedented sum of $600,000. Ultimately, the story cost $4 million to film and earned $6.1 million at the box office when it opened on December 30, 1925. The stage production of Ben-Hur had been in constant production for twenty-one years. The 1925 Ben-Hur film did, indeed, mark the end of an era.

Dr. Howard Miller joined us last night for a wonderful lecture on the Ben-Hur silent film. We broadcast the lecture on Facebook Live and also recorded it. We invite you to watch it here.

A dynamic speaker and award-winning educator, Dr. Miller is a leading scholar on Ben-Hur and Lew Wallace’s life. A native Texan, he taught at the University of Texas at Austin for forty years, retiring in 2011. During his time at UT Austin, he was instrumental in founding the university’s department of Religious Studies. He has been involved with the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum since 2000 and is a regular Title Sponsor for the museum’s annual TASTE of Montgomery County fundraiser.

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