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Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925 film)

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For works with similar titles, see Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ  (1925) 
by Fred Niblo
A 1925 American silent epic adventure-drama film based on the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace, with some scenes in Technicolor. Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Key (info)
Dialogue
In scene
Storyline

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
PRESENTS

BEN-HUR

A
Tale of The Christ

by
GENERAL LEW WALLACE

COPYRIGHT MCMXXV IN U.S.A.
BY METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED UNDER INTERNATIONAL
CONVENTION OF BUENOS AIRES
PASSED BY THE NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CONTROLLED
BY
LOEW'S INCORPORATED

Produced by
METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER
in arrangement with

ABRAHAM L. ERLANGER
CHARLES B. DILLINGHAM
and
FLORENZ ZIEGFIELD, JR.

From the novel published and copyrighted by
HARPER AND BROTHERS

Directed
by

FRED NIBLO

Adaptation
by
JUNE MATHIS

Produced from the scenario
of
CAREY WILSON

Continuity
by
CAREY WILSON
and
BESS MEREDYTH

Directorial Associates

ALFRED L. RABOCH and REEVES EASON

Photography by

RENE GUISSART
PERCY HILBURN
KARL STRUSS
CLYDE DeVINNA

Art effects by Ferdinand P. Earle

Settings by
CEDRIC GIBBONS and HORACE JACKSON

Titles by
KATHARINE HILLIKER and H. H. CALDWELL

Film Editor
LLOYD NOSLER

Assistant Director
CHARLES STALLINGS

Costumes by
Theaterkunst Hermann J. Kaufmann, Berlin N. 54

CAST

Ben-Hur
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
RAMON NOVARRO
Messala
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
FRANCIS X. BUSHMAN
Esther
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
MAY McAVOY
Mary
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
BETTY BRONSON
Princess of Hur
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
CLAIRE McDOWELL
Tirzah
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
KATHLEEN KEY
Iras
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
CARMEL MYERS
Simonides
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
NIGEL de BRULIER
Sheik Ilderim
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
MITCHELL LEWIS
Sanballat
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
LEO WHITE
Arrius
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
FRANK CURRIER
Balthazar
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
CHARLES BELCHER
Amrah
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
DALE FULLER
Joseph
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................
WINTER HALL

Pagan Rome was at the zenith of her power. The tread of her iron legion shook the world; and from every land rose the cries of captive peoples——praying for a deliverer.

In Judea the glory that was Israel's lay scattered in the dust—and Jerusalem the Golden, conquered and oppressed, wept in the shadow of her walls.

It was the twenty-fourth day of December—

An unending stream of travelers eddied in and out of the great Joppa gate——Syrians, Greeks, Jews, Egyptians—all bound homeward.

For Rome had decreed that the whole world should be taxed, and every man was forced to go to his birthplace to be counted.

"Will women ever cease to paint their faces!"

Two weary travelers striving to reach Bethlehem before nightfall——

"Are you not Joseph of Nazareth?"

"That is Mary."

Far to the Southward—three wise men bent on a strange and holy quest.

And in the even Mary and Joseph came unto Bethlehem——but there was no room for them in the inn.

"Nay, other wives must sleep beneath the stars tonight. Is your wife better than her sisters?"

The cave of David—gray with the dust of centuries.

"A thousand years ago the boy David, the Shepherd King, rested here with his flocks."

"The place is sanctified."

LUKE:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field.

LUKE:
And they came with haste and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe.

"At last the prophets are fulfilled—a King to save us!"

And the three Wise Men, bringing gifts, worshipped the Holy Child as one born to be King and deliverer.

Melchior—the Hindoo.

Gaspar——the Greek.

Balthazar—the Egyptian.

But year after year went by and the Nazarene became a wistful memory.

In Jerusalem the coming of Gratus, a new Roman tyrant, was awaited by the sullen and furious people——

Everywhere unrest——the rich fearing for their fortunes, the poor for their lives.

"What chance has a Jew against a Roman?"

There was disquiet even in the great palace of Hur——for centuries the home of a powerful line of Jewish princes——

The widowed Princess of Hur——

Simonides, trusted bond-slave, hurriedly summoned to remove the Hur riches to the comparative safety of Roman Antioch.

"Quiet your fears, noble lady. Your fortune will be safe with me. But you must get away before Gratius arrives."

"God speed you, Simonides. I am distressed that you must go without seeing your young master——"

"No higher than that was Ben-Hur when I saw him last—"

"You have been true to me and mine. If the law allowed I would free you, Simonides."

"My bondage is easy since you have let the world——even my daughter—believe me free. I am content."

Esther, Simonides' daughter, on her first visit to Jerusalem—

The young prince—Judah, Ben-Hur.

"The pigeon—I would know if his wing mends. May I not come to inquire?"

"—It is a far journey—to Antioch."

"Not too far for me—some day!"

"Save you excuses. It is way of your race to walk backwards!"

"I seek the Roman officer Messala—my friend."

"Messala!"

"Your past has come to life—a Jew claims you for friend!"

"Surely you have not forgotten Judah? Judah, Ben-Hur!"

"How strange it is after all these years to see you a Roman officer! How splendid you look!"

"My mother and sister will be rejoiced to see you. I pray you come!"

"In the past this house was as your own, Messala. Continue to regard it so."

"Do you remember my sister, Tirzah, whom you delighted to tease?"

"Another to greet you, Messala—Amrah, who used to make you sweets!"

"You have not changed, Lord Messala——you were always bold and handsome."

"It is good to have you back, Messala——a Roman who understands my people——"

"Rome rules the peoples she has conquered. It is for them to understand Rome!"

"I meant no offense, Judah. But your stiff-necked race must learn submission to your masters!"

"Amrah is wrong, Messala. In outward seeming you are the same. But in spirit——you are a stranger."

"My friend Messala is become——"

"A Roman!"

"And why not? To be a Roman is to rule the world!"

"To be a Jew is to crawl in the dirt!"

"Forget you are a Jew!"

"Forget I am a Jew? Forget you are a Roman!"

"Israel has known other conquerors than Rome and lived to see their downfall. The time will come again!"

"Ah, Messala! I have loved you as a brother! Let us forget this bitterness."

"Gratus is at the gates—I must go. Think well ere you speak treason again—even to a friend!"

"Messala has shown me——how we are despised!"

"The Holy Child of Bethlehem you told me of—prophesied to be the Messiah! If it were true, He could save us from Rome!"

"Oh, if he would only come now——rise up and lead us——how I would fight for him!"

Over the worn gray stones that had known the glory of Solomon——

—Under the ancient walls where the prophets walked and talked with God—

—Black horsemen from Nubia—

——Celts from Britain, Helvetian mountainers, Thracians of the Black Sea——warriors from every corner of the Empire——

——Clanking, grim and relentless, the conquerors.

"Ho! Gratus! Roman dog! Jehovah smite you!"

"Bray a welcome, Bombo—to your brother Gratus!"

"There rides Messala! Caesar himself is not more kingly!"

"God has spoken! Down with the Romans!"

"His was the hand that did it—I saw him throw the tile!"

"No! No, Messala! It is not true! You know it is not true!"

"Take the women, too!"

"In the name of the mother that bore you, Messala! Double your vengeance on me but let them go free!"

"Oh, Lord, in the hour of thy vengeance——mine be the hand to put it on him!"

The way of death—across the burning wastes to the sea——

—Sentenced to the galleys for life.

A carpenter shop—by the side of the Nazareth road.

The carpenter had a son—

"Water! Water!"

"My torment is more than I can bear! Is there no God left in Israel?"

"I am strengthened, O Lord, and I will live—live to fight for the King when he comes!"

And so, for the first time, Judah and the Son of Mary met—and parted.

The vengeful arm of Rome had reached forth to Simonides—

"Speak dog! Where are the Hur moneys hidden? Gratus will have them if he cracks every bone in your stubborn skin!"

Then for a time the name of Hur was forgotten. Roman legions tramped the land and Roman galleys swept the seas—

—Stately and beautiful; but under the beauty, deep-locked in the heart of each ship, a hell of human woe

"He is dead! But still they lash—and lash—and lash!"

The Tribune, Quintus Arrius, commander of the fleet—

"Merciful gods! I can bear no more! Give me the boon of death!"

"Pray not for death, you coward, while your enemies live! Pray for life!"

"A galley slave wanting to live! How long have you been at the oars?"

"In your calendar, three years——in mine, three centuries!"

"What has kept you alive?"

"I live for revenge!"

"Spoken like a Roman!"

"I am a Jew!"

"Pirates!"

"They outnumber us two to one!"

"Clear the decks! Take stations for battle!"

"Chain the slaves!"

"Unshackle that slave! He has a freeman's spirit!"

"Full speed, Hortator! Drive your slaves!"

"Romans!"

"I am Golthar—Golthar the terrible! What have I to fear from Rome?"

"By Zeus! From Rome I captured you! To Rome I will return you——in my own fashion!"

On they came, ship after ship, battering the Romans with their deadly rams—

Grimly the Romans fought, but where one pirate fell, two sprang to take his place——

"Death to Arrius!"

Two days later—on a sullen sea.

"Romans! You are saved!"

"I am defeated and disgraced! I cannot face the scorn of my countrymen!"

"Take this ring—it will buy your freedom—but let me settle my own fate."

"I owe you my life! I cannot let you die!"

"Jupiter be praised! It is Quintus Arrius! Our search is ended!"

"——It was your final order turned the battle. Never has there been a more glorious victory."

"The slave! What shall be done with him?"

"This is no slave, my friends, but my adopted son. Honor him as you honor me!"

Time passed and Arrius' adopted son——strength and endurance galley-hardened—became the greatest athlete of his day, the idol of Rome.

But Rome knew naught of the secret grief that tore Ben-Hur—of the mother and sister whom he has searched long and fruitlessly——

"Noble Arrius, Caesar sends this tribute to your son for having three times driven his chariot to victory in the races."

"Forgive me, my father—I must leave you again. This day I learned of a mysterious miser at Antioch, said to be Simonides, once steward to Hur."

"But must you go yourself this time? Let me send messengers—"

"No messengers can serve my haste. I myself must go to Antioch by the first ship."

"I can deny you nothing, my son. Go if you must—with my blessing!"

While in the maze of Roman dungeons underneath Jerusalem—

Two prisoners——long forgotten by their jailers.

In the land of Israel never-ending oppression——but still they hoped. By the Pool of Siloam they talked of a strange man——

"He is not the promised King, this Nazarene! He is a preacher of parables and sermons!"

"—Where are his armies? Think you he can scatter the Romans with words—and prayers?"

"He speaks not of war and strife, but of comfort to the weary and relief for the oppressed. I have heard him——"

MATTHEW:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

"His sword is truth and his shield is love. He needs no armies!"

Antioch! The Rome of the East! Colorful, pagan, famed for its games.

On the outskirts of the city the Sheik Ilderim, known throughout the East for his fiery racing Arabs, had pitched his tents——

"He should drive goats—not horses!"

"Curse him! Tomorrow the races and he has killed himself. Was ever such a fool!"

Now there was one in the heart of the city, body broken by Roman torture, who cared nothing for Roman games——

—A merchant prince known as the Miser of Antioch.

"A Roman—Arrius the Younger, would speak with you."

"I crave your pardon—"

"My father will not keep you waiting long. I pray you be seated."

"Surely we are not strangers—have we not met before?"

"To forget so easily is scarce a tribute to me!"

"—Your face I never could forget. It is the time and place have slipped me."

"I am told you are Simonides——once steward to the House of Hur."

"And what concern is that of yours? Who are you to question me?"

"I am Judah, Ben-Hur!"

"Know you not that Ben-Hur died in the galleys, a galley-slave—and that he was the last of the Hurs?"

"What to you mean? Speak! My mother and sister——"

"The women of Hur are dead! Years of fruitless search have convinced me."

"No! No! It is not true! If you are concerned for your riches, keep them—but give me hope!"

"The family of Hur is no more!"

"My mother's!"

"She gave it to me. With her own hands she slipped it on my arm. I—I loved her—"

"Wear it always—for her sake."

"My friend, where is this young Arrius who landed from your ship this morning? I must find him!"

"I would all your wishes were as easy to grant. Here is young Arrius himself!"

"The great race is on tomorrow and I am without a driver. You must drive my Arabs for me!"

"But you must! Ask anything! I am the great Sheik Ilderim and I can grant it. Think of the glory!"

"Persuade him, my friend, or Messala the Roman will humble me before all Antioch."

"Said you Messala?"

"I will drive your chariot!"

"Not as Arrius the Roman, racing for glory—but as the unknown, driving for revenge!"

"Come, then, for time does not loiter and we have much to do!"

"For your belief in me I do thank you."

"Why are you so certain, my father, that he is not Ben-Hur?"

"Nay, child, I had never a doubt. He is Ben-Hur!"

"Esther, all these years I have lived a lie. I am a slave to the House of Hur!"

"For myself I care not, but if I acknowledge him, you too are his slave!"

"Yours the decision, Esther. I cannot make it. Heiress to Simonides the Merchant or slave-girl to Ben-Hur!"

Across the river in the wealthy Roman quarter dwelt Messala—a Messala unchanged by the years.

"Iras the Egyptian awaits you."

"I must leave you, my friends. Duty calls and a soldier must obey."

"Egypt! Egypt! I would drown my soul in your eyes! Give me proof of your love!"

"My heart is in the hollow of my hand, Messala. What more do you wish?"

"You, flower of the Nile, will succeed where others have failed——solve the mystery of Ilderim's driver. I would know if he needs watching——"

At the end of the day's training Sheik Ilderim made ready to entertain a guest——

"By the three-horned goat or Ranor, you are welcome!"

"Even Iras the Egyptian, whom all men worship, has sought you out!"

"Flashing eyes and milk-white bodies! Beauty to be tamed! Does it not thrill you?"

"Tomorrow Messala shall choke in the dust from their heels!"

"Curiosity consumes me! Why do you race as the Unknown Jew? Is is because you fear another driver?"

"Get you to there fat-bellied Romans, Sanballat. Tease them, bully them, but—force them to bet!"

"Almost I am convinced you are Apollo himself. Tell me who you are?"

"If you are as slow in the race tomorrow as you are in love today, Messala may drive snails and win."

"Simonides the Merchant."

"I am come to make restitution to your guest——he is the Lord Judah, Prince of Hur! My master!"

"Give not your gratitude to me, but to my gentle Esther who counseled me."

"This the accounting of all your possessions——you are the richest subject in the world!"

"Your father's slave was I, Lord Judah—"

"This driver of Ilderim's is strangely confident and I have but now learned his name. He is Judah, Prince of Hur!"

"Calm your foolish fears! The man is an impostor. Judah, Ben-Hur has been dead these many years!"

On the morrow—While the populace pushed and fought its way into the Circus, there were those who lingered for a final wager in the betting ring——

"Give me odds against the Unknown Jew, noble Messala! Six to one—the difference between a Roman and a Jew!"

"You braying fool! Who has ten thousand pieces of gold to wager?"

"The Unknown Jew, Messala! I have that amount and more! And I wand no odds!"

"Scum of the galleys! I will grind you in the dust before all Antioch!"

"Ho! Romans! Saw you ever a Jew in a chariot?"

"I will ride you down——wrench off your wheels—trample you into the sand! You shall race—to your death!"

"Fifty thousand pieces of gold! A King's ransom, Messala! More than your entire fortune!"

"Do you forget that you are a Roman—and than I am only a Jew?"

"Vile slave! By all the furies of Hell I curse you!"

"So be it! To the death! But one of us shall leave the course alive!"

Still they came—all of Antioch, thousands upon thousands——to see the great race.

"You're fouling me, Roman dog!

"Yes, and I'll wreck you, Greek, to smash the cursed Jew behind you!"

To the victor the spoils——

"Your health Ben-Hur! You have broken Messala and stripped him of his fortune!"

"I am revenged indeed, but to what profit! My mother and Tirzah are dead! Can gold restore them to me—"

"—Or strike the Roman shackles from my people? What have I to live for?"

"Hail Ilderim! The time is come. You shall see the downfall of Rome!"

"Well said, O Balthazar, Wise Man of Egypt! And welcome—my tent is honored!"

"I bring a grave message. The Holy Child of Bethlehem whose star I followed is grown to manhood. He is the promised Messiah."

"At last a King to free my people!"

"He alone can save the world from the bondage of Rome!"

"But there is not time to lose! His followers must act in all haste! We must proclaim him King!"

"This my pledge! Money and lands and life itself! Even unto death will I follow him!"

"This very hour will I leave Antioch——to gather him legions!"

"Mark you, Simonides—everything I possess to the cause of the King!"

"Better than life itself do I love you! But not until the King comes into his own may I dream of you again!"

"The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another."

"And I will wait for you, Judah—as long as life shall last."

JOHN:

"He that is without sin among you; let him first cast a stone at her."

From among the humble fishermen by the Sea of Galilee Ben-Hur gathered his first legion—

In Ilderim's desert country——the second legion.

JOHN:
On the next day, much people when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him.

A new governor, Pontius Pilate, had come to Jerusalem and his first act was to order the release of all prisoners whose crimes were unrecorded.

"Unclean! Unclean!"

"Lepers!"

"Mark you! Before dawn be outside the city walls—in the Valley of the Lepers."

"Lepers! Lepers!"

MATTHEW:
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve——

JOHN:

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another."

And in that same hour Ben-Hur, saddle-weary and travel-worn, came again to the city of his fathers——

"Get you immediate news of the Nazarene from his followers. I go to my father's house to wait for Simonides."

"Mother!"

"Not a sound! He belongs to the living—we to the dead!"

"In all the world I have no one left but you, beloved."

"They have seized the King! The mob howls——only the legions can save him!"

"O Judah! O my son! I have seen you for the last time on earth!"

"Back! Back! Come no nearer! Unclean! Unclean!"

"But your voices I know—Tirzah—"

"Grieve nor for us, Esther, but keep our secret. If Judah knew it would wreck his life!"

"If you love him—promise!"

MATTHEW:
And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate, the governor.

SPQR

In the streets the motley crowds grew more turbulent—

"This is no King! Where is his purple? Where his crown?"

"But I know he is the King——the Savior promised by Jehovah! I myself has seen him heal the sick and raise the dead!"

"Think you he can heal anyone——of any sickness?"

"Anyone, gentle Esther, who believes in him. But you must have faith!"

Into the Valley of the Lepers—chancing all—with a hope born of desperation.

"Nay, you must come! He can save you! All Jerusalem is ringing with his miracles!"

"He has even raised the dead!"

And so Pilate delivered Jesus to the mob.

SENATUS[-POPULUSQUE…]

In the thousands that looked on—Romans Jews, Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, Easterners. It seemed the whole world wad represented along that tragic way.

"O King, two legions of fighting men are coming! Each blow to you will be avenged a thousandfold!"

And a voice came to him saying:

"My Kingdom is not of this world. Put up thy sword, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."

"Master, my babe is dead. Give her back to me."

"Lepers! Lepers!"

"Master, have mercy on us! We believe!"

LUKE:
And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

LUKE:

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

There was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.

—And the earth did quake.

And over the plains of Judea two mighty legions advanced.

"Our King is dead!"

"He bade us hold our peace——forgive our enemies——love one another—"

"—and pray."

"He is not dead——"

"—He will live forever in the hearts of men."

THE END

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.


The author died in 1948, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.