The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano (LOR) published several articles in its November 17 edition which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the movie “Ben Hur.” The film, which was released on November 18, 1959 and starred Charlton Heston, became the first movie to receive 11 Oscar awards.
In an article entitled, “Hollywood in Rome For A Christian Story,” LOR explained that the movie was filmed in the studios of Cinecitta by director William Wyler, who created a screenplay free of much of the heaviness of the original novel written in 1880 by Lew Wallace.
Ben Hur demonstrates Wyler’s ability to balance the storyline with the personal struggles of the characters. Many of the film’s scenes, including Ben Hur’s conversion to Christianity, were contextually unusual in a movie of this magnitude. LOR said the film would also be remembered for its use of the most advanced special effects of the day.
The Vatican daily also noted that the book by Lew Wallace “was a world-wide best-seller for many years and earned the author a level of fame enjoyed by very few writers.”
“The reader enjoys a particular treasure from the very first pages of the novel which are dedicated to the encounter between the Magi,” LOR underscored, adding that the reader is effortlessly transported to a time and place of long ago. Thus Wallace not only lays the groundwork for the modern historical novel, but surprisingly also delves into cultural anthropology,” the article said.
LOR also praised the film’s star Charlton Heston, who was married for 64 years, “a record for Hollywood,” to Lydia Marie Clarke, with whom he had two children, Fraser and Holly.
Their marital love led actors like Kirk Douglas to say, “Neither Ava Gardner or Sophia Loren distracted him. He only had eyes for Lydia.”