~Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ~
1925
~Cast~

Ramon Novarro ...  Judah Ben-Hur
Francis X. Bushman ...  Messala
May McAvoy ...  Esther
Betty Bronson ...  Mary
Claire McDowell ...  Princess of Hur
Kathleen Key ...  Tirzah
Carmel Myers ...  Iras
Nigel De Brulier ...  Simonides
Mitchell Lewis ...  Sheik Ilderim
Leo White ...  Sanballat
Frank Currier ...  Quintus Arrius
Charles Belcher ...  Balthazar
Dale Fuller ...  Amrah
Winter Hall ...  Joseph
Reginald Barker ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
John Barrymore ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Lionel Barrymore ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Clarence Brown ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Gilbert Clayton ...  Extra (uncredited)
Gary Cooper ...  Extra (uncredited)
Joan Crawford ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Marion Davies ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
William Donovan ...  Extra (uncredited)
Ray Erlenborn ...  Extra (uncredited)
Douglas Fairbanks ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
George Fitzmaurice ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Sidney Franklin ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Clark Gable ...  Extra (uncredited)
Rosita Garcia ...  Hedonist (uncredited)
Janet Gaynor ...  Hedonist (uncredited)
John Gilbert ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Dorothy Gish ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Lillian Gish ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Samuel Goldwyn ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Harry Gordon ...  Centurion (uncredited)
Sid Grauman ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
William Green ...  Extra (uncredited)
Rupert Julian ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Henry King ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Harold Lloyd ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Carole Lombard ...  Hedonist (uncredited)
Myrna Loy ...  Hedonist (uncredited)
Cliff Lyons ...  Chariot Driver (uncredited)
Mickey Millerick ...  Extra (uncredited)
Carlotta Monti ...  Hedonist (uncredited)
Colleen Moore ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Claude Payton ...  Jesus (uncredited)
Mary Pickford ...  Crowd extra in chariot race (uncredited)
Leonora Summers ...  Extra (uncredited)
Tom Tyler ...  Chariot driver (uncredited)
Christiane Yves ...  Hedonist (uncredited)
Sally Rand ... extra (uncredited)
Fay Wray ... Slave Girl (uncredited) (unconfirmed)
~Plot Synopsis~
Because Rome has decreed that each man in the empire must be counted by returning to his birth place,
Joseph of Nazareth and his wife Mary, who is about to give birth, try to reach Bethlehem by nightfall.
Meanwhile, from the south, three wise men travel north on a holy quest. When Joseph and Mary reach
Bethlehem, they cannot find rooms and are forced to stay in a cave. During the night, the wise men see a
bright star in the heavens and are guided to the cave where Mary has given birth. The wise men and
shepherds hail the baby as the king foretold in the prophesies. As the years pass and Roman oppression
against the Jews increases, it is keenly felt in the princely household of Hur. Fearing for her family's
wealth, Princess Miriam, a widow, entrusts her loyal steward, the slave Simonides with hiding their
money. Miriam’s son, Judah Ben-Hur, is attracted to gentle Simonides' daughter Esther, but she must
leave with her father. That same day, Judah renews his boyhood friendship with Messala, a Roman
officer who has returned to Jerusalem after a long absence. As the two men talk, Judah realizes that
Messala has changed and is no longer an understanding friend but an oppressor who wants Judah to
forget he is a Jew. Knowing that their friendship is now impossible, the men part. That afternoon, during
a parade to welcome Gratus, the new commander of Jerusalem, Judah, Miriam and Judah’s sister Tirzah
watch the procession from their balcony. As the procession passes, Judah accidentally loosens a tile that
falls onto Gratus’ head, knocking him unconscious. Roman soldiers, headed by Messala, rush into the
house and seize the family. Although Messala knows that the incident was an accident, Judah is
sentenced to life as a galley slave and not told the fate of Miriam and Tirzah. Forced to walk with other
prisoners across the desert to the sea, Judah is dragged through Nazareth, where his increasing thirst
drives him to ask if there is no God in Israel. A moment later, Judah is given water by a young Nazarene
carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, and resolves to live and fight for the king foretold in the
prophesies. In Jerusalem, Simonides is viciously tortured by Gratus’ men, but refuses to reveal where he
has hidden the Hur money. Some years later, Judah is one of hundreds of men forced to row Roman
ships. One day, Quintas Arrius, the new fleet commander, goes below decks and is impressed by Judah’s
strength and will. Later, during a battle with pirates, the slaves are shackled to their positions, except
for Judah, who Arrius says has the spirit of a free man. During the battle, the ship is rammed and the
Romans are seemingly defeated. When Judah escapes from below decks, he sees Arrius in hand-to-hand
combat and rescues him as the ship is sinking. Judah and Arrius are adrift at sea for two days when a
Roman ship rescues them. Certain that his defeat has disgraced him, Arrius decides to kill himself but
first gives Judah his ring to buy his freedom. Judah stops Arrius from killing himself and when they
board the Roman ship, they learn that the battle was won. Judah fears returning to the ship’s hole, until
Arrius announces that Judah is his adopted son. Within a few years, Judah, now known as Arrius the
Younger, is hailed as the greatest athlete in Rome for his victories in the chariot arena. Although he
loves his adoptive father, his heart yearns to return to Jerusalem and learn the fate of Miriam and
Tirzah. When Judah learns about a mysterious miser in Antioch who is presumed to be Simonides, he
reluctantly leaves Arrius and travels to Antioch. Unknown to Judah, his mother and sister have
languished in a Roman dungeon in Jerusalem, isolated form other prisoners and forgotten by their
jailers. At the same time, people throughout Israel talk of the Nazarene who preaches love and
understanding. In Antioch, Judah goes to Simonides’ house to reveal his true identity, but Simonides
refuses to acknowledge him, saying that Judah, like his mother and sister is dead. Esther, though,
recognizes Judah and gives him a bracelet that Miriam had once given to her. A few moments later,
Sheik Ilderim, an Arab who races chariot teams, asks Judah to drive his team in a great race to be held
the next day in Antioch's great Circus. Although initially uninterested, when Ilderim says that Messala is
favored to win the race, Judah agrees, on condition that he race as an unknown Jew. After Judah leaves,
Simonides reveals to Esther that although he recognized Judah he was afraid to acknowledge him
because she, like himself, would be Judah’s slave. When word of the race spreads, Messala asks his
mistress, the Egyptian Iras, to solve the mystery of the unknown Jew. She then goes to Ilderim’s
encampment to seduce Judah, who is tempted by her but does not reveal his identity. Later, Simonides
and Esther arrive and acknowledge him and their servitude. Simonides gives him an accounting of the
Hur fortune, which he has multiplied, making Judah the wealthiest man in the world. Iras overhears this
and goes to Messala to tell him everything, but Messala laughs, saying that Judah is dead. The next day,
the Circus is filled with those eager to bet against the unknown Jew. While Ilderim is trying to arrange a
large wager with Messala, Judah presents himself. Messala is shocked but takes the wager and vows
that only one of them will leave the course alive. In the race, Messala’s ruthless pursuit of Judah causes
many accidents, but despite his attempts to wreck Judah’s chariot, his efforts turn against himself and he
is mortally injured. After winning the race, Judah has countless riches but cannot rejoice because his
mother and sister are dead and the Jews are still enslaved by Rome. When Balthazar, one of the wise
men and a friend of Ilderim, reveals that the child from Bethlehem, now called the Nazarene, is the king
who will free the Jews, Judah becomes inspired and determines to use all his resources to aid him.
While Judah raises an army near Antioch, in Jerusalem, the Nazarene preaches words of love,
forgiveness and peace, inspiring thousands of followers. When Pontius Pilot is appointed the new
governor of Jerusalem, he decrees that all prisoners whose crimes have not been recorded should be
released. Miriam and Tirzah are freed by a jailor, but because the women now have leprosy, they are
ordered to the valley of the lepers outside the city. That night, Judah returns to Jerusalem, goes to his
deserted house and falls asleep outside the doors just before Miriam and Tirzah arrive. When Judah
whispers “Mother” in his sleep, the women see him but do not awaken him, knowing that they are
“unclean.” Miriam and Tirzah depart without saying anything, and when Judah awakens, Simonides and
Esther arrive. As an old family servant lets them into the house, a horseman rides up to announce that
they have seized the Nazarene. When Judah then rides off, Miriam, who has hidden nearby, yells out in
despair, attracting Esther’s attention. Miriam will not allow Esther to embrace her and begs her to keep
her secret from Judah. Now the Nazarene comes before Pilot as the crowds begin to turn on the man
they once hailed as a king. When a servant tells Esther that the Nazarene can heal the sick if they have
faith, she rushes to the valley of the lepers and convinces Tirzah and Miriam to come back to Jerusalem.
As the Nazarene goes through the streets carrying the cross on which he will be crucified, Judah
approaches to tell him that he has legions waiting outside the city, but the Nazarene says his kingdom is
not of this world. Touched, Judah drops his sword. As the Nazarene continues, he brings a dead child
back to life and cures Miriam and Tirzah. Judah sees this and is tearfully reunited with his mother and
sister. After the Nazarene is crucified, Judah, Miriam, Tirzah, Esther and Simonides are together,
content that the message of the Nazarene will live forever.   

Plot Synopsis from afi.com
Directed by:
Fred Niblo    
Charles Brabin
Christy Cabanne  
J.J. Cohn  
Rex Ingram

Written by:
Lew Wallace - novel
June Mathis - adaptation
Carey Wilson - scenario
Carey Wilson - continuity  
Bess Meredyth - continuity
Katherine Hilliker - titles  
H.H. Caldwell - titles
~Remaining Credits~

Produced & Released by: MGM

Produced by: J.J. Cohn, Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer & Irving Thalberg  
Cinematography by: Glenn Kershner
Photographed by: Clyde De Vinna, René Guissart, Percy Hilburn & Karl Struss
Film Editing by: Lloyd Nosler  
Casting by: Robert McIntyre
Art Direction by: Horace Jackson & Harry Oliver  
Set Direction: Edwin B. Willis
Settings: Cedric Gibbons & Horace Jackson  
Body Makeup Artist: Max Factor
Makeup Artisit: George Westmore  
Production Managers: Harry E. Edington, Dave Friedman & Lawrence Marston  
Assistant Directors: Charles Stallings, Silas Clegg, B. Reeves Eason, Henry Hathaway & William Wyler
Art Effects: Ferdinand P. Earle
Plasterer: Carl Bolzic
Assistant Art Director: Ferdinand P. Earle
Set Designers: A. Arnold Gillespie & Harold Grieve
Set Constructor: Andrew MacDonald
Art Director, Italy: Camillo Mastrocinque
Painter: E.H. Tate
Construction Coordinator: C.F. Wilhelm  
Special Effects: A. Arnold Gillespie
Trick Photography: Paul Eagler
Visual Effects: Ferdinand P. Earle
Miniatures: Kenneth Gordon MacLean
Traveling Matte Shots: Frank D. Williams   
Stunt Coordinator: B. Reeves Eason
Stunt Double for Ramon Novarro: Buster Gallagher
Stunt Performer: Frank McGrath
Stunts: Mickey Millerick, David Sharpe, Spike Spackman & Tom Tyler  
Camera Operators: Silvano Balboni, John W. Boyle, George Meehan & E. Burton Steene
Camera Operator, Second Unit: George Gordon Nogle
Still Photographers: Edoardo Bragaglia (Rome), Clarence Sinclair Bull, Donald Biddle Keyes & Ruth
Harriet Louise
Director of Photography, second unit: Paul Ivano
Chief Electrician: Louis Kolb  
Additional Photographer: D.W. Martinelli  
Assistant Camera: Cliff Shirpser
Wardrobe Supervisor: Mrs. E.F. Chaffin
Costumes: Erté & Carmel Myers
Assistant Editors: Renata Bernabei, Irene Coletta, William Holmes, Ben Lewis, Harry Reynolds. Aubrey
Scotto & Basil Wrangell  
Producers: Charles B. Dillingham, Abraham L. Erlanger & Florenz Ziegfeld,
Directorial Associates: B. Reeves Eason & Alfred Raboch
Technical Advisor: Colonel Braden
Director of Nativity Scene: Ferdinand P. Earle
Assistants for Mr. Eason: Henry Hathaway & William Wyler
Publicist for Mr. Novarro: Herbert Howe
Script Reader: Mrs. M.F. Lee
Laboratory Supervisor: John M. Nickolaus
Set Medic: Emma Peterson
Copyists: Miss Remington & Miss Underwood

Length: 12 Reels
Runtime: 151 Minutes
Released: October 8, 1927
~Sold at the Debbie
Reynolds auction on June
18, 2011~

Francis X. Bushman
"Messala" historic winged
charioteer helmet from the
1925 Ben-Hur: A Tale of the
Christ. (MGM - 1925).
Historic Brass charioteer
winged helmet with tan
leather insert. Sold for
$30,000.00.

Photograph by Kay
Shackleton