When a Jewish prince, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), is betrayed by his boyhood friend, Messala, (Stephen Boyd), Consul of Caesar he is sent into slavery on a Roman ship. After three and a half years in chains, the once distinguished and respected Prince of Hur is known only by his rowing position in the galleys… XLI. Confronted by the newly appointed Supreme Commander of the Roman Fleet, Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins), Ben-Hur affirms the faithfulness of his God, only to be whipped, “Now listen to me, all of you,” Arrius decrees. “You are all condemned men. We keep you alive to serve this ship. So row well and live.”
But Providence moves purposefully in an ensuing sea battle and amid the destruction of the slave ship and certain naval defeat, oarsman XLI saves the life of the Admiral Arrius. Afloat for days, the Slave keeps the Master alive until the two are at last rescued by a Roman reconnaissance vessel. Aware of his fate as a conquered Commander, Arrius is stunned to learn the battle did not end in defeat but complete victory. He has been summoned by Caesar to be honored instead of executed. “Well, Forty-one…”, the redeemed Commander proclaims with wonder, “in his eagerness to save you, your god has saved the entire Roman Fleet.”
Arrius takes Ben-Hur with him to Rome and soon adopts him as his own son. His position and authority restored, the Son of Hur – now the Son of Arrius – returns to his homeland to face his nemisis, redeem his family and confront his destiny.
It began as a novel written in 1880 by Lew Wallace, an American General in the Civil War. It has since never been out of print. Through the years its reach continued to Broadway & beyond. Three screenplays were written & produced and with MGM’s film adaptation in 1959, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ”" became the most honored motion picture in the history of cinema with global acclamation including eleven Academy Awards.
For many the world over it is still the most inspiring story ever told.