William Wyler directs Ben Hur


You often hear of film actors who don’t get on with the Film Director – that is not uncommon – but it is to me  the same scenario as football players and Managers. It can be a clash of personalities or just the coming together of two people who just will never get on.

Personally I am mostly on the side of the Directors and Managers

I am not suggesting that Charlton Heston did not get along with Director William Wyler although he is quoted in an article as saying ‘I have never known a Director who could keep his mind open longer on a scene’

It seems that after around ten takes William Wyler would  say ‘ Y’know, I’m damned if this is the right way to do this after all. I now have a different idea’


William Wyler Ben Hur 3


William Wyler Ben Hur


However to film something on the scale of the chariot race in Ben Hur must have been a big task – to bring those actors and crew and horses together on such a large set and to know what you wanted the camera to show on screen, must have been so demanding. 

We see William Wyler ABOVE crouching down looking through the viewfinder of that enormous Camer 65 and trying to cut the fim together in his head.  To me that is impressive.


Ben Hur 3


Ben Hur 4

Ben Hur 2


When I first saw the two top pictures, it became obvious that to get the scale on the long shots, there had to be Matte Paintings for the top of the  buildings. We see on  the bottom colour shot the tops of the buildings plus the mountains behind as a matte painting

There were some wonderful examples of this clever technique  in Ben Hur

I personally remember those done by the Matte genius Peter Ellenshaw for The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men in 1952


William Wyler Ben Hur 2

William Wyler just seems to be having a bad day here.  Still the end result was extremely successful.

There are many classic moments in Ben Hur during it’s three-hour-and-half hours .

Scenes in the desert or in  the galleys, the big fight and Ben-Hur rescuing Arrius (Jack Hawkins) and it goes on and on.

I think that, after the chariot race, the film seems to go on a little too long – maybe that is because a film of this quality and scale can’t be brought to a hurried ending.

Charlton Heston, in his greatest role, contributed a lot to the appeal of the film.

However it is the Director William Wyler who, with a film budget of 15.9 million dollars brought in a film that grossed 196.2 million dollars worldwide – in those days – although to be fair,  it certainly would have been a team effort – and a very big team at that !!!


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