Best Picture Winners Part 32 (of 87): Ben-Hur

ben hur

Title: Ben Hur
Year: 1959
Starring: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet
Runtime: 3 hr 42 mins

What It Is: The epic story of Judah Ben-Hur’s (Heston) arrest by his childhood friend (and Roman tribune) Messala (Stephen Boyd) who also imprisons Judah’s mother and sister as well. During his captivity he spends three years aboard a Romans battleship rowing an oar. After the ship capsizes he saves the live of Roman diplomat Quintus Arrius. So impressed is he by Judah that he eventually adopts him as his son and helps Judah return to Judea to seek the vengeance he promised Messala. From there the scene shifts to a breaktaking 11 minute chariot race sequence.

Memorable Quote: Judah Ben-Hur: [after he is sentenced to the galleys] May God grant me vengeance! I will pray that you live until I return!

Competition: Heavy hitting. It’s a testament to how good Ben-Hur is as a film that it won 11 Academy Awards (breaking the previous record of 9) including the biggest honor of the night. Absolutely wonderful films like Anatomy of a Murder which sees Jimmy Stewart shine in Otto Peminger’s noir classic about an Army lieutenant accused of murdering a bartender out of revenge. Room at the Top has Simone Signoret leading the film with her Best Actress Oscar win. In this she portrays Alice Aisgill a naive woman in love with the wrong man. George Stevens directs The Diary of Anne Frank and in the autobiographical drama about the Dutch Jewish girl who hides from the Nazis during WWII truly brings the claustrophobia of that to audiences everywhere. Shelley Winters took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar here  as well. Lastly A Nun’s Story is a Fred Zinnemann directed tales starring Audrey Hepburn. Within the film we get a strong  performance from Audrey as Sister Luke a nun whose already been threatened, quite literally, with violence on the daily in the harsh Belgian Congo. Overall I’d say this is the weakest of the film that received a nomination. Likewise no nomination for Best Picture nomination for Some Like It Hot which is a huge blunder for my money!

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