Friday, 7 November 2008

Chariots of Fire

It has just been announced that next year, the O2 Arena [aka Millennium Dome] will be hosting the World Premier of a new performance of Ben Hur, with a cast of 400 actors and 100 animals - including live chariot races! benhur This is to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1959 film which starred Charlton Heston.

This was the 4th film version of the book - and it won 11 Academy Oscars [a record equalled, but not beaten, by Titanic and Lord of the Rings III]

When I first read the story of the writing of the original book, it fascinated me, but such details conveniently gets overlooked by the secular media. This novel was written by Lew Wallace, a former Civil War General. His wife, Susan Arnold Elston, was already a published writer, and had produced a number of works, mostly on Christian subjects, and some of these for children. Her husband was apparently rather anti her beliefs, and declared that he was going to write a novel which would disprove Christianity once and for all.

The story goes that whenever he disappeared to his study to work on the novel, his wife gathered her friends in the parlour for a prayer meeting. As he struggled to write, Wallace was convicted of the reality of the gospel, and fell on his knees, crying "My Lord and My God!" - he went out to the women, and declared "It is all true!"

charlton heston The book he went on to write was "Ben-Hur, A Tale of the Christ" which is the story of a man who encountered Jesus in first century Palestine. The book became the best selling novel of the 19th Century.

However I am not sure that Lew and Susan would altogether have approved of some of the changes. The original film lasted four hours - this show will only take two. According to The Times today, "Franz Abraham, the new show’s German producer, promises to create all the excitement of the film in half the time and with jokes.

Audiences attending the evening performances on September 15, 18 and 19, rather than the family matinees, will also see that the book’s rather prim orgy sequence (omitted from the 1959 film) has been fleshed out with considerable nudity and 'above the belt erotic scenes. . . which show more explicitly what happens in an orgy'."

I couldn't actually remember an orgy in the book - but sure enough, when I checked my copy, in part IV, chapter 10 ends with these words "There was a shout that set the floor to quaking, and the grim Atlantes to dancing, and the orgies began" And that's it!! Lew Wallace obviously felt that he didn't need to spell out to his readers what happens in an orgy - he had a much better story to tell.

The producer is reducing sixty-six chapters to a two hour production - but obviously feels that he needs to 'flesh out' one brief sentence on page 116 ['flesh out' is certainly what it is going to be!] I really don't want to turn into Mary Whitehouse - but is this really necessary?

I don't think I shall applying for a ticket! I may become even more pedantic than usual, and start referring to the book by its full title too - "Ben-Hur, A Tale of the Christ".

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