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The Real Story of Ben-Hur's 'Tale of the Christ'

For many, watching the movie "Ben-Hur" has become an Easter tradition. But what many may not know is that Hollywood didn't create this classic story. Read Transcript


THE 1959 BLOCKBUSTER

"BEN-HUR" MADE HISTORY WITH

A RECORD 11 ACADEMY AWARDS.

AND THE 1925 VERSION IS

MAKING A COMEBACK.

WHAT MANY MAY NOT KNOW,

HOWEVER, IS THAT HOLLYWOOD

DIDN'T CREATE THIS CLASSIC

STORY.

THE IDEA CAME FROM THE

BEST-SELLING NOVEL

"BEN-HUR," A TALE OF THE

CHRIST, PUBLISHED IN 1880.

THE BOOK TELLS THE STORY OF

A LIFE-ALTERING ENCOUNTER

BETWEEN A FIRST CENTURY

JEWISH PRINCE AND JESUS OF

NAZARETH.

THE AUTHOR BEHIND "BEN-HUR"

IS LEW WALLACE, A TRUE

RENAISSANCE MAN.

HE LOVED TO PAINT, HE

LOVED TO WRITE, HE LOVED TO

DO CREATIVE THINGS.

HE LOVED THE MILITARY.

HE BECAME A PROSECUTING

ATTORNEY.

HE WAS IN THE LEGISLATURE

FOR A TERM.

Reporter: WALLACE

SHOWED A TALENT FOR WRITING

EARLY IN LIFE.

HE LEARNED ABOUT THE BIBLE

WHILE AT BOARDING SCHOOL.

WHILE HE DIDN'T CARE FOR

CHURCH, THE STORY OF THE

THREE WISEMEN FASCINATED

HIM.

LITTLE DID I DREAM THEN

WHAT THOSE FEW VERSES WERE

TO BRING ME, THAT OUT OF

THEM, "BEN-HUR" WAS ONE DAY

TO BE EVOKED.

Wendy: WALLACE'S

WRITING TOOK A BACK SEAT TO

OTHER PRIORITIES.

HE FOUGHT IN THE

MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR, AND HE

ALSO MARRIED AND HAD A SON.

THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, HE

KEPT COMING BACK TO THE

BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF THE

THREE WISEMEN.

SO HE DECIDED TO WRITE A

MAGAZINE ARTICLE ABOUT

THEM.

I HAD NO CONVICTIONS

ABOUT GOD OR CHRIST.

I NEITHER BELIEVED NOS NOR

DISBELIEVED IN THEM.

BUT I FOUND MYSELF WRITING

WITH AWE.

Wendy: STILL, WALLACE

HAD MUCH TO LEARN ABOUT GOD,

AS HE FOUND OUT IN A CHANCE

ENCOUNTER WITH A WELL-KNOWN

ATHEIST NAMED ROBERT

ENGERSOL.

ROBERT ENGERSOL KNEW FAR

MORE ABOUT THE BIBLE.

YOU DON'T PREACH AGAINST

SOMETHING UNLESS YOU KNOW

IT.

SO HE KIND OF FILETED LEW.

MY IGNORANCE OF IT WAS

PAINFULLY A SPOT OF DEEPER

DARKNESS IN THE DARKNESS.

I WAS ASHAMED OF MYSELF.

HE REALIZED AT THAT POINT

I HAVE NO BUSINESS

SUBMITTING THIS STORY FOR

PUBLICATION.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WAS

TALKING ABOUT.

I NEED TO DO THE RESEARCH.

I NEED TO LEARN THE BIBLE.

I NEED TO LEARN THE STORY.

Wendy: EARLY IN HIS

RESEARCH, WALLACE CREATED

THE FICTIONAL CHARACTER OF

JUDAH BEN HUR.

TELLING HOW HE WITNESSED THE

REAL LIFE EVENTS, LEADING UP

TO THE DEATH AND

RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.

WALLACE SOON BEGAN TO SEE

GOD THROUGH THE EYES OF HIS

CHARACTER.

LONG BEFORE I WAS THROUGH

WITH MY BOOK, I BECAME A

BELIEVER IN GOD AND CHRIST.

THIS IS THE ORIGINAL

MANUSCRIPT OF "BEN-HUR," A

TALE OF THE CHRIST.

650 PAGES, HANDWRITTEN IN

PURPLE INK.

WHEN LEW WALLACE DELIVERED

THIS TO HARPER AND BROTHERS

BACK IN 1880, THEY HAD NO

IDEA IT WAS ABOUT TO MAKE

PUBLISHING HISTORY.

THE BOOK BECAME THE

BEST-SELLING NOVEL OF THE

19th CENTURY.

IT HAS NEVER BEEN OUT OF

PRINT.

WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DID BEN

HUR HAVE ON A POST-CIVIL WAR

COUNTRY?

IT JUST WAS THE RIGHT

BOOK AT THE RIGHT TIME.

PEOPLE WERE LOOKING FOR WAYS

TO RECONCILE, TO COME

TOGETHER.

THEY WERE EXPLORING, YOU

KNOW, HOW CAN THERE BE A GOD

THAT WOULD ALLOW A WAR TO

HAPPEN LIKE THIS.

Wendy: AFTER ITS

PUBLICATION, LETTERS FLOODED

IN, INCLUDING ONE FROM

PRESIDENT JAMES GARFIELD.

HE WROTE, "WITH THIS

BEAUTIFUL AND REVERENT BOOK,

YOU HAVE LIGHTENED THE

BURDENS OF MY DAILY LIFE."

WALLACE DID MOST OF HIS

WRITING UNDER WHAT CAME TO

BE KNOWN AS THE WALLACE

BEECH TREE.

ITS SPREADING BRANCHES

DROOPED TO THE GROUND, AND

UNDER THEM I AM SHUT IN AS

BY THE WALLS OF A TOWERING

GREEN TENT.

Wendy: THAT FAMOUS

WALLACE BEECH TREE IS NO

LONGER HERE.

IT ACTUALLY DIED SHORTLY

AFTER WALLACE DID, AND WAS

REPLACED BY THIS BRONZE

STATUE, BEHIND ME.

RIGHT OVER HERE IS A

BUILDING WALLACE DREAMED

ABOUT FOR DECADES, BUT NEVER

HAD THE RESOURCES TO BUILD

UNTIL THE SUCCESS OF BEN

HUR.

LEW BUILT THIS AS HIS

PRIVATE RESTREET.

Wendy: WALLACE DESIGNED

THIS 19th CENTURY MAN

CAVE, WHERE HE SPENT HIS

GOLDEN YEARS, WRITING EVERY

DAY UNTIL HIS DEATH IN

1905.

HIS GRAVE MARKER IS

INSCRIBED WITH A QUOTE BY

BEN HUR.

I WOULD NOT GIVE ONE HOUR

OF LIFE AS A SOUL FOR A

THOUSAND YEARS OFç LIFE AS A

MAN.

EMBED THIS VIDEO


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