About Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ

Year Released:
Action/Adventure, Drama, Silent/Live Accompaniment
Based on the best-selling novel of the 1800s by Indiana Civil War General Lew Wallace, this epic silent film recounts the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a fictional Jewish prince, who is enslaved by the Romans and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Running in parallel with Judah’s narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus. This 1925 film adaptation is more faithful to Lew Wallace’s work than the 1959 film, and reflects themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion. Ben-Hur is the most expensive film of the silent era and extras in the film include such stars as John Barrymore, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Joan Crawford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford. Live accompaniment provided by pianist Rodney Sauer. Preceding the film will be a preview of the new documentary Lew Wallace: Shiloh Soldier/Ben-Hur Bard, premiering in late 2015 on WTIU. This screening is sponsored by WTIU. (35mm Presentation)

Rodney Sauer Rodney Sauer studied at the Oberlin Conservatory while majoring in chemistry at Oberlin College and has made a career in performing and recording dance and film music. He has researched historic practices of silent film orchestras, and his article on the history and use of “photoplay music” was published in the American Music Research Center Journal. While Sauer is best known for his work as director and score compiler for the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, a chamber quintet that revives the “library compilation” method used by silent film theater orchestras, he also improvises and composes music for silent films as a solo artist. With Mont Alto, Sauer has performed nationwide from Lincoln Center in Manhattan to Grauman’s Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, and he is a regular at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the Denver Silent Film Festival, and the Telluride Film Festival.

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