Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ

Lew Wallace (novel)
Fred Niblo (director)
June Mathis (screenwriter)
Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy (starring)

N.p. N.p., 1926-1927. Vintage photograph album containing 65 photographs compiled by cellist Carl Steppi between 1926 and 1927, documenting a tour with an orchestra in support of the 1925 film. A unique collection of vernacular photographs, many with manuscript captions in English and German. Steppi is identified in contemporary newspaper articles as having been a cellist for the St. Louis Symphony in the early 1920s.

The tour was apparently by rail, as the archive includes several photographs of the assembled musicians outside train cars and one photograph of the musicians in a passenger car. The dates of the tour are noted on the album's first blank leaf, captioned with "On the Road with the Picture 'Ben Hur' (Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation) / September 1926.” The album's last leaf bears a photograph of (presumably) Steppi's wife and child, captioned "Und endlich Kam die ersehnte Heimhehr! [And finally the longed-for Homecoming!] / Brooklyn, N.Y. / Back in: April 24, 1927.”

The many locations captioned in the photographs are: Illinois (Dixon, Rochelle, and Rock Island), Iowa (Anamosa, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Davenport, Des Moines, Grinnell, and Muskatine), Kansas (Wichita), Missouri (Kansas City and Hannibal), Ohio (Zanesville), Texas (Austin, Dallas, and Gainesville), and West Virginia (Charleston and Huntington), with Gainesville incorrectly noted as being in Oklahoma.

Jewish prince Ben-Hur is sent to prison at the behest of his childhood friend Messala as a result of a mishap during a Roman parade. Through sheer will, the prince endures prison and, once released, vows revenge on his childhood friend. The most expensive silent film made, with a budget of $3.9 million.

Shot on location in Italy and California.

Album: 10 x 6.75 inches, 30 pages. Very Good, with paper tape repairs to the front and rear partially detached wrappers, and with light chipping overall to the album leaves, with eight leaves detached.

Photographs: approximately 3 x 2 to 6 x 4 inches. Near Fine overall.

National Film Registry. Godard, Histoires de cinema.

[Book #160884]