A Video Tour of the Souvenir Program from BEN-HUR (1925) with Musical Accompaniment from the 1931 Reissue

MGM spared no expense in producing its massive silent film version of BEN-HUR and, frankly, the story behind the making of this film is a great tale in its own right. Filming began in Italy with different actors in the lead roles, except for Francis X. Bushman playing the villain Messala. He remained in the role despite everybody else being replaced including the director. All told, Bushman worked on the film for about two years!

Constant labor strikes in Italy created huge cost overruns, so the studio decided to shut down filming, scrap most of the Italian footage, and start over again in Hollywood. It turned out to be a wise move. The massive production was eventually completed and had its astounding premiere in December 1925. It was a massive success following in the wake of the best-selling novel by Gen. Lew Wallace, and the ever-popular stage version that brought real horses onstage for the chariot race.

Without further ado, let’s enjoy a video tour of the original souvenir program from BEN-HUR‘s roadshow engagements. I added original color lobby cards and photos colorized by yours truly. To top it off, I added music from the soundtrack of the film’s reissue in 1931.

An original glass slide that was projected onto movie theater screens to promote BEN-HUR:

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