Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ben-Hur Chariot Race - Urban legends - Videoclip

The chariot race in Ben-Hur was directed by Andrew Marton, a Hollywood director who often acted as second unit director on other people's films. Even by current standards, it is considered to be one of the most spectacular action sequences ever filmed. Filmed at Cinecittà Studios outside Rome long before the advent of computer-generated effects, it took over three months to complete, using 8000 extras on the largest film set ever built, some 18 acres (73,000 m2).

Eighteen chariots were built, with half being used for practice. The race took five weeks to film. Tour buses visited the set every hour.

The section in the middle of the circus, the spina, is a known feature of circi, although its size may be exaggerated to aid filmmaking. The golden dolphin lap counter was a feature of the Circus Maximus in Rome.

Charlton Heston spent four weeks learning how to drive a chariot. He was taught by the stunt crew, who offered to teach the entire cast, but Heston and Boyd were the only ones who took them up on the offer (Boyd had to learn in just two weeks, due to his late casting). At the beginning of the chariot race, Heston shook the reins and nothing happened; the horses remained motionless. Finally someone way up on top of the set yelled, "Giddy-up!" The horses then roared into action, and Heston was flung backward off the chariot.

To give the scene more impact and realism, three lifelike dummies were placed at key points in the race to give the appearance of men being run over by chariots. Most notable is the stand-in dummy for Stephen Boyd's Messala that gets tangled up under the horses, getting battered by their hooves. This resulted in one of the most grisly fatal injuries in motion picture history up until then, and shocked audiences.

Urban Legends

There are several urban legends surrounding the chariot sequence, one of which states that a stuntman died during filming. Stuntman Nosher Powell claims in his autobiography, "We had a stunt man killed in the third week, and it happened right in front of me. You saw it, too, because the cameras kept turning and it's in the movie". There is no conclusive evidence to back up Powell's claim and it has been adamantly denied by director William Wyler, who states that neither man nor horse was injured in the famous scene. The movie's stunt director, Yakima Canutt, stated that no serious injuries or deaths occurred during filming.

Another urban legend states that a red Ferrari can be seen during the chariot race; the book Movie Mistakes claims this is a myth. (Heston, in the DVD commentary track, mentions a third urban legend that is not true: That he wore a wristwatch. He points out that he was wearing leather bracers right up to the elbow.)

However, one of the best-remembered moments in the race came from a near-fatal accident. When Ben-Hur's chariot jumps another chariot which has crashed in its path, the charioteer is seen to be almost thrown from his mount and only just manages to hang on and climb back in to continue the race. In reality, while the jump was planned, the character being flipped into the air was not planned, and stuntman Joe Canutt, son of stunt director Yakima Canutt, was considered fortunate to escape with only a minor chin injury. Nonetheless, when director Wyler intercut the long shot of Canutt's leap with a close-up of Heston clambering back into his chariot, a memorable scene resulted.

Note goof - Can you see tire tracks at ~3:50?

William Wyler won the Academy Award for Best Direction Thrice | Filmography

William Wyler (July 1, 1902July 27, 1981) has the distinction of having won the Academy Award for Best Direction on three occasions. The awards were for his direction of: Ben Hur, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Mrs. Miniver. He is tied with Frank Capra and behind John Ford, who won four Oscars in this category. There are twelve other directors who have won two Academy Awards for Best Director.

Wyler's films garnered more awards for participating artists and actors than any other director in the history of Hollywood. Besides winning three times, he received twelve Oscar nominations for Best Director, while dozens of his collaborators and actors (such as Audrey Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland) won Oscars or were nominated. In 1965, Wyler won the Irving Thalberg Award for career achievement. Eleven years later, he received the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. In addition to his Best Picture and Best Director Oscar wins, ten of Wyler's films earned Best Picture nominations.

Wyler's style is (among auteurist critics) notoriously difficult to perceive. He did not build a stable of players like Capra, Sturges or Ford. He directed varied types of films without any trademark shots or themes, but in his choice of lighting, blocking and camera distance, and in the serious liberal tone of his work, a continuity of worldview is detectable.

William Wyler filmography »

The Manchurian Candidate 1962 vs 2004

The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 Cold War political thriller film adapted by George Axelrod from the 1959 novel by Richard Condon. It was directed by John Frankenheimer and stars Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, and Angela Lansbury and features Janet Leigh, Henry Silva, James Gregory, Leslie Parrish and John McGiver. The central concept of the film is that the son of a prominent, right-wing political family has been brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy. The Manchurian Candidate was nationally released on Wednesday, October 24, 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Jonathan Demme directed an up-to-date version of The Manchurian Candidate in 2004, starring Denzel Washington as Major Marco, Liev Schreiber as Congressman Raymond Shaw, and Meryl Streep as Senator Eleanor Shaw (her husband is not included). This contemporary adaptation made substantial changes to the source material by dropping the Cold War background for an anti-corporation story of private and business control of the U.S. government. The American soldiers are also shown being captured in Kuwait during the Gulf War between Iraqi and UN forces.

Raymond is the brainwashed Manchurian candidate and Marco the brainwashed assassin. The novel explicitly depicts incest between Raymond and his mother. The social conventions of American cinema in 1962 limited Frankenheimer's depiction to a salacious adult kiss between mother and son. Demme's depiction of mother-son incest is more explicit.

Demme's rewritten and reworked version of The Manchurian Candidate was less critically successful than the original.

Worth Retweeting

Which do you prefer? Washington or Sinatra? Landsberry or Streep?

bigpieps Posted 28 minutes ago from TwitterFon, in reply to TCManiacs

@TCManiacs it's not even close. The original is far better

joek72 Posted 30 minutes ago from Web, in reply to TCManiacs

@TCManiacs Sorry Denzel but i have to go with ol Blue eyes Sinartra!

iamasarahpalin Posted 31 minutes ago from Web, in reply to TCManiacs

@TCManiacs I like the 1962 one MUCH better

TCManiacs Posted 37 minutes ago from HootSuite

@TCManiacs Blogs: The Manchurian Candidate 1962 vs 2004 Which do you prefer? Washington or Sinatra? Landsberry or Streep?

bigpieps Posted 51 minutes ago from TwitterFon, in reply to TCManiacs

@TCManiacs original manchurian is awesome. Lansbury kills it.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn film adaptations

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the classic novel written by Mark Twain and published in 1884 is commonly regarded one of the Great American Novels, and is one of the first major American novels written in the vernacular, characterized by local color regionalism. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is its 1939 film adaptation, starring Mickey Rooney in the title role.

Huckleberry Finn is the 1974 musical film version of Mark Twain's American classic boyhood adventure story, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The movie was produced by Reader's Digest and Arthur P. Jacobs (well-known for his role in the production of the Planet of the Apes films) and starred Jeff East as Huckleberry Finn and Paul Winfield as Jim. The film contains original music and songs, such as Freedom and Cairo, Illinois, by the popular "Sherman Brothers," Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman.

Both versions periodically shown on TCM.

The popularity of this story has led it to revisited in film may times. Here's a full list of film adaptations:

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