Monday, April 10, 2017

Born Today April 10: Lew Wallace


American military man, civil servant, politician and writer Lewis "Lew" Wallace was born on this date in Brookville, Indiana.  His father was an former military man and influential lawyer, who would become Governor of Indiana.  When his father was elected, the family moved to Indianapolis, where the younger Wallace and his many siblings grew up.  Wallace was pretty much a "do everything" sort of man.  He followed in the footsteps of his father in regard to the law and the military, rising to the rank of General. He served in both the Mexican-American war and in the Civil War as a Union officer.  He even did a brief stint in the Mexican army after resigning his military commission in the U.S.  After military service, he was appointed governor of the then New Mexican territories, and he later served the country in the capacity of an ambassador.  So why is general and a civil servant on a silent film blog?  Because, in addition to all of the above, Wallace was also a writer.  In his autobiography, he stated that he started writing as diversion from studying the law, which he found tedious.  While a couple of films in the silent era were made from so-called "lesser novels," all of the rest of the films made from his work come from just one novel, and it's famous one.  Ben-Hur was first published in 1880.  Fans of silent film will at once think of the epic film Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ of 1925, however the book was first filmed in 1907.  Ben Hur (1907) was a 15 minute short produced by Kalem in New York  (the film astoundingly has survived).  A Prince of India, which was shot in Ithaca, New York, came out in 1914; and the Italians took on his work in 1917 with Cuori e sensi.  Everyone who knows anything about major Hollywood blockbusters is very well familiar with the first sound production of his famous work:  Ben-Hur starring Charlton Heston came out in 1959.  The book as since been filmed 4 more times, with two theme being animated.  The most recent of these came with the 2016 remake Ben-Hur.  Ben-Hur has been called the most important and influential Christian book of the nineteenth century.  Wallace continued to write up to the time of his death, which came on the 15th of February in 1905 at the age of 77 in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he had retired.  He is buried there with pomp and circumstance in Oak Hill Cemetery.

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