In the 1950s, 20th Century Fox promoted the spectacle genre after it premiered Cinemascope in 1953 with Llyod C. Douglas’s “The Robe”. I saw it at the old Jefferson in Falls Church, one of the first “neighborhoods” to be converted to wide screen, and, yes, I cried at the end.
“The Story of Ruth”, directed by Henry Koster, appeared in 1960 and is somewhat lower keyed than earlier spectacles, yet the film, with very crisp cinematography, makes the ancient world of the Judges in the Bible look interesting.
Ruth, as we remember from Sunday school perhaps, was the humble woman who became an ancestor of David and therefore eventually Jesus Christ himself.
But the film adds a lot of material in the beginning to the Old Testament book “Ruth” which is complicated enough in all the migrations and family ties. “The Story of the Bible” by Hendrik Willem Van Loon, 1936, a favorite of my late father (p. 143, Chapter 10), and Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, 1939, Story 21, p. 196, “The Young Woman Who Forsook Idols to Serve God”, give the details with some variation.
The film starts with presenting Ruth (Elena Eden) as an idol worshipper, preparing a Moabitess girl Tebah (Daphna Einnhorn) to be sacrificed to the pagan god Chemosh. Quickly the film presents the obvious dilemma: idols can indeed have clay feet and break, and, well, and idol is only what you see; beauty is only skin deep.
The complications of the story, as the film returns to the Biblical text, involve Ruth’s conversion to Judaism and worshipping the one god Jehovah, accepting poverty and returning to Judah out of family loyalty, and gleaning in the fields. Accepting the charity of others becomes part of moral purification. The film covers how easily inherited wealth can be lost, and also the idea that men were expected to marry widowed family members. At the end, Ruth turns down a man she does not love, as a good man named Boaz (Stuart Whitman).
Back around 1952, public schools were allowed to have religious classes after school, and I can remember confessing “I have idols” in writing in a note to the teacher.
“Boaz” happens to be the last name of a prominent libertarian writer and officer at the Cato Institute in Washington DC. In the film, the character seems to be the most respectful of all of the liberty of others.
There are several newer versions of the story, as one from Pure Flix.
|Name:||“The Story of Ruth”|
|Director, writer:||Henry Koster|
|Format:||CinemaScope (slightly wider than the usual anamorphic today)|
|When and how viewed:||Netflix DVD|
|Companies:||20th Century Fox|
(Posted: Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at 1 PM EDT)