The Story of Ruth


2h 12m 1960

Brief Synopsis

Ruth becomes the favourite of a pagan king but eventually flees to Israel.

Film Details

Release Date
Jun 1960
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Jun 1960; Los Angeles opening: 30 Jun 1960
Production Company
Samuel G. Engel Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on "The Book of Ruth." Old Testament. The Bible.

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 12m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Sickness and poverty force the parents of young Ruth to sell their daughter to the Moabite temple where she will be trained to become a priestess to the pagan god Chemosh. The Moabites believe in human sacrifice and when the girl Ruth is chosen as the next victim, a blemish mysteriously appears on her arm, rendering her unacceptable as a sacrifice. Now grown to adulthood, Ruth is initiated as a priestess, and one day, meets the Judean Mahlon when the artisan delivers a golden crown he has forged for the next human sacrifice. When Mahlon speaks out against the worship of stone idols and their thirst for human blood, Ruth teases him about his invisible god, known as Jehovah. Intrigued by Mahlon, Ruth summons him to meet her in the temple courtyard, but becomes frightened by his strange ideas and runs away. After Mahlon criticizes Ruth's harsh treatment of her slave Kera, Ruth softens and begins to treat her subordinates with compassion. While accompanying the king on a tour of his quarries, Ruth watches in horror as a huge statue of Chemosh topples over and crushes three slaves. When Ruth recounts the incident to Mahlon, he questions the king's unfeeling response to the deaths and then gives her a golden tablet containing the Ten Commandments. Ruth's discussions with Mahlon make her question the idea of a savage god who demands human sacrifice. Consequently, when Ruth is instructed to lead the virgin child to the sacrificial altar, she cries out in protest and runs into the watching crowd as the executioner is about to disembowel his victim. Soon after, the king's soldiers come to arrest the outspoken Mahlon, along with his brother and father Elimelech, who are considered Judean outcasts in the land of Moab. In prison, Mahlon's father and brother are slain in a skirmish with the guards, and Mahlon is interrogated about his indoctrination of Ruth. When Mahlon denounces human sacrifice, he is sentenced to work in the quarries for the rest of his life. For her transgressions, Ruth is banished to solitary confinement for six months and her hair shorn. At the end of her confinement, Ruth is reinstated as a priestess and ordered to enter the household of the king. That night, Ruth visits Mahlon's mother Naomi, who blames her for her family's misfortune. After laying out a plan to free Mahlon, Ruth goes to the quarry with her emissary to help Mahlon escape, but as Mahlon scrambles up the stone walls to freedom, he is stabbed by a guard. After eluding the guard, Ruth and her emissary carry Mahlon to safety, and as Mahlon precariously clings to life, he and Ruth are wed. After exchanging vows, Mahlon kisses Ruth and dies. Ruth then grants Kera her freedom and, after embracing the Judean god, insists on accompanying her mother-in-law Naomi home to Bethlehem stating "Where you go, I will go, where you lodge, I will lodge, your people shall be my people and your God my God." Upon reaching the Judean border, the women come across a herd of poisoned sheep, their shepherd slaughtered by Moabite soldiers in pursuit of Ruth. Just then, Boaz, a brash, prosperous farmer and community leader, arrives with a captured soldier and forces the man to drink from the poisoned water hole. When Ruth and Naomi reach their family farm, they find the well dry and the property in ruins from an unending drought. Naomi then decides that she must turn to her husband's kinsmen, Tob and Boaz for help, but Ruth disagrees and insists on supporting herself by gleaning the leftover wheat from the fields. One day, Boaz sees Ruth gleaning in his field and confronts her about being a Moabite. Defiant, Ruth reproaches him for poisoning the soldier. Ruth's tart tongue causes Boaz to relent, but when he sends a shipment of provisions to the farm, she rejects it. In an effort to help the destitute women, Boaz appeals to Tob, who is unresponsive until he sees the beautiful Ruth and, feigning solicitude, offers the women the labor of his workmen and bounteous supplies. Later, Ruth revises her opinion of Boaz when he defends her against the villagers' accusations of being an idolater. After explaining the Judean hate toward all Moabites, Boaz begs Ruth to leave Bethlehem, but she steadfastly resolves to stay. Soon after, Ruth is formally charged with idolatry and summoned before the Council of Elders. Ruth turns to Boaz for help, but, bound to an oath he has made to bring her to trial, Boaz is unable to shield her. When all seems lost, Naomi prays to God to spare Ruth, and soon after, the holy man Jehoam appears at the farm and prophesizes that Ruth will thrive, and that from the loins of her child's child will be born David, a great King and prophet of the Judean people. The skies then open and rain pours down, bringing an end to the drought. At Ruth's trial, two Judeans testify that they witnessed her worship an idol of Chemosh, but Ruth exposes them as Moabite spies when she challenges them to recite the Ten Commandments and curse Chemosh. Acquitted of all charges, Ruth is finally welcomed into the community. Soon after, Tob visits Naomi and reminds her that as Mahlon's closest kin, he is entitled to his widow. Ruth, who has fallen in love with Boaz, is devastated by the news of her impending marriage to Tob. Their engagement is to be announced at the harvest celebration that evening, and to thwart Tob, Naomi instructs Ruth to return late that night after the men are asleep on the threshing room floor and lie in Boaz' bed. Awakening to find Ruth at his side, Boaz declares his love for her and proposes, certain that Tob will renounce his marital claim for a price. When Tob insists on marrying her, Ruth publicly announces at the ceremony that she spent the night with Boaz, and scandalized, Tob rejects Ruth. After she and Boaz attest that they remained chaste that night, they are married by the elders, thus fulfilling the holy man's prophesy.

Film Details

Release Date
Jun 1960
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Jun 1960; Los Angeles opening: 30 Jun 1960
Production Company
Samuel G. Engel Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on "The Book of Ruth." Old Testament. The Bible.

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 12m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film opens with the following written prologue, which appears before the opening credits: "Across the centuries, many legends have grown around the Biblical Story of Ruth. All of them begin in the ancient land of Judah." According to a January 1958 Daily Variety news item, Fay and Michael Kanin were initially slated to write the screenplay. Hollywood Reporter news items yield the following information about the film: In 1957, Simon Windelberg was announced to write the screenplay. Susan Strasberg, Diane Baker, Millie Perkins and Susan Kohner were all tested for the role of "Ruth," according to July and September 1959 news items. In October 1959, Stephen Boyd was cast as "Boaz." Although a February 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item places Gloria Moreland in the cast, her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. An April 1960 Daily Variety news item notes that Michael Balcon was planning to produce a film called Ruth, the Moabite, but canceled the project because it would conflict with the Twentieth Century-Fox production.
       The Story of Ruth marked the American film debut of Israeli actress Elana Eden. According to the pressbook contained in the films production file at the AMPAS Library, director Henry Koster signed Eden to a long-term contract after seeing her screen test for The Diary of Anne Frank. The film received scathing reviews in Israel, although American reviews were mixed. The Variety review described it as a "moth-eaten, misleading mishmash of biblical hysterics," but the Los Angeles Times review praised its presentation of a simple story, devoid of sex and violence. A July 1961 Hollywood Reporter news item adds that writer Herbert Kline filed a breach of promise suit against Twentieth Century-Fox and Charles K. Feldman Group Productions, alleging that money was due him from original story material that he submitted to Feldman which was then subsequently transferred to Fox. The outcome of that suit is unknown.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 1960

CinemaScope

Released in United States Summer June 1960