Ben Hur - Broadway Play Poster Postcard
Hart (as Messala, not as Ben-Hur) and produced by Klaw & Erlanger. It was dramatized by William W. Young based on the 1880 novel, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, written by Lew Wallace. Hart would eventually star as leading roles in silent films such as The Aryan in 1916, and become a silent screen cowboy hero. Klaw & Erlanger was the New York City based theatrical production partnership of entrepreneur A.L. Erlanger and lawyer Marcus Klaw. The two began as a theatrical booking agency in 1886 before expanding into producing plays. In 1896, Klaw & Erlanger joined with Al Hayman, Charles Frohman, Samuel F. Nixon, and Fred Zimmerman to form the "Theatrical Syndicate." This organization established systemized booking networks throughout the United States and created a monopoly that controlled every aspect of contracts and bookings until the late 1910s when the Shubert brothers broke their stranglehold on the industry. Klaw & Erlanger controlled most of the theatres in the southern United States and put on their first Broadway production of Ben-Hur in November of 1899. Between then and September 1924, they would produce 238 Broadway plays plus hundreds more at theatres they either owned or leased around the United States. As well, their partnership built a number of important theaters including New York City's famous New Amsterdam Theatre in 1903. They were also involved in film production for some of their plays that were adapted to the screen. The central character is Judah, prince of the Hebrew house of Hur. Judah grows up in Jerusalem, during the turbulent years around the birth of Christ. His best friend is Messala, a Roman. As adults Judah and Messala become rivals, each hating the other, which leads to Judah's downfall and eventual triumph. Elements of the story include leprosy, naval battles among galleys, the Roman hippodrome, Roman adoption, Magus Balthasar, the Arab sheikh Ilderim.