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GORE VIDAL’S BEN-HUR

There has been much controversy over the authorship of the Ben-Hur screenplay. The controversy was taken to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) for arbitration, and the WGA, after a diligent examination of the various drafts of the script, determined definitively that there had been only one screenwriter who contributed anything of significance to the final film. There were objections and appeals, but the WGA’s jurors remained entirely unconvinced by them. So as we watch the opening credits, we see the official answer, bigger than life:



That credit started a little war in Hollywood, for though it is true that Tunberg spent years developing the script and doing numerous rewrites, and though it is true that he was called back in to script retakes, there were other claimants to the throne, and one of those claimants was our very own Gore Vidal!

The movie’s star, Charlton “Chuck” Heston, for one, vehemently denied that Vidal had contributed anything to the script. Heston insisted that the script was the work solely of Karl Tunberg and Christopher Fry. We should remember, though, that Heston was not party to any of the script discussions. What Heston knew was remarkably straightforward: He had been sent Tunberg’s script and he agreed to perform it. Yet the script Heston agreed to perform had TWO names on the title page: Karl Tunberg and S.N. Behrman! Heston never said anything about Behrman. Throughout the entire course of the shooting British poet Christopher Fry was on hand to rewrite dialogue on the fly. Heston appreciated Fry’s work, and when he accepted his Academy Award, he was gracious enough to thank Fry, which caused a ruckus at the WGA who attacked him in retribution. Yes, Heston had met Gore Vidal who was only on set for a brief while at the very start of the shoot. He did not witness Gore scribbling anything at all, except for one scene that everybody instantly rejected, and the next thing he knew Gore was long gone. Heston surely knew nothing of what had happened to the script during the several months before filming began.

Director William Wyler, on the other hand, was fully aware of what had happened with the script, and he was infuriated when the Writers Guild of America ruled that Tunberg alone would receive credit. Wyler argued that it was Christopher Fry, not Karl Tunberg, who had been directly at his side all those months, polishing, rewriting, helping enormously. The movie could never have been what it was without Fry’s tireless contributions. Wyler went on the warpath to get Fry a credit as well, and the WGA went on the warpath against Wyler. Wyler said nothing about Vidal.

So who really wrote what? The quarrels will never be fully settled for the simple reason that Gore Vidal’s draft of the script has vanished. Or has it?

At the Gore Vidal Papers at the Houghton Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is something amazing. I thumbed through it but unfortunately I had no time to study it. In Folder 331 is Samuel Nathaniel Behrman’s 8 January 1958 draft of the Ben-Hur script. Nearly every page contains numerous strike-throughs and add-ins, mostly in pencil, a few in fine-point blue-ink yellow Bic pen (remember those?), all in Gore’s inimitable chicken scratch. Many of the notes remain incomprehensible, since they were personal shorthand that Gore quickly wrote for himself as a memory jog for when he would later make a fair copy to hand to the studio typist. Some of the scribbling will probably never be deciphered, and occasional notations floating about in the middle of a page such as “to see horse” simply defy interpretation. Without Gore to tell us what he meant, we’ll never know.

Here are a few small examples of Gore’s polishes: Simonides’s line “Esther has a question to ask” becomes “Esther wishes to speak to her mother.” Ben-Hur’s line “You wish to marry, Esther?” becomes “You are eager to marry, Esther?” Esther’s response “My father wishes it” becomes “It is my father’s wish.” The alterations continue thus for nearly the entire script, and the changes get larger and larger and larger as the pages go on, with entire passages canceled and and new lines and stage directions written into the margins and between lines and all over the place.

Whether Gore’s polish was ever typed up is an open question. Gore normally wrote books out by hand on yellow pads, but movie scripts he normally created directly on his Olivetti Lettera 22 portable typewriter. Would he have wanted to type out someone else’s entire 180-page script again, just so that he could enter his own changes? Probably not. But he may have hired a typist, or he may have delivered his illegible scribblings to the studio typist. Maybe. Whatever the case, Gore’s fair copy is nowhere to be found. If he turned it in to MGM, that would explain why the fair copy is not on file at Houghton, but that would not explain why MGM did not retain a copy. The reason why the sloppily scrawled markup is on file at Houghton is because nobody except Gore needed it, and he never got around to tossing it out. Then why does nobody have the typed copy of Gore’s draft? The most likely explanation is that Gore turned his fair copy over not to a typist but directly to Fry, and that once Fry started to go to work at it, it was Fry’s version that was typed up day by day.

That latter hypothesis actually makes sense and it’s perfectly consistent with the evidence. That would help explain why the WGA jurors determined, after examining the various drafts of the script, that Gore Vidal had not contributed to the screenplay. Vidal and Wyler, and presumably Fry, assumed that the WGA ruled as it did only because Tunberg was its former president and that the jurors and board members closed ranks to protect their own. That can’t be the truth, though. The WGA jurors examined the various drafts of the script to determine who authored which portions. They never saw Gore’s script, since the only surviving copy was the sloppily scrawled markup of Behrman’s script that remained in Gore’s house. Without access to the proof, the WGA had no reason to accept Gore’s claims. As for the WGA ruling against Christopher Fry, well, I have held the actual shooting script in my hands, with nearly every page a differently colored revision, and there is no author’s name on it at all, on the cover or title page or anywhere else. There was never a Ben-Hur script that displayed Christopher Fry’s name anywhere. We should wonder why. It has never been standard studio practice to distribute an anonymous script to cast and crew. Since Fry’s and Vidal’s names were not included in any copy of the script, there was no other ruling that the WGA could justifiably issue. The jurors relied on the documented evidence, and Vidal and Fry were not documented on the scripts. It was too late for Vidal, Fry, Wyler, or anyone else to file a grievance. They had not raised a fuss during production, which is when they should have stood firm about credit. Instead, they made no complaints when they saw that the shooting script bore no author’s name.

We have something else, too, and it is in that very same folder. It is a rough draft of an undated letter typed on the guest stationery of the Hotel New Weston on Madison Avenue at 50th Street in Manhattan, apparently where Gore was staying that night. The letter was addressed to a “Miss Stein,” who was surely either his agent’s secretary or an MGM secretary. Gore was a remarkably wretched typist, which explains why he generally wrote his mss by hand on yellow pads with Bic pens. But this letter he typed, and once you know his typewriting, you cannot mistake it for anyone else’s. He scribbled all over this draft of the letter with a pencil, rewriting it significantly. We do not have a final copy of this letter, since it was not Gore’s habit to keep copies of letters he sent.

Dear Miss Stein,

I have noted with a vertical pencil mark in the margin of the Ben Hur script the dialogue which is mine, with a wavy line where it seems to be a composite, with a left a blank where it is someone else’s work.

While I was in Rome (five weeks: I arrived with Wyler and Zimbalist) I rewrote the script from the first page through the chariot race p. 180. Christopher Fry wrote the rest. I kept the construction of the old script (with one important change) but I rewrote nearly all of the dialogue, as I have indicated. After I left, perhaps a third of my dialogue was in turn rewritten by Fry. In any case, I should say a third of the picture shot was is my dialogue.

As for construction, in the scene where Ben Hur first meets Messala, in Jerusalem in the old script they quarreled and fell out in the old script. In my version p. 19 to p. 31, I broke the scene into two parts. First, at the Castle Antonio; second, at Ben Hur’s home. I also put in the business of the brooch for Tirzah, the horse for Messala, etc. From 12 to 31 the script shot filmed is all mine (I was there while it was rehearsed, while much of it was shot). The same goes for all dialogue in the chariot race sequence, Tiberius at Rome, and all the other places where indicated in the script.

I was asked to stay on till the end of the picture but other business intervened could not; we parted most amiably and Willy Wyler will, I am sure, back me up as to authorship of the parts in question.

I realize Metro’s problem: they don’t want three names on the script... seems cluttered, might occasion sharp sly coment... they have a perfectly understandable motive reason for not engraving my name on this golden tablet. But since so much of it the film is mine I must protest and I repeat: Wyler... and Fry, certainly... will back me up confirm this. None of this There would of course would have happened been no problem if Sam Zimbalist had not died.

best,


Maddeningly, we do not have the copy of the script that Vidal marked up for Miss Stein. That would have been a treasure. Alas.... But wait! Stop! Go back! What else does this letter tell us? It tells us that Gore simply trusted that Sam Zimbalist would behave honorably and put all the names in the credits, even though the shooting script was anonymous! That’s Gore for you. That’s what all his biographers got wrong. No biographer ever mentioned how trusting he was, and it was that undeserved trust he placed in the honesty, integrity, and honorability of film producers that got him into so much trouble time and again. As he so perceptively said in an interview, “Life isn’t one damn thing after another, life is the same damn thing over and over.” He recognized that he would continue making the same mistakes for all the rest of his days. He was lucky with Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. He had signed away all his rights without retaining any control, but the studio knew it was in trouble when director Frank Capra started sugar-coating the script with clichés. Gore agreed to Capra’s dismissal and brought in an old TV colleague, Franklin Schaffner, who did a fine job. But Gore was not always so lucky. He allowed himself to be swindled with the Leslie Stevens–Arthur Penn movie version of The Left Handed Gun, a mediocre adaptation of The Death of Billy the Kid. He signed away his rights without retaining any control. The movie was so lousy that it never played at the première downtown houses but went straight to the neighborhood houses as part of a double bill. He allowed himself to be swindled with Jerry Lewis’s abominable so-called adaptation of Visit to a Small Planet, again signing away his rights without retaining control. He allowed himself to be swindled yet again by 20th Century-Fox’s notorious adaptation of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge. This time he insisted on retaining control. He even took a position as Robert Fryer’s coproducer so that he could oversee the production. The studio rejected his first draft (21 July 1968) of the script, and his second draft (22 September 1968) as well. The reason was simply that the studio had purchased the rights to an outrageously sexy novel, and Vidal’s screen adaptation was entirely tame. The studio was not much happier with director Mike Sarne’s “dirty” rewrite (13 July 1969 with subsequent revisions). But that was perfectly all right, because Gore was thrilled with the new script by David Giler (4 September 1969), which he recognized as greatly superior to his own. He and Giler quickly became friends. Yet troubles were brewing. Several directors had turned down the project before Fox had hired Mike Sarne to the post. Sarne hated Gore, he hated Gore’s novel, and he hated Giler’s script at least as passionately. He chose to improvise from his own script instead. There was much back-and-forth, and when Gore at last grew weary of the arguments he relinquished all his control and resigned as coproducer. Then a few years later, as we all know, he allowed Gore Vidal’s Caligula to go into production without even first bothering to work out a formal contract, and that resulted in years of torment. Yes, life is the same damn thing over and over.

This confusion with the Ben-Hur script calls for considerably more study. For that, let us cross the continent to Beverly Hills, California, where we can visit the Margaret Herrick Library, a branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The below items do not appear in any online search that you can make. But if you visit the library and sit down at its own computers, you can pull up the following interesting listings, all of which are in Special Collections. To see these items you would need to schedule an appointment at least a few days ahead of time.

SCRIPTS IN THE MARGARET HERRICK LIBRARY

Turner/MGM scripts
272276.f-B-907.f-1026
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, April 20, 1954, through
July 14, 1954, 46 pages [part 2 of 2].


Turner/MGM scripts
272277.f-B-908.f-1027
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by Karl Tunberg, April 20, 1954, through July 16, 1954,
113 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
273277.f-B-909.f-1028
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of April 20, 1954 screenplay by Karl Tunberg, dated April 21,
1954, through July 14, 1954, 307 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
273277.f-B-910.f-1029
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, July 20, 1954, through September 8,
1954, approximately 330 pages [original, revised].


Turner/MGM scripts
273277.f-B-911.f-1030
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay section by Karl Tunberg, July 20, 1954, through
September 8, 1954, 104 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
273277.f-B-912.f-1031
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of July 20, 1954 screenplay by Karl Tunberg, dated July 20,
1954, through September 8, 1954, 125 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
273277.f-B-913.f-1032
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes by Karl Tunberg, July 27, 1954, through August 5, 1954, 4 pages and
17 pages [3 items, original and dictation, retyped version and old pages].


Turner/MGM scripts
273277.f-B-914.f-1033
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, September 9, 1954, through
September 13, 1954, approximately 350 pages [original, annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-915.f-1034
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete composite screenplay by Karl Tunberg, September 9,
1954, through September 13, 1954, approximately 280 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-916.f-1035
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes, December 1, 1954 (sent to file June 20, 1958), 15 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-917.f-1036
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes by Karl Tunberg, December 14, 1954, 8 pages and 7 pages [2 copies,
original and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-920.f-1039
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes by Karl Tunberg, December 31, 1954, 2 pages and 1 page [2 copies,
original and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
275279.f-B-925.f-1045
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, February 18, 1955, through October
6, 1955, approximately 350 pages [original, heavily annotated, part 1 of 4].


Turner/MGM scripts
275279.f-B-926.f-1046
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, February 18, 1955, through October
6, 1955, approximately 350 pages [part 2 of 4].


Turner/MGM scripts
275279.f-B-927.f-1047
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, February 18, 1955, through October
6, 1955, approximately 250 pages [part 3 of 4].


Turner/MGM scripts
276280.f-B-928.f-1048
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, February 18, 1955, through October
6, 1955, approximately 220 pages [part 4 of 4].


Turner/MGM scripts
276280.f-B-929.f-1049
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, February 18, 1955, through October
6, 1955, approximately 220 pages [part 1 of 3].


Turner/MGM scripts
276281.f-B-930.f-1050
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, February 18, 1955, through October
6, 1955, approximately 220 pages [part 2 of 3].


Turner/MGM scripts
276281.f-B-931.f-1051
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, February 18, 1955, through October
6, 1955, approximately 260 pages [part 3 of 3].


Turner/MGM scripts
277281.f-B-932.f-1052
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, February 18, 1955, through October
6, 1955, 219 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
277281.f-B-933.f-1053
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of February 18, 1955 screenplay by Karl Tunberg, dated
February 18, 1955, through October 6, 1955, approximately 350 pages [984 pages
total, part 1 of 3].


Turner/MGM scripts
277281.f-B-934.f-1054
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of February 18, 1955 screenplay by Karl Tunberg, dated
February 18, 1955, through October 6, 1955, approximately 300 pages [part 2 of 3].


Turner/MGM scripts
277282.f-B-935.f-1055
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of February 18, 1955 screenplay by Karl Tunberg, dated
February 18, 1955, through October 6, 1955, approximately 340 pages [part 3 of 3].


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-918.f-1037
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes by Sidney Franklin, December 15, 1954, through March 17, 1955,
126 miscellaneous pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-922.f-1042
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: outline by Karl Tunberg, January 5, 1955, through April 2, 1955,
approximately 150 pages [original and dictation, heavily annotated and a few pages
are handwritten].


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-923.f-1043
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: outline by Karl Tunberg, January 5, 1955, through April 2, 1955, 98 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
274279.f-B-924.f-1044
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of January 5, 1955 outline by Karl Tunberg, dated January
26, 1955, through April 1, 1955, 103 pages.


Andrew Marton papers
2.f-18
BEN-HUR — script 1955.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay by Karl Tunbergg, June 21, 1955, with
revisions through October 14, 1955, 218 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
278282.f-B-937.f-1057
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, June 21, 1955, through
October 14, 1955, approximately 280 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
278282.f-B-938.f-1058
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, June 21, 1955, with
changes to November 18, 1955, approximately 300 pages [annotated and some
pages are handwritten, notes on cover].


Turner/MGM scripts
278283.f-B-939.f-1059
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, June 21, 1955, with
changes to December 28, 1956, approximately 300 pages [handwritten pages and
notes on cover].


Turner/MGM scripts
277282.f-B-936.f-1056
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg, June 21, 1955, through
July 28, 1955, approximately 350 pages [original, revised].


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-919.f-1038
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: miscellaneous notes by Sam Zimbalist (producer), Sidney Franklin and Karl
Tunberg
, December 15, 1954, through August 3, 1955, approximately 200 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
278283.f-B-940.f-1060
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Blue memo, August 9, 1955, 2 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
278283.f-B-941.f-1061
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: “Chariot race” version number 1 by Yakima Canutt, September 1, 1955
(copied April 15, 1957), 17 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
274278.f-B-921.f-1040
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes by Karl Tunberg, December 31, 1954, through September 14, 1955,
approximately 30 pages [also 7 old pages, dated December 31, 1954, through
September 13, 1955].


Turner/MGM scripts
278283.f-B-942.f-1062
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Sequence breakdown by Leroy Linick, August 10, 1956 (copied June 13,
1957), 63 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
278283.f-B-944.f-1064
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Scenes by Sam Zimbalist, March 19, 1957, 7 pages [2 copies, original and
retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
278283.f-B-945.f-1065
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: “Chariot race” version number 2 by Yakima Canutt, April 18, 1957, 22
pages and 23 pages [2 copies, original and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
279283.f-B-946.f-1066
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: “Chariot race” version number 3 by Yakima Canutt, April 18, 1957, 12
pages and 11 pages [2 copies, original and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
279283.f-B-947.f-1067
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Incomplete suggested construction by Jan Lustig of last part of the story,
June 21, 1957, 16 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
279283.f-B-948.f-1068
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Incomplete screenplay section changes by Jan Lustig, June 26, 1957,
through June 27, 1957, 10 pages and 12 pages [2 copies, original, retyped version,
also 2 old pages, dated June 27, 1957].


Turner/MGM scripts
279283.f-B-949.f-1069
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Suggested construction by Jan Lustig of last part of the story, June 27,
1957, 22 pages and 9 pages [2 copies, original, retyped version, original annotated,
also old page, dated June 27, 1957].


Turner/MGM scripts
279283.f-B-950.f-1070
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay by Maxwell Anderson, August 16, 1957,
through October 11, 1957, approximately 280 pages [original, revised].


Turner/MGM scripts
279284.f-B-951.f-1071
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay by Maxwell Anderson, August 16, 1957,
through October 11, 1957, approximately 300 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
279284.f-B-952.f-1072
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: dialogue script section by Maxwell Anderson, October 18, 1957, through
October 24, 1957, 58 miscellaneous pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
279284.f-B-953.f-1073
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by Maxwell Anderson, October 18, 1957, through
November 27, 1957, approximately 140 pages and 120 pages [2 copies, original
handwritten script and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
280284.f-B-954.f-1074
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg and Maxwell Anderson, November 13,
1957, through November 15, 1957, approximately 380 pages [original, revised].


Turner/MGM scripts
280284.f-B-955.f-1075
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete composite screenplay by Karl Tunberg and Maxwell Anderson,
November 13, 1957, through November 15, 1957, approximately 320 pages.


Andrew Marton papers
2.f-19
BEN-HUR — script 1957.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg and Maxwell Anderson, November 13,
1957, with revisions through November 15, 1957, 200 pages [annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
281285.f-B-958.f-1078
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes by William Wyler, December 5, 1957, 4 pages [2 copies, 1 copy
annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
280284.f-B-956.f-1076
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by S. N. Behrman, December 4, 1957, through
December 22, 1957, approximately 50 pages [original, annotated and some pages are
handwritten].


Turner/MGM scripts
281285.f-B-962.f-1082
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes by Sam Zimbalist and S. N. Behrman, December 10, 1957, through
December 23, 1957, 6 pages [annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
281285.f-B-959.f-1079
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by S. N. Behrman, December 6, 1957, through
December 24, 1957, approximately 320 pages [original, annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
281285.f-B-960.f-1080
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by S. N. Behrman, December 6, 1957, through
December 24, 1957, approximately 120 pages [lightly annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
281285.f-B-957.f-1077
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: miscellaneous screenplay section, December 4, 1957, through December
26, 1957 (received 1959), approximately 180 pages [note on cover suggests the writer
is S. N. Behrman].


Turner/MGM scripts
281285.f-B-961.f-1081
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of December 6, 1957 screenplay section by S. N. Behrman,
dated December 6, 1957, through December 27, 1957, 106 pages.


Charlton Heston papers
4.f-47
BEN-HUR — script 1958, 1983.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay pages by Karl Tunberg and S. N. Sherman, January 8, 1958,
with changes of January 9, 1958, pages 84-157 and 180-212 [photocopied cover
page]; typed note attached: “This is an early script incorporating none of C. Fry’s
changes and obviously not used during shooting, since there are no cuts or on-set
changes indicated. Probably the script submitted to CH when he was offered the part
in Jan., 58. C. H., Jan., 83”.


Turner/MGM scripts
281285.f-B-963.f-1083
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg and S. N. Behrman, January 8, 1958,
approximately 300 pages [original, revised, also 36-pages of additional dialogue, no
name, undated].


Turner/MGM scripts
282286.f-B-964.f-1084
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete composite screenplay by Karl Tunberg and S. N. Behrman,
January 8, 1958, through January 9, 1958, approximately 220 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
282286.f-B-967.f-1087
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Test scenes, dated January 8, 1958 (received March 14, 1958), 23 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
282286.f-B-965.f-1085
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay by Karl Tunberg and S. N. Behrman, January 8, 1958,
through January 9, 1958, 212 pages [lightly annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
282286.f-B-966.f-1086
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Rewrites by S. N. Behrman, January 8, 1958, through January 29, 1958, 30
pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
282286.f-B-968.f-1088
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Dictated and draft of screenplay section by Robert Wyler, January 21, 1958,
through April 21, 1958, approximately 90 pages [original, revised].


Turner/MGM scripts
282286.f-B-969.f-1089
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Dictated and revised draft of screenplay section by Robert Wyler, January
21, 1958, through April 21, 1958, approximately 100 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
282286.f-B-970.f-1090
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of screenplay section by Robert Wyler, dated January 21,
1958, through April 18, 1958, 141 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
282287.f-B-971.f-1091
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by Karl Tunberg, February 12, 1958, approximately 240
pages [original, annotated and some pages are handwritten, handwritten note on
cover].


Turner/MGM scripts
283287.f-B-972.f-1092
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by Karl Tunberg, February 12, 1958, approximately 240
pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
283287.f-B-973.f-1093
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of February 12, 1958 screenplay section by Karl Tunberg,
dated February 12, 1958, through April 18, 1958, 212 pages [handwritten note on
cover].


Turner/MGM scripts
283287.f-B-974.f-1094
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes regarding ending by Robert Wyler, February 19, 1958, 5 pages [also
2 old pages, dated February 19, 1958].


Turner/MGM scripts
283287.f-B-975.f-1095
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Sequence breakdown, undated (copied February 28, 1958), 55 pages [2
copies, original and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
283287.f-B-977.f-1097
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: “Chariot race” (Marton version) by Andrew Marton, March 25, 1958,
approximately 30 pages [2 copies, original and retyped version, original lightly
annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
283287.f-B-978.f-1098
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: One-line continuity by Robert Wyler, April 10, 1958, through April 16, 1958,
11 pages and 39 pages [2 copies, original and retyped version, also 30 old pages,
dated April 10, 1958, through April 15, 1958].


Turner/MGM scripts
283287.f-B-979.f-1099
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Dictated notes by William Wyler (transcribed by Robert Wyler), April 17,
1958, 6 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
283288.f-B-980.f-1100
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete “Chariot race” sequence, May 15, 1958 (copied May 26, 1958),
approximately 25 pages [3 copies, original, composite script and annotated copy].


Turner/MGM scripts
283288.f-B-981.f-1101
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section, May 17, 1958, 30 pages.


Charlton Heston papers
4.f-48
BEN-HUR — script 1958.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: partial screenplay, May 17, 1958, with changes through June 19, 1958,
pages 1-76.


Turner/MGM scripts
283288.f-B-982.f-1102
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: miscellaneous notes from Prof. Gottstein, etc., June 8, 1958, through
October 29, 1958, approximately 60 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
284288.f-B-983.f-1103
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section from “Race” to end (revised second version), June 12,
1958 (received in 1959), 29 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
284288.f-B-985.f-1105
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: miscellaneous pages, June 27, 1958, through December 16, 1958, 20
pages [handwritten notes by William Wyler].


Turner/MGM scripts
284289.f-B-986.f-1106
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay, June 30, 1958, 207 pages [handwritten note on
cover].


Charlton Heston papers
5.f-49
BEN-HUR — script 1958-1959.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: shooting script, June 30, 1958, with changes through June 26, 1959,
approximately 160 pages [lightly annotated, photocopy]; handwritten note attached
indicating missing pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
284289.f-B-987.f-1107
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay, June 30, 1958 (copied July 15, 1958, with changes to
August 5, 1958), 207 pages [handwritten note on cover].


Turner/MGM scripts
284289.f-B-988.f-1108
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay, June 30, 1958 (copied July 15, 1958, with
changes to February 25, 1959), approximately 270 pages [annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
284289.f-B-989.f-1109
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: temporary complete screenplay, June 30, 1958 (copied July 15, 1958, with
changes to February 25, 1959), approximately 270 pages [annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
285289.f-B-990.f-1110
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay, June 30, 1958 (copied July 15, 1958, with changes to
June 26, 1959), approximately 250 pages [original, revised, part 1 of 2].


Turner/MGM scripts
285290.f-B-991.f-1111
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay, June 30, 1958 (copied July 15, 1958, with changes to
June 26, 1959), approximately 250 pages [part 2 of 2].


Turner/MGM scripts
285290.f-B-992.f-1112
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: complete screenplay, June 30, 1958 (copied July 15, 1958, with changes to
June 26, 1959), approximately 270 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
285290.f-B-993.f-1113
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section changes, September 3, 1958, approximately 80 pages
[2 copies, original and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
285290.f-B-994.f-1114
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: miscellaneous pages, September 3, 1958, through December 15, 1958,
approximately 100 pages [annotated and some pages are handwritten].


Turner/MGM scripts
286290.f-B-995.f-1115
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: dialogue script (alternative dialogue and alternative set-ups), January 1959,
133 pages.


William Wyler papers
2.f-21
BEN-HUR — Fry, Christopher 1959-1960.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
includes: list of material sent to the Writers Guild for credit determination, March 10,
1959; handwritten letter from Mr. Fry to “Talli” [Mrs. Wyler], April 24, 1959; carbon of
a letter from Mr. Wyler to the Writers Guild concerning credit for Mr. Fry, June 8,
1959; letter from R. Monta to the Writers Guild with dialogue written by Mr. Fry, June
12, 1959; carbon of a letter from Mr. Wyler to Mr. Fry regarding several scenes, June
19, 1959; carbon of a letter from Mrs. Sam Zimbalist to the Writers Guild, November
2, 1959; draft and text of statement by Mr. Wyler in reaction to Writers Guild ad,
November 23, 1959; letter from J. J. Cohn at MGM with details of new scenes added
in Rome, December 29, 1959; handwritten letter from Mr. Fry, March 14, 1960;
carbon of a letter from Charlton Heston to James Reade at “The San Diego Union”
regarding an interview with Karl Tunberg, July 27, 1960.


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-996.f-1116
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: notes by Hugh Gray, March 17, 1959, through March 23, 1959, 35 pages
[also 11 old pages, dated March 17, 1959].


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-997.f-1117
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Versions number 1 and number 2, March 25, 1959, 6 pages and 7 pages [2
copies, original and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-998.f-1118
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by Robert Wyler, undated (received first quarter, 1959),
30 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-999.f-1119
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: miscellaneous pages of script, undated (received first quarter, 1959),
approximately 150 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1000.f-1120
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: miscellaneous pages of notes, undated (received first quarter, 1959),
approximately 140 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1001.f-1121
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Versions number 1 and number 2, April 1, 1959, 6 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1002.f-1122
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Versions number 1 and number 2, April 9, 1959, 9 pages and 8 pages [2
copies, original and retyped version].


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1003.f-1123
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: screenplay section by Robert Wyler, April 14, 1959, 7 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1004.f-1124
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: retakes by Karl Tunberg, April 27, 1959, 11 pages and 13 pages [2 copies,
original and retyped version, original heavily annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1005.f-1125
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: retakes by Karl Tunberg, April 30, 1959, through May 1, 1959, 2 pages and
3 pages [2 copies, original and retyped version, original heavily annotated, also 3 old
pages, dated May 1, 1959].


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1006.f-1126
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: retakes by Karl Tunberg, May 4, 1959, through May 5, 1959, 7 pages and 4
pages [2 copies, original and retyped version, original heavily annotated, also 4 old
pages, dated May 4, 1959, through May 5, 1959].


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1007.f-1127
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: retakes by Karl Tunberg, May 7, 1959, through July 3, 1959, approximately
100 pages and 30 pages [2 copies, original and retyped version, original heavily
annotated and a few pages are handwritten].


Turner/MGM scripts
286291.f-B-1008.f-1128
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Old pages out of May 7, 1959 retakes by Karl Tunberg, dated May 7, 1959,
through July 1, 1959, 102 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
287291.f-B-1009.f-1129
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Cut version continuity, undated (dialogue as per May 7, 1959), 35 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
278283.f-B-943.f-1063
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: miscellaneous pages received from J. J. Cohn’s office, March 18, 1957,
through June 29, 1959, 27 pages [some pages are annotated].


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1022.f-1142
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Covers of footage for 70mm version, undated, 4 covers [typed note
attached].


William Wyler papers
2.f-17
BEN-HUR — script
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: retakes from Karl Tunberg [and others?], May 29, 1959, through July 1,
1959.


Turner/MGM scripts
287291.f-B-1010.f-1130
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: teaser trailer dialogue cutting continuity and trailer footage, August 26,
1959, 2 pages and 1 page [2 copies of dialogue c/c, 1 heavily marked].


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1011.f-1131
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: dialogue cutting continuity and footage (unaffiliated cross-plug), October 27,
1959, 1 page.


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1012.f-1132
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: dialogue cutting continuity (short version), October 29, 1959 (with changes
to December 4, 1959), 147 pages [2 copies, both copies marked].


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1013.f-1133
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: dialogue cutting continuity and footage, October 29, 1959 (with changes to
November 11, 1959 and December 8, 1959), 167 pages and 38 pages [dialogue c/c
slightly marked with many handwritten notes inside cover page].


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1014.f-1134
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Regular 4B trailer dialogue cutting continuity and footage, November 9, 1959
(with changes through April 22, 1959), 5 pages and 2 pages [2 copies of dialogue c/c,
one heavily marked].


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1015.f-1135
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: dialogue cutting continuity (revised short version), November 11, 1959
(revised May 26, 1971), 135 pages.


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Wardrobe Department records
3.f-20
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: script (continued), pages 90-207; handwritten sheets; description of
changes 5-7 for “Miriam” 2 pages.
Note: Credited designer: Elizabeth Haffenden.


Andrew Marton papers
2.f-22
BEN-HUR — clippings and reviews 1959.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
includes: article from the “Los Angeles Times” reporting that the Screen Directors
Guild refused to alter its ruling denying Karl Tunberg and Christopher Fry shared
screenwriting credit despite appeals by William Wyler and Sol C. Siegel, October 29,
1959; article from the “New York Mirror News” reporting that Marton’s screen credit
does not accurately reflect his contribution to the film, December 12, 1959.


William Wyler papers
2.f-18
BEN-HUR — Academy Awards (clippings) 1960.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)


Sam and Mary Zimbalist papers
1.f-1
BEN-HUR — Academy Awards 1960.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
includes: notes for Mary Zimbalist’s remarks accepting the Best Picture award on
behalf of Sam Zimbalist; congratulatory letters from David O. Selznick, Dore Schary,
Jerry Wald, Johnny Green, Armand Deutsch; telegrams from Richard Brooks, Frank
Capra and Frank Sinatra.


Charlton Heston papers
5.f-50
BEN-HUR — miscellaneous 1960.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: clippings; program for benefit screening at USC School of Medicine;
costume design drawing by Vittorio Nino Novarese; copy of letter to Paul Gangelin of
the WGA responding to the WGA’s objection to Charlton Heston thanking Christopher
Fry in his Oscar acceptance speech, April 15, 1960.


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1016.f-1136
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: dialogue cutting continuity for Academy Award cross-plug trailer, April 25,
1960, 1 page.


Sam and Mary Zimbalist papers
1.f-5
BEN-HUR — correspondence 1959-1961.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
includes: correspondence with Writers Guild of America regarding dispute over
Christopher Fry’s screenplay credit for the film.


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1017.f-1137
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: dialogue cutting continuity by Clarence Marks, undated (received April 12,
1961), 75 pages.


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1018.f-1138
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: General release trailer dialogue cutting continuity and trailer footage, July
10, 1961, 8 pages and 1 page.


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1019.f-1139
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: teaser trailer dialogue cutting continuity and trailer footage, September 6,
1968, 5 pages and 1 page.


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1020.f-1140
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: Revised domestic trailer dialogue cutting continuity and trailer footage, June
6, 1969, 6 pages and 1 page.


Turner/MGM scripts
287292.f-B-1021.f-1141
BEN-HUR
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)
contains: International trailer dialogue cutting continuity and trailer footage, June 6,
1969, 7 pages and 1 page.


William Wyler papers
2.f-22
BEN-HUR — Fry, Christopher-clippings 1959-1960.
William Wyler; 1959 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959)


#30#

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