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The Story of Ruth

The Story of Ruth
File:The Story of Ruth original theatrical release poster.jpg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Henry Koster
Produced by Samuel G. Engel
Written by Norman Corwin
Based on Book of Ruth
Starring Stuart Whitman
Tom Tryon
Peggy Wood
Viveca Lindfors
Jeff Morrow
Elana Eden
Narrated by Eduard Franz
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Arthur E. Arling
Edited by Jack W. Holmes
Samuel G. Engel Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
Running time
132 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,930,000[1]
Box office $3,000,000[2]
(North American rentals)

The Story of Ruth is a 1960 American historical romance film directed by Henry Koster, shot in CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color, and released by 20th Century Fox. The screenplay, written by Norman Corwin, is an adaptation of the biblical Book of Ruth. The film stars Stuart Whitman as Boaz, Tom Tryon as Mahlon, Peggy Wood as Naomi, Viveca Lindfors as Eleilat, Jeff Morrow as Tob, and introduces Elana Eden as Ruth.


The first part of the film revolves around Ruth, visualized as a pagan idolatress in her youth who serves as the spiritual teacher of a young Moabitess girl, Tebah, who is being prepared to be sacrificed to Chemosh, a Moabite deity. High-priestess Eleilat, along with Ruth, instruct Mahlon, a Judean artisan, to polish Tebah's ritual crown. Mahlon delivers the crown to Ruth at the temple, and he begins to question her about the existence of Chemosh. Ruth becomes doubtful of her religion and ultimately falls in love with Mahlon, sharing an interest in monotheism.

This fictional non-biblical part ends with the sight of the Moabite girl being sacrificed, from which a frightened, astonished Ruth flees and seeks refuge with Mahlon and his family. The Moabites condemn Mahlon, his father Elimelech, and brother Chilion. Chilion and Elimelech die in the prison, while Mahlon's punishment is to work at the quarries for the rest of his life. Ruth, however, attempts to escape with Mahlon, but he is wounded before he flees the quarries and dies in a cave afterwards, marrying Ruth just prior to his death.

The biblical storyline begins as Naomi (who was married to Elimelech), Orpah (who was married to Chilion), and Ruth are widowed. The second part is based more on the Book of Ruth, although a subplot is added, that of the Bethlehemites' initial disapproval of Ruth's pagan past and Naomi's closest kinsman rejecting Ruth as his wife. As the next of kin after him, Boaz successfully obtains Ruth's hand in marriage. As the film concludes, the final verses of the Book of Ruth are quoted.




Susan Strasberg, a contender for the role Ruth,[3] was tested in September 1959.[4] Other actresses who tested for the role were Susan Kohner, Tina Louise, Diane Baker, and Millie Perkins.[5] Israeli actress Elana Cooper and Swedish actress Ulla Jacobsson arrived in Los Angeles in September 1959 to test for the role.[5] Myrna Fahey, who had recently signed a contract with 20th-Century Fox, was also tested.[6] In October 1959, Cooper was cast as Ruth, changed her name from "Elana Cooper" to "Elana Eden," and signed a "term pact" with the studio.[7][8]

Stephen Boyd was first cast as Boaz but later turned down the role and said: "I think the picture would be much better without me."[9] Boyd later played Nimrod in John Huston's The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966), another biblical epic released by 20th-Century Fox. Stuart Whitman replaced Boyd as Boaz in December 1959.[10]

Helen Hayes and Irene Dunne were offered the role of Naomi before Peggy Wood was cast.[11][12]

Critical response

The Story of Ruth received favorable reviews upon release. Variety called it "a refreshingly sincere and restrained Biblical drama, a picture that elaborates on the romantic, political and devotional difficulties encountered by the Old Testament heroine."[13] Daniel A. Poling, editor of the Christian Herald, described the film as "[g]loriously cast and faultlessly directed."[14] Time considered it "commendably unepic."[15]

Carl Lane, writing for the The Evening Independent, praised Elana Eden's performance as "a flesh and blood Ruth of passion and compassion, of tenderness and dignity, a woman of whom the viewer tells himself on leaving the theater: 'This is Ruth as she must have been. She could have been no other.'"[16] Poling believed Eden's portrayal of Ruth was "worthy of an Oscar,"[14] and Variety described it as "a performance of dignity," as she projects "an inner strength through a delicate veneer."[13] Peggy Wood's performance also received high commendation from critics. Variety noticed her "excellent characterization of Naomi" and acknowledged that her "timing is always sharp."[13] Lane thought she "creates an unforgettable character. Patience, faith, wisdom, all mature within her as the story progresses."[16] Of both performances, Boxoffice wrote: "This personal and human tale benefits by the realistic portrayals of the beautiful Israeli actress Miss Eden and the mature Miss Wood, who play together with touching affinity."[17]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p. 252
  2. ^ "Rental Potentials of 1960". Variety. January 4, 1961. p. 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
  3. ^ Davis, Ronald L. (2005). Just Making Movies: Company Directors On The Studio System. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 21. ISBN 9781617033643. 
  4. ^ "Strasberg 'Ruth' Test". Variety. August 31, 1959. 
  5. ^ a b "Testing for 20th's 'Ruth'". Variety. September 3, 1959. 
  6. ^ "'Ruth' Test For Fahey". Variety. September 15, 1959. 
  7. ^ "'Ruth' For Elana Eden And Term Pact At 20th". Variety. October 5, 1959. 
  8. ^ Parsons, Louella (October 4, 1959). "Louella Parsons in Hollywood: Unknown Hits". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved October 9, 2014. 
  9. ^ Johnson, Erskine (December 10, 1959). "Stephen Boyd's Top Assets: Knows Mind, Has 'Wallop'". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved October 9, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Camera Angles". Schenectady Gazette. December 18, 1959. Retrieved October 9, 2014. 
  11. ^ Johnson, Erskine (October 2, 1959). "Hollywood Today: Stella's Southern Accent Last Down Here In South". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved October 9, 2014. 
  12. ^ Parsons, Louella (November 1, 1959). "Louella Parsons in Hollywood: Irene Dunne Role". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved October 9, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c "Review: ‘The Story of Ruth’". Variety. December 31, 1960. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Poling, Daniel A. (February 2, 1961). ""The Story of Ruth"". The Kiowa News. Retrieved October 7, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Cinema: Time Listings". Time. July 18, 1960. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b Lane, Carl (July 7, 1960). "'The Story of Ruth' Admirable Milestone In Movie Presentation". The Evening Independent. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Feature Reviews: The Story of Ruth". Boxoffice. June 20, 1960. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 

External links