The Story of Ruth

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

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 19-year old 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 Moabite girl, Tebah, who is being prepared to be sacrificed to Chemosh, a Moabite deity. Unhappy with the ritual crown created for Tebah, high-priestess Eleilat, along with Ruth, instruct Mahlon, the Judean artisan, to revamp the crown with jewels and glitter. 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.

The non-biblical part ends with the sight of the Moabite girl being sacrificed, from which a distressed Ruth flees. 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 comes to free Mahlon, but he is wounded as he flees the quarry. He marries Ruth in a cave soon afterwards, and promptly dies.

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.



In 1957, Simon Windelburg was announced as the film's screenwriter. [3] Michael Kanin and his wife, Fay Kanin, who were later hired to write the screenplay, wrote treatments for the film. [3] Frank G. Slaughter wrote a screenplay based on his 1954 novel The Song of Ruth: A Love Story From the Old Testament. [3] Norman Corwin wrote an entirely new screenplay after summer 1958. [3] Corwin submitted his final draft of the script on September 1, 1959. [3] Production began in late November 1959 and ended in mid-February 1960. [4]


Susan Strasberg, a contender for the role Ruth, [5] was tested in September 1959. [6] Other actresses who tested for the role were Susan Kohner, Tina Louise, Diane Baker, and Millie Perkins. [7] Israeli actress Elana Cooper and Swedish actress Ulla Jacobsson arrived in Los Angeles in September 1959 to test for the role. [7] Myrna Fahey, who had recently signed a contract with 20th-Century Fox, was also tested. [8] 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. [9] [10]

Elana Eden as Ruth Elana Eden in The Story of Ruth.jpg
Elana Eden as Ruth

This is Elana Eden, whom Buddy Adler, Henry Koster, and I have selected to portray the coveted title role in The Story of Ruth. Elana Eden comes to us from the Holy Land following worldwide search in which literally over a score of young, talented actresses were tested. Elana is a graduate from the renowned Habima Theatre. She was chosen by us because we feel she possesses the necessary qualifications for this exacting role and because of her natural qualities, which most faithfully exemplify this beloved biblical heroine.

Samuel G. Engel, in a 7-minute preview of the film

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." [11] 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. [12]

Helen Hayes and Irene Dunne were offered the role of Naomi before Peggy Wood was cast. [13] [14]


On June 17, 1960, The Story of Ruth premiered at the Paramount Theatre in New York City [ citation needed ] and on June 30, 1960, in Beverly Hills at the Fox Wilshire Theatre.[ citation needed ]

Home media

In 2006, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released The Story of Ruth on DVD with special features, including a preview, a trailer, and several Movietone News shorts concerning the film.[ citation needed ]

In 2013, the DVD was re-released with new cover art but the same features as the 2006 release.[ citation needed ]

Critical response

Director Henry Koster, producer Samuel G. Engel, and cameraman Arthur Arling on the set of The Story of Ruth. Henry Koster, Samuel G. Engel, and Arthur E. Arling on the set of The Story of Ruth.jpg
Director Henry Koster, producer Samuel G. Engel, and cameraman Arthur Arling on the set of The Story of Ruth.

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". [15]

Daniel A. Poling, editor of the Christian Herald, described the film as "[g]loriously cast and faultlessly directed". [16]

Time considered the film "commendably unepic". [17]

Carl Lane, writing for the Evening Independent , praised Elana Eden's performance:

"...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.'" [18]

Poling believed Eden's portrayal of Ruth was "worthy of an Oscar", [16] and Variety described it as "a performance of dignity", as she projects "an inner strength through a delicate veneer". [15]

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". [15] Lane thought she: "..creates an unforgettable character. Patience, faith, wisdom, all mature within her as the story progresses." [18]

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." [19]


The Story of Ruth won:

Cultural references

The story was adapted as a comic book, "Dell Four Color #1144 (September 1960)". [23] [24]

In Guillermo del Toro's Oscar-winning fantasy drama The Shape Of Water (2017), the Amphibian Man, spellbound, watches The Story Of Ruth in a poorly attended cinema after having escaped from an apartment above.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

Book of Ruth Book of the Bible

The Book of Ruth is included in the third division, or the Writings (Ketuvim), of the Hebrew Bible. In most Christian canons it is treated as one of the historical books and placed between Judges and 1 Samuel.

Moab Ancient kingdom located in the modern state of Jordan

Moab is the name of an ancient Levantine kingdom whose territory is today located in the modern state of Jordan. The land is mountainous and lies alongside much of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. The existence of the Kingdom of Moab is attested to by numerous archaeological findings, most notably the Mesha Stele, which describes the Moabite victory over an unnamed son of King Omri of Israel, an episode also noted in 2 Kings 3. The Moabite capital was Dibon. According to the Hebrew Bible, Moab was often in conflict with its Israelite neighbours to the west.

Boaz biblical figure

Boaz is a biblical figure appearing in the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible and in the genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament and also the name of a pillar in the portico of the historic Temple in Jerusalem. The word is found 24 times in the Scriptures, two being in Greek.

Jeanne Crain American actress

Jeanne Elizabeth Crain was an American actress. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her title role in Pinky (1949). She also starred in the films In the Meantime, Darling (1944), State Fair (1945), Leave Her to Heaven (1945), Centennial Summer (1946), Margie (1946), Apartment for Peggy (1948), A Letter to Three Wives (1949), Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), People Will Talk (1951), Man Without a Star (1955), Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956), and The Joker Is Wild (1957).

Stephen Boyd Northern Irish actor (1931–1977)

Stephen Boyd was a Northern Irish actor. He appeared in some 60 films, most notably as the villainous Messala in Ben-Hur (1959), a role that earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. He received his second Golden Globe Award nomination for Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962). He also appeared, sometimes as a hero and sometimes as a malefactor, in the major big-screen productions Les bijoutiers du clair de lune (1958), The Bravados (1958), Imperial Venus (1962), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), Genghis Khan (1965), Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Shalako (1968).

Naomi (biblical figure) Ruths mother-in-law in the Book of Ruth

Naomi is Ruth's mother-in-law in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Ruth. The etymology of her name is not certain, but it is possible that it means "good, pleasant, lovely, winsome."

Peggy Wood American actress

Mary Margaret Wood was an American actress of stage, film, and television. She is best remembered for her performance as the title character in the CBS television series Mama (1949–1957), for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series; her starring role as Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law, in The Story of Ruth (1960); and her final screen appearance as Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music (1965), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.

Mahlon and Chilion were two brothers mentioned in the Book of Ruth. They were the sons of Elimelech of the tribe of Judah and his wife Naomi. Together with their parents, they settled in the land of Moab during the period of the Israelite Judges. On foreign soil, Mahlon married the Moabite convert Ruth while Chilion married the Moabite convert Orpah.

Jimmie Fidler American columnist

Jimmie Fidler was an American columnist, journalist and radio and television personality. He wrote a Hollywood gossip column and was sometimes billed as Jimmy Fidler.

<i>The Best of Everything</i> (film) 1959 film by Jean Negulesco

The Best of Everything is a 1959 American drama film directed by Jean Negulesco from as screenplay by Edith Sommer and Mann Rubin, based on the 1958 novel of the same name by Rona Jaffe. It stars Hope Lange, Stephen Boyd, Suzy Parker, Martha Hyer, Diane Baker, Brian Aherne, Robert Evans, Louis Jourdan, and Joan Crawford. The film follows the professional careers and private lives of three women who share a small apartment in New York City and work together in a paperback publishing firm. Alfred Newman wrote the musical score, the last under his longtime contract as 20th Century-Fox's musical director.

<i>Black Widow</i> (1954 film) 1954 color mystery film directed by Nunnally Johnson

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<i>Return to Peyton Place</i> (film) 1961 film by José Ferrer

Return to Peyton Place is a 1961 drama film in color by De Luxe and CinemaScope, produced by Jerry Wald, directed by José Ferrer, and starring Carol Lynley, Tuesday Weld, Jeff Chandler, Eleanor Parker, Mary Astor, and Robert Sterling. The screenplay by Ronald Alexander is based on the 1959 novel Return to Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. The film was distributed by 20th Century Fox and is a sequel to their earlier film Peyton Place (1957).

<i>The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith</i> 2009 American film

The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith is a 2009 Christian film directed by Stephen Patrick Walker. It is based on the Book of Ruth, and was aired January 8, 2010 on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The film stars Dan Haggerty, Lana Wood, Eleese Lester, Carman, and Sherry Morris as Ruth.

Ruth (biblical figure) Protagonist of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible

Ruth is the person after whom the Book of Ruth is named. She was a Moabite woman who married an Israelite. After the death of all the male members of her family, she stays with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and moves to Judah with her, where Ruth wins the love and protection of a wealthy relative, Boaz, through her kindness.

Elana Eden

Elana Eden is an Israeli actress of film, television, and stage, best known for her film debut as the title role in 20th Century Fox's biblical epic The Story of Ruth (1960).

Ruth 2

Ruth 2 is the second chapter of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, part of the Ketuvim ("Writings"). This chapter contains the story of Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz, her deceased husband's near kinsman, and he notices her, Ruth 2:1-7; Boaz shows her great kindness, and blesses her, Ruth 2:8-16; Ruth brings what she got to Naomi; and tells her about Boaz; Naomi gives God thanks, and exhorts Ruth to continue in the field, Ruth 2:17-23.

Ziva Rodann Israeli-American actress and mime artist

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Ruth 1

Ruth 1 is the first chapter of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, part of the Ketuvim ("Writings"). This chapter contains the story of how Elimelech, Ruth's father-in-law, driven by famine, moved into Moab, and died there ; Naomi returning home, Ruth accompanies her ; They came to Bethlehem.

Ruth 3

Ruth 3 is the third chapter of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, part of the Ketuvim ("Writings"). This chapter contains the story of how on Naomi's advice, Ruth slept at Boaz's feet, Ruth 3:1-7; Boaz commends what she had done, and acknowledges the right of a kinsman; tells her there was a nearer kinsman, to whom he would offer her, and if that man refuses, Boaz would redeem her, Ruth 3:8-13; Boaz sends her away with six measures of barley, Ruth 3:14-18.

Ruth 4

Ruth 4 is the fourth chapter of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, part of the Ketuvim ("Writings"). This chapter contains the story of how Boaz goes up to the city gate, calls his kinsman; inquires whether he would redeem and marry Ruth, Ruth 4:1-5. He refuses, Ruth 4:6-8. Boaz, with the people witnessing and congratulating, buys the inheritance, and marries Ruth, Ruth 4:9-12. She gave birth to Obed the grandfather of King David, Ruth 4:13-17. The genealogy from Perez (Pharez) to David, Ruth 4:18-22.


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