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A Shield at Hart

A piece of history linked to a blockbuster movie

Ben-Hur costume in Becoming Los Angeles

By Dave Paul

Many visitors walk right past this shield on the wall of the William S. Hart Museum, thinking it’s just another decoration. In actuality, it is a piece of history that is linked to a recent remake of a blockbuster movie.

The shield Hart used in Ben-Hur
The prop shield William S. Hart used in the Broadway production of Ben-Hur

The shield was attributed to the original 1899 Broadway production of Ben-Hur, which starred William S. Hart  in the role of Messala. The story is about a Jewish man persecuted by the Roman Empire during the time of Christ. The play was a smashing success and a massive undertaking.

They even constructed a large treadmill-like contraption in order to bring real horses and chariots into the theater. It was a production unlike any audiences had ever seen before. Hart later reprised the role in the 1907 Sidney Olcott unauthorized Ben-Hur film — one of many retellings of the famous Biblical blockbuster.