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Film Review: The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur – A Touching Documentary With Never Before Seen Photos From Hollywood’s Glamour Days

Film Review: The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur – A Touching Documentary With Never Before Seen Photos From Hollywood’s Glamour Days

John Alarimo Jr. The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur

Johnny Alarimo sitting on Caesar’s Throne.


Every person who has ever lived has a story. Joe Forte’s documentary film, The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur, explores one of those stories about a man who lived a glamorous life with movie stars and Hollywood Directors but who remained unknown. A gorgeous, haunting film about the stories we each have to tell, The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur is a must see for anyone who loves Old Hollywood and believes every individual has worth.

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The film follows the story of the Director’s second cousin, John Alarimo Jr., a man both a mystery to Joe Forte (a successful painter and screenwriter himself) and the audience. Who is this man who lived a life working on films behind the scenes while traveling and dining with some of the world’s most glamorous stars? Now in his eighties and living alone, Forte attempts to discover Johnny’s story. However, he discovers it’s not as easy as it seems. Alarimo is both wonderfully charismatic and incredibly elusive at the same time. He has all these stories to tell but hides who he really is. Alone and never married, we wonder, did Johnny ever have a great love?

When Joe Forte enters his cousin’s apartment, we see boxes everywhere. Photos labeled on the couch with names like “Elizabeth Taylor,” “Franco Zeffirelli,” and “Charlton Heston.” He has organized his life into labels, preparing it for whoever will sort through his belongings after he passes. “But for who?” Forte asks him. Johnny doesn’t know but it’s obvious he longs for someone to see the life he’s lived.

A gorgeous, haunting film about the stories we each have to tell, The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur is a must see for anyone who loves Old Hollywood and believes every individual has worth.

Seeing his apartment is like entering a museum from the past with unseen photos of Hollywood’s glamour days of the ‘50’s and ‘60s. Forte discovers that Johnny was also a WWII vet with a surprising tale of loss that perhaps affected the rest of his life.

Of course, Forte has many exciting stories to share and anyone who loves Old Hollywood will be enamored by his stories (documented with never before seen photos). Johnny remembers how he saved Ben-Hur, went on a trip with Rock Hudson, danced with Sandra Dee, and more. Thankfully, he documented all of his experiences with incredible photos worthy of an exhibit.  And it’s not only photos he’s collected over the years. He has a collection of gifts, Christmas cards, and other memorabilia from celebrities. It’ a fascinating sight to behold. Yet, despite his amazing personal collection, there is a loneliness and underlying sadness about John Alarimo Jr. which will draw all viewers in.

William Wyler Johnny Bette Davis Chuck Heston

Johnny Alarimo with William Wyler, Bette Davis and Charlton “Chuck” Heston.

The film is beautifully edited together, with voice overs, a gorgeous display of photographs of Alarimo (who was incredibly handsome), interview sequences – all presented with an intimate hand. By the end, you feel like you know Johnny Alarimo or at least want to. Certainly, The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur is a wonderful tribute to this man who will now be remembered.

As a film, The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur remains genuine rather than manipulative or false, a trap many documentaries fall into. This is a personal movie made with sincere intent and Joe Forte directs it with a care for this man he obviously grows to respect and love. Unquestionably, Forte has a gift for storytelling which shows in the artistry and narrative of the film which builds to a natural, emotional climax. But it’s John Alarimo Jr.’s story itself that will stay with you.

The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur will invite you to examine not only the narrative of your own life but that of everyone around you. If we were to document our own life on film what stories would we tell? What would we want to remain secret? No doubt this will encourage each of us to get to know our elderly relatives better. Nobody wants to be forgotten after all.

The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur was released on DVD and Digital today.


(Photos Courtesy of Vision Films)

Still of Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur

Johnny by the Chariot Track

Another shot of Johnny by the Chariot Track

Johnny with Gus Agosti - Assistant Director of Ben-Hur

Johnny on the ship from Ben-Hur set

Johnny and Charlton Heston

Johnny's Money Shot (Head Shot)

Johnny with Blonde in Rome

Johnny with Stella Adler

Johnny and Richard Burton

Johnny with Kirk Douglas

Johnny with Sandra Dee

Johnny with a cast and crew including Rock Hudson

Johnny and Rock Hudson with Cast & Crew

Johnny in Capri

Johnny with actress Romy Schneider

Johnny making a funny face

Johnny at his home


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About The Author

Amber Topping

A lover of stories in all forms and from all cultures and time periods, Amber honed her own storytelling skills as a girl by doing Shirley Temple impersonations and putting on plays with her siblings. Eventually, she turned to cheerleading, dance, and finally to writing and video editing. Amber is an empathetic and impassioned person with a strong independent will and an endless amount of creativity. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, and has contributed to various magazines. Her ultimate dream is to be a published author of books, screenplays, travel all over the world, and to form a creative village of talented storytellers from around the world who can collaborate together to produce stories celebrating old-fashioned romance and diverse storytelling. She believes stories have the positive power to unite, not divide.

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The Silver Petticoat Review covers both classic and modern entertainment from around the world and specializes in Old-Fashioned Romance, Period Dramas, and Romantic Storytelling in Film, Literature, & TV. Our objective is to promote and bring back enthusiasm for swoon-worthy love stories and diverse storytelling steeped in or influenced by Romanticism without the excess of explicit content and unsentimental cynicism.




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