Home » blog » 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.

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?

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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)


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By on July 26th, 2016

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a writer and digital publisher full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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