For twenty year, “Gone With the Wind” a film that won ten Academy Awards in 1939, was the most decorated film ever. It was replaced in 1959 by “Ben Hur”, obviously not a Civil War film, that won eleven Academy Awards.
“Ben Hur” does have Civil War roots. Union General Lew Wallace was the author of the 1880 novel entitled “Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ” from which the movie was taken.
But the connections don’t end there.
The best-selling American book of all time prior to 1880 was the 1852 book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. Harriett Beecher Stowe’s book about Uncle Tom, a slave, and officially titled “Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or, Life Among the Lowly” was the best-selling novel of the 19th Century. It is said to have changed forever the country’s view on slavery. At the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln met with the author and proclaimed to her “so this is the little lady who started this great war.”
“Ben Hur” became the country’s new best-selling novel in 1880 and was not surpassed until a new Civil War book came out in 1936 called “Gone With the Wind”. Margaret Mitchel’s historical novel, the only one she ever wrote, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1837. It was adopted into the film by the same name in 1939 that became one of the most successful movies of all time.
Their roles had become reversed. “Ben Hur” the movie had surpassed the movie “Gone With the Wind” in Academy Awards. Yet it was “Gone With the Wind” the book that had eventually surpassed Wallace’s book as the country's best-selling novel.
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