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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 Story of Ruth
The Story of Ruth original theatrical release poster.jpg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry Koster
Produced bySamuel G. Engel
Written byNorman Corwin
Based onBook of Ruth
StarringStuart Whitman
Tom Tryon
Peggy Wood
Viveca Lindfors
Jeff Morrow
Elana Eden
Narrated byEduard Franz
Music byFranz Waxman
CinematographyArthur E. Arling
Edited byJack W. Holmes
Samuel G. Engel Productions
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,000,000(US/Canada rentals)[2]


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 Moabitess 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

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]


The Story of Ruth premiered on June 17, 1960, at the Paramount Theatre in New York City.

It opened in Beverly Hills on June 30 at the Fox Wilshire Theatre.

Critical responseEdit

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 it "commendably unepic."[17]

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

  • The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Best Picture of the Month Award for July 1960. The bronze plaque was scheduled to be presented to producer Samuel G. Engel at the Greater Los Angeles Press Club on July 27, with director Henry Koster and stars Elana Eden and Tom Tryon also present.[20]
  • The Parents' Magazine Family Award Medal for July 1960.[21] The award was described by Movietone News as "one of the most sought-after accolades that can be awarded to film drama." Elana Eden and 20th Century Fox president Spyros Skouras attended the award presentation, which was filmed by Movietone News.[22]

Comic book adaptionEdit

Home mediaEdit

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. The DVD was re-released with new cover art and the same features in 2013.


  • In Guillermo del Toro's Oscar-winning fantasy drama The Shape Of Water the Amphibian Man spellboundly watches The Story Of Ruth in a poorly attended cinema after escaping from the apartment on top of it.


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p. 252
  2. ^ "Rental Potentials of 1960". Variety. January 4, 1961. p. 47. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Story of Ruth". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  4. ^ "The Story of Ruth (1960) - Original Print Info". TCM. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  5. ^ Davis, Ronald L. (2005). Just Making Movies: Company Directors On The Studio System. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 21. ISBN 9781617033643.
  6. ^ "Strasberg 'Ruth' Test". Variety. August 31, 1959.
  7. ^ a b "Testing for 20th's 'Ruth'". Variety. September 3, 1959.
  8. ^ "'Ruth' Test For Fahey". Variety. September 15, 1959.
  9. ^ "'Ruth' For Elana Eden And Term Pact At 20th". Variety. October 5, 1959.
  10. ^ Parsons, Louella (October 4, 1959). "Louella Parsons in Hollywood: Unknown Hits". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  11. ^ Johnson, Erskine (December 10, 1959). "Stephen Boyd's Top Assets: Knows Mind, Has 'Wallop'". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  12. ^ "Camera Angles". Schenectady Gazette. December 18, 1959. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  13. ^ Johnson, Erskine (October 2, 1959). "Hollywood Today: Stella's Southern Accent Last Down Here In South". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  14. ^ Parsons, Louella (November 1, 1959). "Louella Parsons in Hollywood: Irene Dunne Role". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  15. ^ a b c "Review: 'The Story of Ruth'". Variety. December 31, 1960. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Poling, Daniel A. (February 2, 1961). ""The Story of Ruth"". The Kiowa News. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  17. ^ "Cinema: Time Listings". Time. July 18, 1960. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  18. ^ a b Lane, Carl (July 7, 1960). "'The Story of Ruth' Admirable Milestone In Movie Presentation". Evening Independent. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  19. ^ "Feature Reviews: The Story of Ruth". Boxoffice. June 20, 1960. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  20. ^ "'Ruth' Wins Award". Motion Picture Daily. 88 (7): 3. July 11, 1960.
  21. ^ "National Pre-Selling". Motion Picture Daily. 88 (27): 4. August 9, 1960.
  22. ^ Parents' Magazine Coveted Award to "The Story of Ruth". Movietone News
  23. ^ "Dell Four Color #1144". Grand Comics Database.
  24. ^ Dell Four Color #1144 at the Comic Book DB

External linksEdit