Gore Vidal's Defense of Ben-Hur's Gay Subtext

After the celebrated writer divulged that he infused a gay subtext into Ben-Hur, he and the film's star, Charlton Heston, duked it out in print.

BY Michelle Garcia

August 02 2012 5:57 PM ET

One of the most talked-about revelations from the documentary The Celluloid Closet was that Gore Vidal had infused a subtle yet clear gay subtext into the screeplay for the epic 1959 film Ben-Hur. However, when Charlton Heston, who played Judah Ben-Hur, heard Vidal's admission, it prompted the conservative celebrity to engage in a campaign to diminish Vidal's work on the film and to deny that subtext.

Vidal and Heston went back and forth in letters to the editor of Time, the Los Angeles Times, and The Advocate. The June 25, 1996, article can be found here, but we've also acquired the full typewritten and faxed letter, sent in May 1996. The letter, on the next page, has never been published in full. In true Vidal fashion, the saucy letter does not disappoint.

Watch the excerpt from The Celluloid Closet below and read the letter on the next page.



Tags: Film

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