The Story of Ruth is a refreshingly sincere and restrained Biblical drama, a picture that elaborates on the romantic, political and devotional difficulties encountered by the Old Testament heroine. Yet, for all its obvious high purpose, bolstered by several fine performances, there is a sluggishness that is disturbing.
The screenplay describes the heroine’s activities from her youthful indoctrination as a Moabite priestess through her marriage to the Judean, Boaz. Along the way it dramatizes her romance with the kindly Mahlon, his violent death, her conversion to Judaism and flight with Mahlon’s mother, Naomi, to Bethlehem, where she encounters religious persecution and becomes embroiled in a romantic triangle.
Although the screenplay wisely avoids archaic phrases, director Henry Koster has not always succeeded in side-stepping stereotyped biblical-pic posturing and mannerisms among his players, and is inclined to anticipate mysterious character knowledge in a few instances. But he has coaxed several very effective portrayals out of his principals.
The film introduces Elana Eden in the title role. She gives a performance of dignity, projecting an inner strength through a delicate veneer. The picture is helped by veteran Peggy Wood’s excellent characterization of Naomi. Her timing is always sharp. Tom Tryon establishes a pleasing screen personality with a vigorous delineation of Mahlon. Franz Waxman’s music is typically biblical in tone and tempo.