the morning fog to burn off. To ensure they get the most exciting footage possible, production heads announce a bonus: They will run the race one time for real, with a purse of gold for the winning team.

   Up in bleachers filled with glamorous film stars, paid extras and an invited elite, the bets begin to fly. But down on the track, the stakes are life-or-death for the desperate charioteers and their teams.

   A naive runaway farm boy finds himself trapped in Hollywood’s first “reality show” as a dangerous race becomes a deadly contest. There will be disguises, acts of betrayal and even sabotage. In the end, the world will have a new screen masterpiece to embrace. But to those who were there, October 17, 1925 will be remembered forever as the day of

"The Ben-Hur Murders."

   The coliseum games of ancient Rome had nothing on the “Hollywood Games” of 1925. Here the contestants were mainly American boys — hard-luck World War I vets and displaced cowboys who had reached the end of the range and just kept coming. Each of them was as ready as any Roman gladiator to put his life on the line if there was good money in it.

   On a Saturday morning in October 1925, the newly formed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was wagering its life on a film version of the best-selling novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.” The movie was already well over budget. Now all that remained was the climactic chariot race. If that race did not live up to expectations, M-G-M would cease to be.

   Inside a replica of Rome’s Antioch Coliseum, a platoon of assistant directors and 42 studio cameramen wait for