Lyon was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Alvine W. (Wiseberg) and Ben Lyon, a travelling salesman. His family was Jewish. Lyon entered films in 1918 after a successful appearance on Broadway opposite Jeanne Eagels. He attracted attention in the highly successful film Flaming Youth (1923) and steadily developed into a leading man.
Ben is frequently used as a shortened version of the given names Benjamin, Benedict, or Benson, and is also a given name in its own right.. Ben (in Hebrew: בֶּן , Son of) forms part of surnames, e.g. Abraham ben Abraham (Hebrew: אברהם בן אברהם ).