Cecil B. De Mille made this movie twice, first as a somewhat odd silent movie (more about that later), then as a 1956 epic with state-of-the-art special effects (which won a special effects Oscar). Charlton Heston, fresh from "The Naked Jungle" (1954, about a jungle plantation surrounded by army ants) and "The Far Horizons", plays Moses, adopted brother of the future Pharaoh (Yul Brynner, later star of Westworld/Futureworld). Yul Brynner's first big starring role on Broadway had been 1951's The King & I (1,246 performances, plus a rivival on-stage in 1977). He was brought to Hollywood to repeat the role on film in 1956 and DeMille cast him as Ramses the same year. He had shaved his head for the Siamese King role and kept it that way the rest of his career with only a few exceptions.
Heston's first movie was "Dark City" (1950, costarring with Jack Webb and Harry Morgan of Dragnet fame), and he made a few westerns & historical dramas, but was largely unknown before his starring role in DeMille's "Greatest Show On Earth (1952, with Jimmy Stewart as a wanted man posing as a circus clown). But Charlton Heston (real name Charles Carter) was still largely unknown by the national movie-going public and Yul Brynner completely unknown away from Broadway. This was a trademark of both DeMille and Hitchcock; to star mostly unknowns and put the money into production values.
For "The Ten Commandments" he built a full-scale, 12-story high capital city in the desert sand and hired a reported 25,000 extras for crowd scenes. The special effects for the writing of the Ten Commandments on the Holy Tablets (by lightning bolts) are unforgetable and the parting of the Red Sea was so complicated, the process was kept secret for decades.
Recognizable Hollywood stars were put in relatively minor roles: Edward G. Robinson (who worked with Heston again in "Soylent Green" after being replaced by Roddy McDowell in Planet Of The Apes due to health problems) plays a Jewish nobleman (Billy Crystal of City Slickers still hasn't gotten over it). Vincent Price plays a sadistic Egyptian priest who takes a bullwhip to Joshua (John Derek), in a scene that's a ten. Yvonne De Carlo (later best known as Lily in The Munsters) never became a huge movie star, though she also worked with Vincent Price in MonsterVision movie House Of Wax. John Carradine, of innumerable monster movies, was cast as Aaron, brother of Moses
And look fast for Mike Connors of "Mannix" as a herder, his real-life heritage is not that far from the middle east - Armenian.
DeMille even timed production so that Charlton Heston's own newborn son could play baby Moses in the opening scenes. After "The Ten Commandments", Heston had a number of starring roles in big Hollywood movies including "The Buccaneer" (1958, again with Brynner), "Ben-Hur" (1959, another DeMille remake), "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965), "The Agony & The Ecstasy" (as Michelangelo), etc. When the public taste for expensive epics began to falter, Heston moved to sci-fi and disaster films with Planet Of The Apes (1968), The Omega Man (a remake of Vincent Price's Last Man On Earth), "Skyjacked" (1972), "Soylent Green" (1973), "Airport 75" (1975), Irwin Allen's Earthquake (1974), the WW2 movie "Midway" (1976) and "Gray Lady Down" (1978), recalling Heston's own 3 years in the U.S. Air Force in WW2.
Critics said "The Ten Commandments" played around with the facts a little too freely. DeMille simply said it was a movie, not a documentary. For example, baby Moses is placed in a basket when the elderly Pharoah orders all Hebrew babies killed. The baby is found, a princess adopts him and makes his birth mother his nurse (the name Moses means "taken from the river" so his past would not have been a secret in real life). As a young man, Moses (about age 39) saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite and killed him.
Fearing that Pharaoh would execute him, Moses fled to the Midian Desert, where he stayed another 40 years (DeMille shortened this period considerably). Then God spoke from the burning bush, telling him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to a new homeland the British have called Palastine. Moses complains that he is slow of speach (perhaps a speach impediment) and stooped (doesn't exactly sound like Charlton Heston), so God tells him to have his brother Aaron speak for him. God then sends ten devastating plagues on Egpyt (this too was shortened up, I guess DeMille didn't have time for all 10 plagues).
In 1446 B.C., they finally leave Egypt, the Red Sea is parted, and the Pharaoh's army tries to follow (see the movie to see how that turns out). Afraid of taking on the "Giants" said to be already living in Palestine, the Israelites were doomed to wander in the desert another 40 years (this would make Moses about 120 years old when he died).
Bible scholars themselves argue about whether Ramsese II was the guy in charge at the time (he lived 1304 to 1238 BC), because it was at this time the walled city of Jericho was destroyed (the year Moses died), and it was during the reign of Ramses II that the grain-store cities of Pithom & Ramses were built by slave labor. An earlier date of 1446 BC for the Exodus from Egypt is also a possibility, because Jephthah, a judge in 1106 BC, said that Israel had occupied the new land of Canaan for 300 years.
Egyptian correspondances dated to about 1400 BC do indeed mention requests from Canaan city-states for help against invaders. This would have been Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1410 to 1377 BC). The choice for DeMille would have been obvious: it's easier for Hollywood actors to say "Rameses" than "Amenhotep."
220 minutes, color
Charlton Heston ... Moses
Yul Brynner ... Rameses
Anne Baxter ... Nefretiri
Edward G. Robinson ... Dathan
Yvonne De Carlo ... Sephora
Debra Paget ... Lilia
John Derek ... Joshua
Cedric Hardwicke ... Sethi
Nina Foch ... Bithiah
Martha Scott ... Yochabel
Dame Judith Anderson ... Memnet
Vincent Price ... Baka
John Carradine ... Aaron
Olive Deering ... Miriam
Douglass Dumbrille ... Jannes
Frank DeKova ... Abiram
Henry Wilcoxon ... Pentaur
Eduard Franz ... Jethro
Donald Curtis ... Mered
Lawrence Dobkin ... Hur Ben Caleb
H.B. Warner ... Amminadab
Julia Faye ... Elisheba
Fraser Clarke Heston ... Infant Moses
John Miljan ... The Blind One
Francis McDonald ... Simon
Ian Keith ... Rameses I
Paul De Rolf ... Eleazar
Woody Strode ... King of Ethiopia/litter carrier-slave
Tommy Duran ... Gershom
Eugene Mazzola ... Rameses' Son
Ramsay Hill ... Korah
Joan Woodbury ... Korah's Wife
Esther Brown ... Princess Therbis
Mike Connors ... Amalekite Herder
Clint Walker ... Sardinian Captain
Cecil B. DeMille ... Himself/Narrator
Michael Ansara ... Taskmaster (just ask Barbara Eden)
Richard Farnsworth ... Chariot Driver
Franklyn Farnum ... High Official
Joe Gold ... Egyptian Guard
John Hart ... Ambassador from Crete
Donald Hayne ... God (Pillar of Fire)
Delos Jewkes ... God
Jon Peters ... Extra (boy on donkey crossing Red Sea)
Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer ... Slave
Robert Vaughn ... Spearman
Tim Cagney ... Moses' son (6 year old)
Herb Alpert ... Drummer on Mt. Sinai
Keith Richards ... un-named character
Directed & Produced by Cecil B. DeMille
Screenplay based on novels "Prince Of Egypt" by Dorothy Clarke Wilson,
"Pillar of Fire" by Rev. G.E. Southton; and of course the Holy Bible
(DeMille only had to pay the authors of the first two)
Solomon & Sheba (1959)
Shortly before his death in ancient Israel, King David has a vision from God telling him that his younger son Solomon (Yul Brynner) should succeed him as king. His other son Adonijah is unhappy and vows to attain the throne. Meanwhile the Egyptian Pharoah agrees to cede a Red Sea port to the Queen of Sheba (Gina Lollobrigida) if she can find a way to destroy Solomon, whose wisdom and benevolent rule is seen as a threat to more tyrannical monarchs in the region. Sheba, Pharoah, Adonijah, the leaders of the Twelve Tribes and his own God make life difficult for Solomon who is tempted by Sheba to stray.
When Egypt attacks, unexpected allies join Solomon, but Adonijah has already taken over Jerusalem and sentenced Sheba to death by stoning. When Solomon returns with his victorious army, Adonijah attacks with a sword. Solomon's Generals defend him, but it may be too late for Sheba, who Solomon carries into the temple. There, she revives and tells Solomon she must return to Sheba, to rule and bring the God of Israel to her country.
Brynner replaced Tyrone Power, who died shortly after filming started (some of the long shots of King Solomon are actually Tyrone)
Additional cast: George Sanders, Joan Crawford, Harry Andrews. Directed by King Vidor (his final film). 120 minutes, director's cut is 139
The Ten Commandments (1956) is next scheduled by ABC (annually around Easter, it was scheduled in 2006 following a 4-hour Ten Commandments miniseries, filmed in Morocco). The History Channel had a documentary on the Ten Commandments airing in 2007
The Movie Channel had Passion Of The Christ (2004, filmed by Mel Gibson entirely in the ancient languages, with subtitles. Rated R for Roman violence) in 2007, and Sunday on Showtime
The Chronicles of Narnia is widely thought of as being Biblically inspired, with Aslan's crucifixion on the Stone Table by the White Witch before the epic battle between the forces of good and evil involving 20,000 participants. The DVD of 2005's movie version came out in 2006, if you want to check it out yourself. It is showing on various cable channels including Starz Kids & Family, Starz and Encore channels
Movie clip: Moses given the 10 Commandments by God (click to play clip)
Quotes & Trivia (Courtesy of the Internet Movie Database)
Baka: Will you lose a throne because Moses builds a city?
Rameses: The city that he builds shall bear my name, the woman that he loves shall bear my child. So let it be written, so let it be done.
Sethi: Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet. Stricken from every pylon and obelisk of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of man, for all time.
Baka (Vincent Price, as he is whipping him): You make no outcry, Joshua, but you will; you will cry for the mercy of death.
Joshua: One day you will listen to the cry of slaves.
Baka: This is not that day, Joshua.
Rameses: You have a rat's ears and a ferret's nose.
Dathan (Edward G. Robinson): To use in your service, son of Pharaoh.
Moses: It would take more than a man to lead the slaves from bondage. It would take a god.
Rameses (To Nefretiri): You will be mine, like my dog, or my horse, or my falcon, except that I shall love you more--and trust you less.
Sethi: With my last breath I'll break my own law and speak the name of Moses... Moses.
Nefretiri: I saved your son.
Moses: It is not my son who will die, it is the first born of Egypt, it is your son, Nefretiri!
Nefretiri: You would not dare strike Pharaoh's son!
Moses: In the hardness of his heart, Pharaoh has mocked God and brings death to his own son!
Rameses: His God... is God!
Dathan: Where are we going?
Egyptian Soldier: To Hell, I hope!
Trivia about The Ten Commandments:
* To create the effect of the sandstorm in the narrated desert sequence, DeMille used the engine blast from tied-down Egyptian air force planes.
* DeMille suffered a heart attack during the production after climbing 130 feet to check a faulty camera perched on one of the giant gates used in the exodus sequence. He took a couple of days off and then, against his doctor's orders, returned to work to complete the film.
* DeMille gave his old actor friend, H.B. Warner, his last speaking role as the old man wanting to die in the desert in the Exodus sequence. H.B. Warner came to fame after Demille cast him the lead as Jesus in his silent film, King of Kings (1927).
* This was legendary film composer Elmer Bernstein's first major project. Bernstein had just had some success with his jazz score for Man with the Golden Arm (1955). However, he was not DeMille's first choice to score the film. DeMille had a long relationship with Paramount contract composer, Victor Young, who had been working with DeMille since the 1940 film, Northwest Mounted Police. Unfortunately, Victor Young had become very ill and could not accept the project.
* One day in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, a casting director for The Ten Commandments approached Jack Peters and his son to ask if Jon wanted to appear in the film. Multitudes of people with dark hair and complexions were needed to cross the Red Sea. Jon was chosen to ride a donkey and lead a goat by rope. Jon was so excited that he refused to wash off his makeup when he went home at night.
* Considerable controversy exists over who supplied the voice of God for the film, for which no on-screen credit was given. The voice used was heavily modified and mixed with other sound effects, making identification extremely difficult. Various people have either claimed or been rumored to have supplied the voice: DeMille himself (he narrated the film), Heston and J.D. Jewkes, to name a few. DeMille's publicist and biographer Donald Hayne maintains that Heston provided the voice of God at the burning bush, but he himself provided the voice of God giving the Commandments. In any event, only two people knew for sure: DeMille and sound director Loren L. Ryder, both of whom are now dead.
* Cecil B. DeMille's first choice for Moses was William Boyd, best known as Hopalong Cassidy. Boyd turned the role down, fearing the Hopalong Cassidy identification would hurt the movie.
Although uncredited, former Mr. America Mike Sill was one of the persons helping to carry the Idol of the Golden Calf
* Charlton Heston was chosen for the role of Moses by Cecil B. DeMille because he bore a resemblance to Michelangelo's statue of Moses in Rome.
* When Woody Strode reported to work, he presented Cecil B. DeMille with an antique bible Strode's wife had found. DeMille was so impressed with the gift he not only put Strode in two parts in the film but told Strode that if he ever wanted a part in a future DeMille film, all he had to do was ask. Unfortunately, this project was Demille's final film due to declining health.
* In adjusted-for-inflation gross, this movie is the top grossing movie in the US that has not benefited from multiple releases. It is generally in the top 3 to top 10 of all-time top grossing films (depending on who made the list and how they accounted for re-releases), adjusted for inflation.
* Decades later, some of the props used in this film - in particular cups, glasses and tableware - turned up in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987) called "Tapestry".
* Celluloid art created the special effects of the Red Sea parting (kept secret for decades) by pouring 300,000 gallons of water into a tank and then playing the film backward.
* 14,000 extras and 15,000 animals were used in the production of the movie.
* The close-up illusion of the Red Sea parting was achieved by using the same technique perfected for DeMille's silent version of The Ten Commandments (1923): two blocks of gelatin were placed side-by-side, melted with blow-torches and shot in extreme close-up, and the footage was then seen in reverse.
* Ann Baxter's character's name was changed from Nefertiti to Nefertiri because Cecil B. DeMille was afraid people would make "boob" jokes.
* Father and son both played Moses in this movie as Fraser Heston played Moses as an infant.
* There is a longstanding rumor that future Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is an extra in this film, possibly playing a soldier. In her book "My Lucky Stars", Shirley MacLaine recalls asking Castro if he indeed was in the film, and receiving an ambiguous answer.
* The special effects work was so extensive that it was not completed by the final edit. The released version contains fringing during some blue screen shots which the crew did not have time to correct.
* Moses (actually Moshi) is an Egyptian name, "Mo" meaning water, and "Shi" meaning "take," indicating that it was no secret where Pharaoh's daughter found him.
The Ten Commandments
During the Roaring 20s, Hollywood started running afoul of various state's censorship boards due to sexual content. So some films would be rewritten so as to appear moralistic. For this one, set mostly in the present (about two brothers - one good, one bad), DeMille filmed a short version of Moses and the Ten Commandments on a gargantuan scale, building huge multi-story walled sets 120-feet tall in the sand dunes near Guadalupe, California, and filming several scenes in 2-color Technicolor. This made it seem more like a morality play for the state censorship boards. At 146 minutes, the subtitles alone of this silent movie would have made it like reading a novel. For the 1956 remake, DeMille jettisoned the modern part and just told the story of Moses.
For some reason, DeMille never made a sequel, starting with the destruction of Jericho by Joshua, despite the box-office success of "The Ten Commandments." He did follow with "King Of Kings" about Jesus (1927, also partly filmed in Technicolor, remade by someone else in 1961 starring Jeffrey Hunter of Star Trek fame). "The Ten Commandments" remake (1956) was DeMille's final film, due to failing health. His autobiography was published posthumously in 1959. Some time later, Irwin Allen made his own version of Mankind's history (later spoofed by Mel Brooks as "The History Of The World Part One") which did so sell it financed his movie & TV-series Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea
Joe Bob Briggs looks at the controversial movie that got everyone upset a while back, The Last Temptation Of Christ. Unless you'd prefer Jesus Christ, Superstar. Alice Cooper played King Herod in one of the stage versions: Cooper sings Herod's song. Mel Gibson's current Passion took 9 years to get to the screen, though doesn't that part at the end where the devil screams from the bottom of a pit remind you a little of a similar scene from one of the Nightmare On Elm Street movies? Cool devil baby. Creepy.
Passion Of The Christ movie trailer (G-rated, no blood shown)
Starting in the 6th century, people were congratulated when they sneezed because it was assumed that they were expelling an evil spirit. To put an end to this superstition during the Black Plague, the Pope made it a law to say instead, "God bless you" when someone sneezed.
Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Keidis has revealed that he was once hooked on internet pornography, reports GIGWise. The singer has compared the obsession with heroin addiction – something which he was once blighted with. Fortunately, since he started dating 20-year-old Heather Christie, he managed to kick the habit. He said: “When I finally got a computer, I discovered this limitless world of pornography. “I realised the same feeling I was having was the same I used to get when scoring drugs. Sex can have a dark side. “I actually had to make a commitment to myself to stop.” Posted at XXX Church.com