To escape the edict of Egypt's Pharaoh, Rameses I, condemning all newborn Hebrew males, the infant Moses is set adrift on the Nile in a reed basket. Saved by the pharaoh's daughter Bithiah, he is adopted by her and brought up in the court of her brother, Pharaoh Seti. Moses gains Seti's favor and the love of the throne princess Nefertiri, as well as the hatred of Seti's son, Rameses. When his Hebrew heritage is revealed, Moses is cast out of Egypt, and makes his way across the desert where he marries, has a son and is commanded by God to return to Egypt to free the Hebrews from slavery. In Egypt, Moses' fiercest enemy proves to be not Rameses, but someone near to him who can 'harden his heart'. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Produced at a then-staggering cost $13 million, it became Paramount's highest-grossing movie at that time. For years it ranked second only to Gone with the Wind (1939) as the most successful film in Hollywood history. See more »
When Moses is about to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, he is standing with his staff in his left hand, but in the reverse shot, the staff has jumped to his right hand. See more »
At the end of the opening credits, we see a credit which begins; "Those who see this film - PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY CECIL B. DEMILLE"... and continues in the same style and finishing with: "Based on the writings of (J.H. Ingraham) and THE HOLY SCRIPTURES" See more »
"Moses, Take What Spoils You Will From Egypt And Go"
When I was 10 years old I saw The Ten Commandments in the the theater which is the only place it really should be seen. At the time I thought it was the greatest film ever. All that splashy color cinematogaphy and eye filling spectacle. The guy that put this together is some kind of special genius. Then I grew up.
Today in a lot of quarters this and other DeMille sound films are viewed as pretty high camp. Especially those that touch on a religious theme. It's that dialog and The Ten Commandments longer than any other of his films has more of it. People talking some of that high falutin' nonsense, together with a good mixture of sex.
What a lot of people fail to remember is that before Cecil B. DeMille came to Hollywood he was an actor and playwright on Broadway. He learned his trade at the feet of David Belasco, the premier Broadway producer/playwright of his day. In that Victorian/Edwardian era, ALL the actors, in Belasco plays especially spouted that stuff. I recall Anne Baxter saying that Moses spurned her like a strumpet. How many people do you know who use the word strumpet in their every day conversation? Or Yvonne DeCarlo saying to Charlton Heston that he Moses is God's torch to light the way to freedom and that by the way she loves him?
DeMille made one great casting decision in getting the only actor who could play Moses and make it believable. This indeed was Charlton Heston's career role and as he said in his autobiography if you can't make a career out of the lead in two DeMille pictures it ain't happening.
One other member of the cast Edward G. Robinson as Dathan loved this picture. Robinson had been dropping in star status since the late Forties and was now doing mostly B films. DeMille, whose rightwing politics Robinson despised, gave him this part and Robinson's career got a big shot in the arm. Robinson was grateful and gave him full credit in his unfinished memoirs. Most of the last half of The Ten Commandments is a running verbal battle between Heston and Robinson who is trying to keep some kind of control. Robinson is almost like the leader of a company union with the Hebrew slaves as members and Robinson sure enjoys the perks of office.
The first half of the film is the sex part, hovering over all the biblical jargon. DeMille used an old gambit of his, two men in a rivalry over a woman. It worked in previous films like Northwest Mounted Police, Reap the Wild Wind, Unconquered and now here. Anne Baxter is a royal princess promised to the next Pharoah designate. But who will Sir Cedric Hardwicke designate. Charlton Heston his nephew or Yul Brynner his son? Anne Baxter has Nefretiri has both these guys hormones in overdrive. She favors Moses, but then Moses gets a higher calling.
Though he was no director of actors and his sense of drama was generations old, DeMille was a firm believer in two things, fill the screen and make the films move. 50 years later the parting of the Red Sea will still make one gasp. It's not just publicity hype when The Ten Commandments is advertised with a cast of thousands, that is thousands you're seeing on that screen.
Elmer Bernstein wrote the musical score for The Ten Commandments one of his first. He credited DeMille with teaching him how to write musical scores for film that underscore movement. This score brought him his first real notice as a film composer and he certainly became one of the best.
Given the computer technology available today, one can only imagine what Cecil B. DeMille could create today. Of course he'd insist on some of the same writing, but then again without it, it wouldn't be a DeMille picture.
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