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The Ten Commandments (1923)

After hearing the story of Moses, the sons of a devout Christian mother go their own ways, while the atheist brother's breaking of the Ten Commandments leads to tragedy.

Director:

Cecil B. DeMille (as Cecil B. De Mille)

Writer:

Jeanie Macpherson (story)
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Theodore Roberts ... Moses - The Lawgiver
Charles de Rochefort ... Rameses - the Magnificent: Prologue (as Charles De Roche)
Estelle Taylor ... Miriam - The Sister of Moses
Julia Faye ... The Wife of Pharaoh - Prologue
Pat Moore ... The Son of Pharaoh - Prologue (as Terrence Moore)
James Neill ... Aaron - Brother of Moses
Lawson Butt ... Dathan - The Discontented
Clarence Burton Clarence Burton ... The Taskmaster - Prologue
Noble Johnson ... The Bronze Man - Prologue
Edythe Chapman ... Mrs. Martha McTavish
Richard Dix ... John McTavish - Her Son
Rod La Rocque ... Dan McTavish - Her Son
Leatrice Joy ... Mary Leigh
Nita Naldi ... Sally Lung - a Eurasian
Robert Edeson ... Redding - an Inspector
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Storyline

The first part tells the story of Moses leading the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land, his receipt of the tablets and the worship of the golden calf. The second part shows the efficacy of the commandments in modern life through a story set in San Francisco. Two brothers, rivals for the love of Mary, also come into conflict when John discovers Dan used shoddy materials to construct a cathedral. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Mightiest Dramatic Spectacle of All the Ages.


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 November 1923 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die zehn Gebote See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,800,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Color:

Black and White | Color (2-strip Technicolor) (some sequences)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The enormous sets of ancient Egypt have become a Hollywood legend in themselves. The "City of the Pharaohs" was constructed of wood and plaster in the Guadalupe Dunes, an 18-mile stretch of coastal sand 170 miles north of L.A. The sets featured four 35-foot-tall statues of the Pharaoh Ramses, 21 five-ton sphinxes, and city walls over 120 feet high. An army of 2,500 actors, extras, carpenters, plasterers, painters, cooks, staff, and film crew members inhabited the set for three months, housed in a virtual army camp that featured nearly 1,000 tents. (3,500 animals, used in recreating the scenes of ancient Egypt, were housed in a huge corral downwind of the camp.) When shooting wrapped, Cecil B. DeMille simply had the massive Egyptian city sets bulldozed, and buried in a huge pit beneath the sand, where they remain to this day. For years, the legendary "Lost City of DeMille" was spoken of by locals in Guadalupe who had worked on the film set. Artifacts from the Egyptian sets were found in the dunes, and can sometimes be found in local houses in the area. (DeMille even said in his autobiography, "If 1,000 years from now, archaeologists happen to dig beneath the sands of Guadalupe, I hope that they will not rush into print with the amazing news that Egyptian civilization extended all the way to the Pacific Coast of North America.") In 1983, documentary filmmaker Peter Brosnan located the remains of the DeMille sets, still buried beneath the dunes. The site is now recognized as an official archaeological site by the state of California, and it is against the law to remove artifacts from the site. Brosnan has been trying for many years to raise money from the Hollywood studios to excavate the site, but so far has been unable to do so. See more »

Goofs

The type of staff used by Moses and his followers has a Star of David on the end. The Star of David didn't become a symbol of Judaism until the Middle Ages. See more »

Quotes

Dan McTavish - Her Son: I told you I'd break the Ten Commandments - and look what I've got for it, SUCCESS! That's all that counts! I'm sorry if your God doesn't like it - but this is *my* party, not His!
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User Reviews

 
Break The Ten Commandments And They'll Break You
16 July 2010 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Going on 90 years since it was first released, the original The Ten Commandments can still overawe you with the spectacle of both the biblical prologue and the modern story. Modern in the sense that it was set during the Jazz Age Roaring Twenties, the 1923 when Paramount released what would become that studio's biggest moneymaker up to that time.

You'll recognize the biblical prologue if you've seen the 1956 remake, it is almost a 45 minute scene for scene remake of the time that Charlton Heston and John Carradine arrive at the Egyptian court until the destruction of the Golden calf. They weren't giving Oscars back in 1923, but the parting of the Red Sea was incredible for its time and would have given Cecil B. DeMille yet another Oscar for the same event.

You won't recognize a lot of the biblical prologue cast, but they were part and parcel of a DeMille stock company that he developed during silent era and continued to a lesser degree after the coming of sound. Best known probably was Estelle Taylor who was married to Jack Dempsey at the time as Miriam, the sister of Moses.

The bulk of the film is the modern story which has the theme break the Ten Commandments and they'll break you. The stars are Richard Dix and Rod LaRocque a pair of brothers, one good and one bad, sons of a most pious mother Edythe Chapman. Dix is a good, honest, and steady carpenter by trade and LaRocque through his ruthlessness and who winds up breaking all the Commandments becomes the richest contractor in the state.

LaRocque is pretty ruthless in his private affairs, he breaks the Commandments regarding those as well. He marries Leatrice Joy who Dix likes as well, but then gets a fetching Eurasian mistress in Nita Naldi. Nita is in the slinky and sexy tradition of all DeMille's bad girls.

It all ends really bad for LaRocque as his sins catch up with him.

During the modern story DeMille hand with spectacle is a good one in the scene of the church collapse and later on during the climatic escape LaRocque is attempting to make with a speedboat on a stormy night at sea.

The influence of DeMille's educator father Henry and his friend David Belasco are strong here as they are in all DeMille work. The modern story is the kind of morality play that Belasco would produce and write for the stage for years. It's from the Victorian era, but the Roaring Twenties audience wanted something that reflected traditional values occasionally as if nervously waiting for its excesses to catch up. It's partly the reason why they could find comfort in a Congregationalist president of the USA in Calvin Coolidge.

Though the story is unbelievably dated, DeMille's cinematic techniques are hardly that. The original Ten Commandments in many ways will tell you about its creator warts and all.


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