Tagline – It would take more than a man to lead the slaves from bondage. It would take a God.
Starring – Charlton Heston (Moses), Yul Brynner (Rameses), Anne Baxter (Nefretiri), Edward G. Robinson (Dathan), Yvonne De Carlo (Sephora), Debra Paget (Lilia), John Derek (Joshua).
Released – October, 1956
Directed By – Cecil B. DeMille
Produced By – Motion Picture Associates (II)
Distributed By – Paramount Pictures
Description – Egypt’s Pharaoh, Rameses I, has passed an edict ordering the killing of all firstborn Hebrew males. In order to save the life of her son the Hebrew woman Yoshebel places the infant in a reed basket and sets it adrift in the Nile.
Bithiah, princess and sister of Pharoah Seti, rescues the infant and decides to adopt the child in spite of the protests of her servent Memnet who recognizes the child as being Hebrew.
As a young man, the child, Moses, becomes a respected general and loses his heart to Nefretiri, the “throne princess,” who is obligated to marry the next pharaoh. While Pharaoh Seti has grown very fond of Moses, Seti’s son Rameses has grown to hate him.
During construction of a treasure city for Pharaoh Seti’s Jubilee, Moses witnesses the cruel treatment given to the slaves who provide the labor. Here, an incident brings him in contact with his birth mother, a fact he does not yet realize. Moses also meets Joshua, a stone-cutter, who tells Moses of a Hebrew God whose coming is awaited by all Hebrew’s.
His experience at the construction site cause Moses to institute reforms concerning the treatment of slaves. His compassion for the slaves angers Rameses who accuses Moses of planning an insurrection and claims that the slaves call Moses the “deliverer” of their prophacy.
Moses explains that the improved treatment of slaves has resulted in increased productivity. This defense is born out by the progress of the project. However, Pharaoh Seti is concerned about the Hebrew’s claims that a “deliverer” is coming. Seti orders Rameses to find out if there really is a Hebrew with this purpose.
Memnet has found proof that Moses is Hebrew and shows it to Nefretiri threatening to expose him to the pharoah. Nefretiri kills Memnet in order to keep the secret, but does reveal the truth to Moses. In disbelief, Moses, looks for the truth himself and finds out that he is really a Hebrew.
Standing up for his new heritage, Moses is cast out of Egypt. This breaks the heart’s of both Pharaoh Seti and Bithiah, but very much pleases Rameses.
Moses heads for the desert where he begins his new life. Here he sees the Burning Bush on Mount Sinai, and after approaching it, hears the voice of God. He has been chosen and commanded by God to return to Egypt and free the Hebrews from slavery.
In Egypt, Pharaoh Seti has died and Rameses has taken over and strengthened the hold over the Hebrews. Moses challenges the rule of Rameses and demands that the slaves be freed. Denied this demand, Moses warns of a plague that will fall upon all of Egypt.
The plague comes and brings death with it. Death that includes the son of Rameses who is now a broken man. Rameses tells Moses to take his people and go. As the Hebrews begin their exodus from Egypt, Nefretiri goads Rameses into a rage causing him to again be taken over by hate.
Rameses orders his troops to assemble and they leave to catch up with Moses and the Hebrews with the intent of killing them all.
NOTABLE: The Ten Commandments won the Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects, and received nominations for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color, and Best Sound, Recording.
In 1999, this motion picture was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
The Ten Commandments ranked #10 on the American Film Institutes 2008 list of the ten greatest films ever.
To give the effect of sandstorms, Cecil B. DeMille used the engine blasts from Egyptian Air Force planes.
During production, Cecil B. DeMille suffered a heart attack. He would only rest for two days and, against doctors orders, returned to complete the film. The Ten Commandments would be the last film produced and directed by DeMille.
The Ten Commandments was the highest-grossing film of 1956, earning a profit of $185 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation, today that figure would be well over a billion dollars.
Though he had some success with his jazz score of The Man With the Golden Arm, this was the first major project for legendary composer Elmer Bernstein.
Charlton Heston’s newborn son, Fraser, portrayed the baby Moses.
Cecil B. DeMille’s first choice to play Moses was William Boyd. However, Boyd selflessly turned the role down feeling that his popularity as “Hopalong Cassidy” would be a detriment to the film.
The famous scene depicting the parting of the Red Sea was shot by pouring 300,000 gallons of water into a tank and then playing the film backward.
DeMille’s directing challenges were immense and included the organizing of 14,000 extras and 15,000 animals.
There was a long-standing joke on the set during production of the film. It was said that if the picture were to be a success it was due to Cecil B. DeMille, if it were to fail then that would be the fault of God.
Personal Note: The Ten Commandments is my favorite biblical epic. This VistaVision production is a masterpiece of eye-candy with spectacular use of color and special effects and can be considered nothing less than visually stunning.
The cast is excellent and it was an injustice that this motion picture lost out on the Best Picture Oscar to Around the World in 80 Days.