Oscar: Ten Commandments, The (1956)

 

 

 

 

UA (Michael Todd Inc.)

 

“The Ten Commandments,” Cecil B. De Mille’s last feature (he died in 1959), is also his most lurid, crass, and extravagant, displaying is signature narrative and visual strategies of the past four decades.

 

 

“The Ten Commandments,” Cecil B. De Mille’s last feature (he died in 1959), is also his most lurid, crass, and extravagant, displaying is signature narrative and visual strategies of the past four decades.

 

The picture’s all-star cast includes. Charlton Heston, Yul
Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, John
Derek, Cedric Hardwicke, H.B. Warner, Judith Anderson, Vincent Price, John
Carradine, and Woody Strode as the king of Ethiopia.

 

The epitome of kitsch, “Ten Commandments” is full of the
absurdities vulgarities, and excessiveness that one expects of a DeMille work.

 

Not surprisingly, the biblical epos is based on a shallow,
prepaosterous scenario, co-written by Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse Lasky Jr. and
Jack Gariss, based on several sources: The Prince of Egypt by Dorothy Clarke
Wilson, Pilar of Fire by the reverend J.H. Ingraham, and On Eagle’s Wings by
the reverend G.E. Southon.  Additional
subplots and characters derive from the biblical ancient texts of Josephus,
Eusebius, Philo, and even the Midrash.

 

 

Size matters: This grand-scale epic stars the muscular
Charlton Heston as Moses, chosen by God to lead his fellow Israelites out of
slavery in Egypt.
The flight from Egypt,
the parting of the Red Sea, and Moses’ receiving of the
Commandments are highlights.

 

Critics often
single two or three big scenes, one of which is the exodus itself, with huge
aerial shots.  But there are some
compelling dialogue scenes, as the one that describes Hardwicke’s Sethi,
confronted by the unchained Moses, hands the succession to Yul Brynner’s
Rameses.

 

As a remake of De Mille’s own 1923 silent picture of the
same title, it benefits from the technology of the times it was made by way of
special effects.  Viewers went to see the
picture multiple times in order to experience the parting of the Red
Sea.

 

That said, some elements of the production design are still
striking and the color scheme is particularly ravishing.  Here is a spectacle that exhibits not so much
DeMille the director as De Mille the circus showman.  To his credit, DeMille truly believed in this
style of filmmaking and the movie shows more than anything else his obsessive righteousness.

 

The movie is bombastic and pretentious too, what with
DeMille’s introduction and own narration. Known for his meticuolous attention to detail, DeMille reprotedly spent
over three weeks shooting the orgy scene alone.

 

Yet, the spectacle is a must-see for students of Hollywood’s
history in its combination of the ludicrous and preposterous with the
magnificent and splendid.

 

Oscar Nominations: 8

 

Picture, produced by

Director:

Screenplay (Adapted):

Cinematography (color):
Lionel Lindon

Art Direction-Set Decoration (color): James W. Sullivan, Ken
Adams; Ross J. Dowd

Costume Design (color): Miles White

Editing: Gene Ruggiero, Paul Weatherwax

Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Victor Young

 

Oscar Awards: 5

 

Picture

Screenplay

Cinematography

Editing

Special Effects

Scoring

 

Oscar Context

 

The big winner in 1956 was another spectacle, albeit of a
different kind, “Around the World in 80 Days.”

 

Cast

 

Moses (Charlton Heston)

Rameses (Yul Brynner)

Nefretiri (Anne Baxter)

Darthan (Edward G. Robinson)

Sephora (Yvone de Carlo)

Lilia (Debra Paget)

Joshua (John Derek)

Sethi (Cedrick Hardwicke)

Bithiah (Nina Foch)

Yochabel (Martha Scott)

 

 

Credits:

 

Running Times: 219 Minutes.

MPAA Rating: G