The Ten Commandments (1923 film)

The Ten Commandments (1923 film)

Infobox Film
name = The Ten Commandments

caption =
amg_id = 1:49010
imdb_id = 0014532
director = Cecil B. DeMille
producer = Cecil B. DeMille
writer = Jeanie MacPherson
starring = Theodore Roberts Charles De Roche Estelle Taylor Richard Dix Julia Faye Rod La Rocque
music =
cinematography = Edward S. Curtis Bert Glennon Donald Keyes J. Peverell Marley Ray Rennahan
editing = Anne Bauchens
released =
runtime = 146 min.
country = USA
language = Silent film
English intertitles
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
mpaa_rating =
tv_rating =

"The Ten Commandments" is a 1923 epic silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille, starring Theodore Roberts as Moses, Charles de Rochefort as Pharaoh Ramesses, Estelle Taylor as Miriam the sister of Moses, and James Neill as Aaron, the brother of Moses. The cast also included notable silent film actors Nita Naldi, Leatrice Joy, Rod La Rocque, Richard Dix, Edythe Chapman and Agnes Ayres. It was a grand spectacle of early Hollywood filmmaking, running 136 minutes, with the Exodus scenes photographed in early Technicolor. While the first half of the film tells the biblical story, the second half is a morality parable set in modern times. The movie was released by Paramount Pictures.

A rare telecast of this film showed that the original Technicolor footage had faded and could only be appreciated if the viewer increased the color intensity of the monitor. Film historians have noted that early Technicolor prints deteriorated more rapidly than black and white prints due to the effect of the chemicals on the silver nitrate base of film stock. Preservationists have used digital processes to restore the color in some of the surviving two-strip Technicolor prints, most notably in Universal's 1930 film "King of Jazz".


Despite its epic scale, the Moses story only takes up about the first half of the film. After that, the story changes to a modern setting involving the commandments. Two brothers make opposite decisions, one to follow his mother's teaching of the ten commandments and become a poor carpenter, and the other to break every one of them and rise to the top. The film shows his unchecked immorality to be momentarily gainful, but ultimately disastrous.

A thoughtful contrast is made between the carpenter brother and his mother. The mother reads the story of Moses and emphasizes strict obedience and fear of God. The carpenter, however, reads from the New Testament story of Jesus' healing of lepers. His emphasis is on a loving and forgiving God. The film also shows the mother's strict lawful morality to be flawed in comparison to her son's version.


* Theodore Roberts - Moses, the Lawgiver (prologue)
* Charles de Rochefort - Ramesses, the Magnificent (prologue) (as Charles De Roche)
* Estelle Taylor - Miriam, the Sister of Moses (prologue)
* Julia Faye - The Wife of Pharaoh (prologue)
* James Neill - Aaron, Brother of Moses (prologue)
* Lawson Butt - Dathan, The Discontented (prologue)
* 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
* Charles Ogle - The Doctor
* Agnes Ayres - The Outcast


The Exodus scenes were filmed at Nipomo Dunes, San Luis Obispo County, California (near Pismo Beach), which is now an archaeological site. The film location was originally chosen because its immense sand dunes provided a superficial resemblance to the Egyptian desert. After the filming was complete, the massive sets — which included four 35-foot tall Pharaoh statues, 21 sphinxes, and gates reaching a height of 110 feet, which were built by a small army of 1,600 workers — were dynamited and buried in the sand. However the burial location at Nipomo Dunes is exposed to relentless northwesterly gales year-round, and much of what was buried is now exposed to the elements, as the covering sand has been blown away. Portions of the modern story were filmed in San Francisco. The cathedral building sequence was filmed at the then under construction Saints Peter and Paul Church on Filbert Street and the adjoining Washington Square. The parting of the Red Sea scene was shot in Seal Beach, California. [ [ Seal Beach History] ]


DeMille directed a second, expanded version of the biblical story in 1956. For the later version, DeMille dropped the modern-day storyline in favor of profiling more of Moses' early life. In 2006, the 1923 film was released on DVD as an extra feature on the 50th Anniversary DVD release of the 1956 film. In a commentary included with the 1923 film, it is stated that DeMille refilmed several sequences nearly shot-for-shot for the new version, and also had set pieces constructed for the later film that were near-duplicates of what he had used in 1923.


External links

* [ The Ten Commandments Archaeological Site]

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