4/15/14: The Ten Commandments (1956)



When I first accepted the terrible truth that my age & salary were too high, and the end of my tenure at The Insurance Company was inevitable – that I was being forced out the door – naturally, I began to see myself as a pawn. And I asked myself, “Is life in servitude better than unemployment? No! Death is better than bondage”, and always will be. I told my manager, Linda, “‘I won’t slave for beggars pay! Likewise gold & jewels!” “You expect the loyalty the Egyptians showed Cleopatra. But you are not a pharaoh, though you treat me like less than a man.” I am retiring on Martin Luther King Day! “So let it be written. So let it be done.’” I tell you this story because, as Cecil B. de Mille himself says in his introduction to his 1956 masterpiece, The Ten Commandments, the film is about man’s God-given right to be free & to be treated with dignity. “This same battle continues throughout the world today.” It has been this way since time immemorial, and perhaps it will always be so. “But when those in positions of power treat their subordinates like beasts of burden – stripped of spirit & hope & strength – merely because they can, it shames the entire human race.” But not all companies treat their staff like minions. I’ve always been treated with dignity & respect at Rave Buckland Hills. The pay?? Um, let’s just say, I take it. 🙂

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My little tale of age & reverse sex discrimination is a metaphor to show how, by comparison to early Egyptian & our pre-Civil War slavery, the human race moves slowly but continually forward towards freedom. The Ten Commandments takes place at the dawn of recorded history, when monarchy & slavery were the way of the world. No one challenged the concept. EVER! And then came Moses, in this case, as characterized by Charlton Heston (who also does the Voice of God). We all know the story but the incredible cast warrants mention. It includes: Yul Brynner as Rameses II; Anne Baxter (All About ‘Eve’) as Nefretiri; Edward G. Robinson as Dathan, the Rameses’ Israelite puppet; Yvonne De Carlo (Lily Munster) as Moses’ wife, Sephora; John Carradine as Moses’ older brother, Aaron; John Derek as Joshua; Vincent Price as Baka; Charlton’s son Fraser Clarke is The Infant Moses; and de Mille is the uncredited Narrator. Despite the cast & great performances, no acting Oscar nominations were included among its 7: Color Cinematography; Color Art Direction; Color Costuming; Sound; Film Editing; Best Picture (de Mille as Producer); and its win for Special Effects.

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During the production, which included over 14000 extras, De Mille had a coronary. He was back in the director’s chair in 2 days, though he never fully recovered & never made another film. He died on 1/21/59 at 77. The day before, his doctor made what was once referred to as a house call to check him out. When he told Cecil to admit himself into the hospital, the director replied, ‘No, I think I’ll go to the morgue instead.’. Though best known as an epic filmmaker continually barking out instructions to his cast & crew thru a megaphone atop a ladder, his directorial debut was in 1914. De Mille made 61 silent features & shorts and 19 talkies. Film pioneer, Alfred Hitchcock, by comparison, made just 10 silent movies & shorts, starting in ‘23. De Mille won the Best Picture Oscar for The Greatest Show on Earth and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in ‘53 at the 25th Academy Awards. 3 years earlier, he received an Honorary Oscar. So take a couple minutes to watch the Official Trailer for Cecil B. De Mille’s The Ten Commandments, then add it to your Netflix Queue. 4 Stars!

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