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Trivia / The Ten Commandments

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  • Accidentally Correct Writing: During production, the man who designed Moses's distinctive rust, white, and black-striped robe used those colors because they looked impressive — he only later discovered that these are the actual colors of the Tribe of Levi.
  • Acting for Two: Charlton Heston also voices God. Like Rameses as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, this would be imitated by other films down the line.
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  • Adored by the Network: ABC has televised this film every year but once since 1973, according to The Other Wiki. (The one year they didn't air it, in 1999, they received more complaints for that than for anything else they did that season.) It typically airs on the night of Easter Sunday or the night before (in 2020, it aired the weekend before Easter Sunday), although nothing in the movie has anything to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is because Easter is (almost!) always the Sunday after Passover (or the paschal full moon, technically), the feast Jesus celebrated during the Last Supper, and is linked to Passover with Jesus being the new sacrificial lamb in Christianity.
  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
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  • All-Star Cast: To name a few, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Cedric Hardwicke, Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price, John Carradine, Yvonne DeCarlo, Debra Paget, John Derek, Nina Foch, Martha Scott...
  • Backed by the Pentagon: The Egyptian Cavalry Corps played the Pharaoh's chariot host. The EAF also helped create sand storms by using their jet engines.
  • Banned in China: The film was banned in Egypt, despite having been filmed there with, as noted above, the cooperation of the Egyptian military. Unfortunately, its release date happened to come at the height of the Suez Crisis, making Gamal Abdel Nasser no longer quite so keen on a film in which Israel shows up Egypt.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In one of his routines, Billy Crystal made up the line "Where's your Messiah now, Moses?" for the Edward G. Robinson character. It stuck, even though nobody in the film ever talks about the Messiah. The closest line that Robinson says is "There goes your deliverer," which he addresses to a crowd of Hebrews after they're told to make bricks without straw while Moses is taken away.
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  • California Doubling: Averted, in part. Much of the movie was actually filmed in Egypt, with literally thousands of local Egyptians cast as extras. Of course, the interiors were still filmed on the Paramount stages in California.
  • Career Resurrection: Edward G. Robinson said that Cecil B. DeMille saved his career by hiring him for this movie. Robinson had been almost blacklisted for his left-wing political activism, and offers of work had dried up as a result. DeMille hiring Robinson for this film undermined the Hollywood blacklist.
  • Dawson Casting: Seti I was forty-four when he unexpectedly died. Cedric Hardwicke was sixty-three when he played him.
  • Dyeing for Your Art:
    • When Yul Brynner was told he would be playing Pharaoh Rameses II opposite Charlton Heston's Moses and that he would be shirtless for a majority of the film, he began a rigorous weightlifting program because at 5'8" he did not want to be physically overshadowed by 6'2" Heston. Katherine Orrison, in the DVD Commentary, said Brynner was already in great shape, since he was pretty active, and "a lot of that was just him."
    • Quite a few cast members in the 1956 film, such as Anne Baxter, Debra Paget, John Derek and Nina Foch, had to wear brown contact lenses as DeMille felt that their light-colored eyes didn't suit their characters. However, it was averted with Yvonne De Carlo, who asked the director to make an exception for her; DeMille accepted her request.
  • Edited for Syndication:
    • When the film was first reissued in 1966, Paramount removed DeMille's introduction from the beginning of the movie, before the opening credits, and this version was the basis for future screenings of the movie for over 24 years, as well as ABC's annual broadcasts of the movie. When The Ten Commandments was restored in 1989, the introduction was reinstated, and future VHS and Laserdisc releases for the next decade had the introduction before the Overture with the exception of the 1991 35th anniversary letterbox release, which presented the introduction after the Overture, as originally released to theaters. As of the 1999 DVD release, all home video releases of the movie have the introduction after the Overture, though ABC's airings still don't have it.
    • ABC's broadcasts, in addition to lacking the aforementioned intro, also remove the orchestral pieces that play during the beginning, intermission and end.
  • Enforced Method Acting:
    • Of a sort. Heston, many years later, told of how on one Egyptian location shoot, many of the locals were rounded up to serve as a huge crowd of extras... many of whom didn't even need to be dressed up as they were still wearing that sort of clothes today, and didn't really have the scene explained to them other than very basically. As Heston walked through the crowd in costume during the scene, he heard many of them whispering "Mosah! Mosah!"... and realized they thought that he actually was Moses.
    • Another example for Heston was when he had to lead the extras out of Egypt for the Exodus. As Heston recalled years later it was one of those moments where the line between reality and fantasy blurred as he felt this "mass of humanity" moving behind him.
    • DeMille, normally very kind to his actors, said mildly nasty stuff to Deborah Paget before the scene where she becomes Dathan's sex slave, so she would be appropriately distraught. He even warned his actors ahead of time that he might do this, and asked them to please understand he wanted to set the proper moods. Awwww.
  • Follow the Leader: The 1956 remake inspired Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to produce their own epic, Ben-Hur, also starring Charlton Heston, which saved them from financial ruin.
  • Playing Against Type: Interestingly enough, Charlton Heston. Prior to this, old Chuck had mostly played tough, cynical men, while this gave him his first real chance to play a truly wise and noble hero.
    • Also one for Edward G. Robinson, who was known for portraying gangsters and/or a Trope/Anti-Hero in film noirs (such as Double Indemnity and Scarlet Street), playing The Quisling and the overseer of the Hebrew slaves.
      • Another one would be Vincent Price, one of the most famous horror icons of all time, playing the Egyptian master builder that Moses kills earlier in the film.
  • Public Domain: The 1923 silent film's copyright expired in 2019. The remake is still copyrighted, however.
  • Real-Life Relative: Moses as an infant was played by Charlton Heston's real life son, Frasier Heston.
  • Scully Box: While they were both rugged, muscular men with deep commanding voices, there was simply no getting around the fact that Yul Brynner was a lot shorter than Charlton Heston, so all they could do was have Yul Brynner either stand on a box out of frame or otherwise have him standing on something like a staircase so Brynner would appear eye level with Heston. The one place you can really see it is the water temple scene. Brynner pours clear water out of an urn, then drops it as the water turns red; immediately following is a wide shot of the two confronting each other across the stage.
  • Self-Adaptation: Cecil B. DeMille remade his 1923 silent film.
  • Swan Song: The 1956 remake was Cecil B. DeMille's final film as a director before dying of a heart ailment three years after its release.
  • Urban Legend of Zelda: There is a longstanding rumor that Fidel Castro was an extra in this film, possibly playing an Egyptian soldier. In her book My Lucky Stars, Shirley MacLaine recalls asking Castro if he indeed was in the film, and she received an ambiguous answer.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Burt Lancaster was considered for Moses. He later played the role in the 1974 miniseries Moses the Lawgiver.
    • Cecil B. DeMille originally wanted Audrey Hepburn for Nefretiri, but she was deemed too slim to wear Egyptian gowns.note  Ann Blyth, Vivien Leigh, Vanessa Brown, Joan Evans, Rhonda Fleming, Coleen Gray, Jane Griffiths, Jean Marie, Jane Russell, and Joan Taylor were were also considered.
    • DeMille wanted Grace Kelly for Sephora, but she was unavailable. Anne Bancroft, Anne Baxter, Ruth Roman, Judith Ames, Shirley Booth, Diane Brewster, Peggie Castle, June Clayworth, Linda Darnell, Laura Elliot, Rhonda Fleming, Rita Gam, Jacqueline Green, Barbara Hale, Allison Hayes, Frances Lansing, Patricia Neal, Marie Palmer, Jean Peters, Barbara Rush, and Elizabeth Sellers were also considered for the part before Yvonne De Carlo was selected.
    • Gloria Swanson was originally cast as Memnet, but she left because she was having trouble getting a backer for a musical stage version of Sunset Boulevard. The musical was abandoned in the early 1960s, even after a cast album was recorded during out-of-town tryouts. Bette Davis was interviewed for the part. Flora Robson, Marjorie Rambeau, and Marie Windsor were also considered, but DeMille chose Judith Anderson after screening Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca.
    • DeMille wanted James Mason for Rameses.
    • Claudette Colbert and Merle Oberon were considered for the role of Bithiah before DeMille chose Jayne Meadows (who declined) and finally cast Nina Foch, on the suggestion of Henry Wilcoxon, who had worked with her in Scaramouche.
    • Victor Young, DeMille's longtime collaborator, was approached to compose the score for the 1956 film with Elmer Bernstein writing the diegetic music. However, Young declined due to his deteriorating health, so Bernstein wrote the score in his place. Ironically, Young died of a cerebral hemorrhage on November 10, 1956, only two days after the film's release.


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