2:00 pm | $6 | (1923) | Biography, Drama, Fantasy | 2h 26m | with Live Piano Accompaniment by Marta Waterman
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Cecile B DeMille’s first verison of “The Ten Commandments” is only partly a Biblical Story. The first part recaps the struggle between Moses and Rameses and the struggle for the liberation of the Hebrews. The Hebrews are liberated – with Pharoah’s army in pursuit. The result is one of the most magnificient special effects of the Silent Era: the parting of the Red Sea. This effect was accomplished in part by (of all things) splitting a bowl of gelatin down the middle!
Just as Moses is invoking the Wrath of God upon the ungrateful Hebrews, the film dissolves to the present day (1923, that is). We are introduced to the McTavish family, Martha, the pious mother, John, the “straight arrow” and Dan, something of a ne’er-do-well. The paths that each brother takes is influenced by how much – or how little – they follow the Ten Commandments and their choices and consequences are held up as why we need to follow the commandments from God. A message that many people at the time felt was necessary in the devil-may-care “Roaring Twenties.”
This was DeMille’s first foray into Biblical Stories. Created just after his founding of Paramount Pictures with Lasky and Zukor. It was a smash hit and held the Paramount revenue record for twenty-five years. Bouyed by his success, DeMille would do two other Biblical films, “King of Kings” and “The Sign of the Cross”. DeMille’s choice to use the ancient story to comment on modern mores was influential, Michael Curtiz would use the same formula in his 1928 film “Noah’s Ark”.
Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 The Ten Commandments is quite the landmark for the director. It was his first Biblical pageant and his first financially successful epic.”
Sean Axmaker, Parallax View
“Sunday Silents” is made possible by the generous support of:
Jim DeMaio State Farm Insurance Agent, New Paltz
Just-A-Buck of New Paltz.