From the epic blockbuster released in 1956 and broadcast this Sunday, December 26 on Arte, we have of course retained the ten precepts engraved in the tables of law of Charlton Heston. But his story with the numbers doesn’t end there. The proof by ten.
There are two The ten Commandments by Cecil B. DeMille. In the first, produced in 1923, Moses first guides the Hebrews out of Egypt, then the second part takes place in contemporary times. For his self-remake, the filmmaker happily uses Technicolor, remains perpetually before Jesus Christ, and develops a part of the legend that is not in the Bible: the time spent by Moses alongside his cousin Ramses II, at the court of Pharaoh Seti Iis.
3 novels at the base of the scenario
If the legend of Moses is told by the Old Testament, it is also told by quite a few other books. Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Jack Gariss and Fredric M. Frank used three novels to write the script for the film: The Pillar of Fire, de JH Ingraham (1859), The Prince of Egypt, by Dorothy Clarke Wilson (1949), and On Eagle’s Wing, by AE Southon (1957). It took them over three years to write.
7 months of filming
Seven months to shoot a film is simply monumental. Despite the mastery of special effects, background paintings, inlays, many scenes are shot in Egypt, especially at Mount Sinai.
75 films by Cecil B. DeMille
Those Ten Commandments complete and crown the prolific career of Cecil B. DeMille, which began in 1914 (in the 1910s, between five and ten films could be made per year). A follower of marital comedy in the silent era, he will then be able to take advantage of technical advances to become the champion of the peplum. (Cleopatra, Samson and Delilah…).
74 years old, the age of Cecil B. DeMille in 1956
And 70 years old at the time of engaging in this pharaonic project, at the beginning of the year 1952. He was also the victim of a heart attack during the filming, but manages to return to work two days later! He died three years after the release of the film, his last, in 1959.
$ 13 million budget
At the time, it was the most expensive film ever produced. Paramount gives DeMille unlimited resources, but also total artistic freedom. Today a blockbuster like Tenet has a budget of $ 200 million.
Some say 10,000, others 18,000, still others 20,000. One thing is certain: there are many extras on the set. These vast wide shots of slaves killing themselves on the job for the pharaoh (who is alone on his throne) continue to impress today.
$ 122.7 million in box office revenue
That is to say the most profitable film of the year 1956. The French are 14 million to see it in the cinema.
4 plagues of Egypt
The frogs fell from the sky, DeMille filmed them, but he finally decides to cut them for editing. It retains its hailstorm (of popcorn), its bloodied Nile (from a garden hose), its dark sky, the death of newborns.
Yes, after going from 2 to 122.7 million then 4, this article ends in blood sausage with the number 1. Because despite all the means implemented and seven Oscar nominations, the film only collects one statuette at the 1957 ceremony. It goes to John Fulton, the director of special effects. We still love, many years later, this way of opening up the Red Sea: with waterfalls on either side and a film that unwinds backwards. With this you cross any body of water.
T The ten Commandments, Sunday January 26, Arte, 9:05 p.m.