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The Ten Commandments(1956)

Conceived on a massive scale, Cecil B. DeMille’s remake of his silent hit was both his most expensive film and his top grosser. It was also his last picture. He certainly went out with a bang, filming impressive epic sequences of the Hebrews (including DeMille’s Jesus from the 1927 The King of Kings, H. B. Warner) leaving Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. The story of Moses leading the Israelites to freedom came from a variety of sources, including ancient scholars who had reconstructed the first three decades of his life, largely neglected in the Bible. The director’s first choice to play the leading role was William Boyd, but the actor felt his identification with the character of Hopalong Cassidy would hurt the film. Then DeMille noted the resemblance between Michelangelo’s Moses and Charlton Heston, who had starred in his The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). The role became one of Heston’s most famous and established him as the screen’s foremost epic hero, leading to the title roles in Ben-Hur (1959) and El Cid (1961). Even Heston, however, conceded acting honors in the film to Yul Brynner, who carves an imposing figure as the Pharaoh Rameses who Moses tells to “let my people go.” (d. Cecil B. DeMille, 220m, Digital)

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