The Ten Commandments – Cecil B. De Mille 1956 (Part 8)

8) Exodus: Thou Shalt Leave it All on the Floor

Location Shooting: Late 1954

Crew members and production managers had started work in Egypt in 1953, and presumably traveled quite modestly, but when De Mille left for the shoot he sailed to Egypt on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth where he became fond of their appetizer, candied ginger. A benefactor had provided champagne for the party: De Mille, daughter Cecilia (His new unofficial producer since Gladys Rosson died), Cecilia’s husband, Granddaughter Cecilia Jr, and Donald Hayne.

Original lounge on board the Queen Elizabeth. Beautiful, but outsized vintage hotel type lounges are all in the very unrelaxed “Overlook Hotel” flavour for me now.  From

An unexpected encounter proved that De Mille had a stalker who was onboard the ship. The man, a Mr Schwartzman, had threatened to kill De Mille a few years previously because he did not produce his script.

And in a move which might prompt One to think “Where, Oh Where has the Christing Agatha Christie of it all gone?”, De Mille arranged a meeting between the two of them in his stateroom with four people stationed behind the doors, one of whom was the ship’s captain with a gun.

And a metoo thought also might prompt One to think that’s really the trick of it isn’t it? Getting from “A Guy that has threatened to kill me is on board this ship” position to a position where you are meeting on your ground, on your terms, one of which is four people including the captain of the ship with a lethal sodding weapon hiding ten feet away.

If you can get to that position, would we not all have a shot at coming to terms with our stalkers? Might we all not, like Cecil, find he’s not such a bad chap when you can crush him at will and magnanimously offer him a job in Germany?

I like to think I would.

And if not, well you are in international waters, and at that point it all starts depending on the stalker again, I suppose.

Or we could see who is behind door number 4, Mr Schwartzman. Is that what you think you want? Source

But Cecil’s fame, money, power and influence made him a bright mark for anyone looking to access those things, and a life with too many defensive positions would have been far too small for Cecil. He would get caught for good on this shoot by an advanced grifter, who also happened to have a set of skills Cecil was going to need.

Site inspections and filming on location in Egypt started well, with Cecil pleasantly surprised by what had been accomplished. They would begin with some shots of Yul Brynner leading Pharaoh’s army out of the 107 foot gates of Rameses and through the near quarter mile avenue of sphinxes that had been built. All the offices and support buildings they were going to use had been built in behind those gates, with parking for hundreds of vehicles, corrals for livestock and awnings everywhere to try and offer outdoor space for the people working in these buildings with no air conditioning. Some members of the crew, like propmaster Bob Goodstein, worked at this location for months, some, like unit Production Manager Don Robb, for nearly a year.

Gates of Rameses CecilBrynner via IMDB gallery

There were three main location shoots, the Exodus location needed to be completely accessible so it was just outside of Cairo, about three miles from the Pyramids. Then there was Mount Sinai, for Moses’ wilderness and meeting with God, and a promontory at Abu Rudeis (or Abou Redis), for the Red Sea Crossing that they were confident they could recreate back in the studio for all the effects work that would be needed.

The schedule meant that Yul Brynner, who didn’t have much location work to do, got all his location filming done early, and they could use these short scenes as a test run so De Mille could shoot some film, figure out any adjustments needed and approve final arrangements for the main event at Exodus location. Brynner would then return to the US, and De Mille and the rough terrain filming unit would move up to Sinai while everyone working on the Exodus sequence made the adjustments needed and continued to keep things on track here in preparation for the big shoot on DeMille’s return.

De Mille and Brynner were both monstrous egos. Sure, they had many redeeming qualities but they could both be terrible bullies, and it was either going to be a love fest or a grudge match between them. T’was a love fest. The 40 year age gap stopped them from being too competitive (which with these two it could have oh so easily become) and Brynner was an actor who was also an experienced director of over 100 TV episodes himself by that point, so they had quite deep professional discussions.

Brynner Cecil 2 viz IMDB gallery
There’s quite a set of production photos on imdb.

The relationship that developed was often described, by different people, as ‘almost father and son’ like, and might well have been the last new, deep and personal bond De Mille made in his life. De Mille took on his last completed film project, The Buccanneer (as a producer only), because it was originally supposed to be Brynner’s film directing debut. Later it became a way for him to repeatedly kick son in law Anthony Quinn in the ass, but it started as something nice he wanted to do for Brynner. The quasi-son relationships he maintained were certainly in a competitive league for Cecil, and in 1954 Brynner debuted in that league and shot right to the top.

The sequence shooting went well, and they were already getting along famously when Brynner’s time was up and he left, to rejoin everyone in Los Angeles for the long studio shoot. And Brynner left his friend behind who had managed to get himself a job as the film’s doctor, and who had already treated De Mille occasionally.

Dr Max Jacobson (source)

And he was Dr Max Jacobson, presriber of custom made amphetamine shots for pretty much everything that might conceivably be ailing his numerous celebrity clients.  He would use his cachet in entertainment circles to move into the top echelon of political clients about 6 years after this, finally finding infamy as JFK’s ‘Doctor Feelgood’ that gave him those dodgy injections and, for about two years, becoming a genuine (although, for 2020, an amusingly low grade) national security risk for the United States. He would lose his medical license in 1975.

Tennesee Williams, another client, described the effects of one of his injections:

“I felt as if a concrete sarcophogus about me had sprung open and I was released as a bird on the wing”

A young and wary Christopher Plummer described him as

“A cross between Conrad Veidt and Martin Borman”

Mercy mr plummer
And this is a reminder that 1960s Christopher Plummer keeps getting hotter every year. Oh, Fassbender could never.

Jacobson was kind of just getting established in Hollywood in the mid fifties, and Cecil, among others, would be his ‘in’. Jacobson was prescribing quite liberally to a lot of people for the whole location shoot of The Ten Commandments.

The Day After

Oh, yeah, the movie.

For A No Roads Yet Trip

The Israelites wake up to a lot of guys with rams horns proclaiming the free dawn in photogenic locations. The honour of announcing their freedom goes to Aaron, played by John Carradine, a prolific character actor probably best known these days for being the father of an acting dynasty.

My favorite is the last guy.

Who I think is about to try to sell me Crystal Pepsi to something with an excitable synth score.

The Exodus Sequence is the high point of the film, and is primarily a montage made of many layers, with little scenes and vignettes and glimpses. Wide shots in front of the gates and into the desert with massive crowds provide spectacle and movement. vlcsnap-2019-12-13-16h03m38s779.png

Particularly above where the camera draws back as it moves down the avenue of Sphinxes and it really looks like an actual river of people moving.

exodus 1

But he’s always returning to the small scale. This is how it begins. So it’s that sheep’s journey, we’re all just walking along with it, and extra points for noticing the little kid napping between the sphinx paws (Cecil excelled at detail in his crowd shots, long before anyone else figured it out) . Big shots mix with the ‘Have a tiny goat’ moments all the way through.

Uncle Cecil narrates us both text and subtext, and he re-inserts his theme.

Nations arising out of a desire for ‘freedom’ eh? Perhaps a younger, better looking Nation with a line in Enlightenment philosophy and real tight pants might also do that in the future.

Our first little scene is one where a small child goes down the steps outside her house, looking for ‘Rebekka’…vlcsnap-2020-04-13-08h10m04s475

We’re a little worried and then we find Rebekka is a doll (an edgy one, with that spelling), and someone has found it. We move over to the well.vlcsnap-2020-04-13-08h11m07s164

And, look, the audio probably describes it better, but this scene really gives me “Israelites about to join a wagon train westward” and it’s going to be the kind of wagon train that has a lot more singing about starlight than dying from dysentery.

Cecil uses at least a couple of lines from the Exodus part of Exodus (End of Chapter 12, beginning of 13).

Even including a language tick from the King James version that the even the Mormons will even make very much their own.

And that was no mean feat, becasue the Exodus part of Exodus is, like the Passover bit of Exodus, roughly 80% instructions about what to do about lunch and how to commemorate things into the future and about 5-15% lines describing the story, and the rest is basically just God flexing.

Instead, the pattern Cecil was working with for his Exodus sequence was a re imagining of his own 1923 Ten Commandments.

Back in the Day

Which is fully available on YouTube, as a result of a Mr Richardson (Thank you Mr Richardson) putting the work in and taking a risk to not let shit slide, because there was an attempt by Paramount to still claim the Copyright after it had expired in 2019. The biblical story is a 50 minute prologue before the scene shifts abruptly to a then modern day parable.

plucky esther 300
The plucky gal with a backpack is Miriam, Moses’ sister.

The biblical part was the part De Mille had to really fight for. In the early 1920s De Mille was in the grips of a power struggle at Paramount with Adolph Zukor, dealing with brush fires like star blackmail and sudden oversight by politican Will Hays, all while having a bad case of career mediocrity as he hit his forties. Cecil was solid enough but he wasn’t going to produce the next big thing, was he?

And then he made the first Ten Commandments, and he started by asking for a £700,000 starting budget. The biggest budget he had ever required. He and Zukor argued and wrangled and exchanged terse telegrams throughout production. Zukor repeatedly made it clear he did not have any faith that this would work out, it was completely the wrong time to be taking this kind of risk, and he better have an amazing love story to get over all this biblical stuff. That Zukor made his lack of faith so abundantly clear to everyone was a signal that Cecil needed to win, and win hard with The Ten Commandments if he wanted a future with Paramount, the studio he had co founded with Zukor and Jesse Lasky.

Pat Moore, the child actor who played Pharaoh’s son, remembered what production was like. Starting with the mess hall, where (despite plucky gals carrying their backpacks onscreen) the old social order still prevailed and people still sat in order of importance. Mr De Mille’s table ate slightly raised, on a wooden dais.

pat moore from imdb
Pat Moore, via imdb.

“Being a small boy, I could sit anywhere, so I’d get to sit next to Mr De Mille. You couldn’t order anything, you had to eat what you were given because he was feeding thousands of people, literally, and it was the middle of the Guadaloupe desert. It was all handled like clockwork, They had a bugle that would wake you up on the morning, and another bugle when things were ready to go, and they had a team of four horses pulling these great tubs that they would mix concrete in, because cars would not go in the sand. The horses would tow these things up to the location. It was fascinating to see all this going on in a tent town outside of Guadalupe.”

The business of film making in the early 20th century was all about scaling up. Budgets and wages soared every decade, but so did monetary returns and audience expectations. Every once a while a movie would come along that surpassed those expectations and that movie made a mint. Lord be praised, the original Ten Commandments was one of those, and fueled the hell out of Cecil’s second career renaissance (His first got him from failed theatrical writer/director to successful film director).

In amongst the laudatory, delighted, gushing telegrams from all around the industry the most fun is the one that all that money dragged out of Zukor.



What is best in life? Well, to prove your long term rival was unremittingly wrong, to read his bitter congratulations and ride your success to the bank can certainly sprinkle some star dust on your year. And for Zukor all that money and the security it brought for their company really sweetened the pill.

1956 Please

So, yeah, the movie. Israel in the cheap seats looks to be arising to prep for Exodus departure at 5am, but freedom rises around 10 after a scone breakfast in the expensive part of slave town, and no one quite knows what freedom is doing here, or what it wants.

When a Governor’s nebbishy butler can’t see the guards off, what is the world coming to?

Even Lilia’s gotten very bolshy with this ‘dawn of freedom’ business, possibly 1950s New York bolshy with a sneer on those red lips and holding her nails in a positively insubordinate manner. While she basically tells Dathan, “Yeah, sucks to be you”.

For Dathan, the dawn of mass freedom for his fellow man is kind of horrid.

Wells had been sunk at the Exodus site to provide 200,000 gallons of water in a day. It was all for one day in particular, November 7th 1954. The lowest recorded number of extras for that day was 8,000 but it could well have been as high as 12,000, and nearly 20,000 animals once you counted the ducks and geese.

The actual bugles Pat Moore remembered from the first Ten Commandments had been replaced by recordings of bugles on loudspeakers in Egypt in 1954. De Mille had a gold coloured whistle that could be heard hundreds of metres away. In a move that had some inspiration going in some direction or another with the ‘raising of the obelisk’ scene (all the coloured pennants), members of departments could be recognized by coloured streamers on their hats: Props were green, wardrobe was white, the day’s 45 assistant directors were red. Binoculars were standard issue for production staff, there were a lot of interpreters and Henry Wilcoxon had learned 24 sentences in Arabic.

Everything Cecil and his organization had learned in his decades of developing the cinema epic was poured in the Exodus sequence, and it shows with shots that were way before their time.

In the movie, De Mille has Joshua bring order with somewhat shouty firm masculinity, like he’s calling the plays for a football game.

and then we’re back in the crowd tapestry for a few shots.

Which leads us to ‘The Camel’s second breakfast’ moment.

It’s a great couple of shots taking in the lower levels of a lot of the impressive constructed architecture and the crowd activity bringing it to life in every bit of the frame, all while a man maintains an untenable walking position and a camel reaps his natural reward for being barely manageable.

The score is almost relentlessly rapid and upbeat for the crowd shots. This was deliberate, a note from De Mille, and young composer Elmer Bernstein (just 32-33 when he wrote the score for The Ten Commandments) took it to heart. The point was that mirroring the mood he thought he saw in the footage wasn’t necessarily right, and wasn’t working here. Bernstein had been scoring the Exodus sequence to a quite slow piece DeMille insisted that it needed to be upbeat, and that by doing that it would lift the pace of the action and the mood onscreen.

Somewhere in the Queue

This makes the changes in the score dramatic and they normally come with a focus on a new scene, adding to the idea that you’re stopping in the crowd for a minute. For this change:

We go from moving through the crowd to stopping to watch Joseph’s very post mortem repatriation parade from Exodus 13:19 “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him.”

We see it in the company of a blind grandfather and his two grandchildren, sat in the shelter of one of the sphinxes. He explains what’s going on.

The granddaughter notices that the Nubians are being freed as well. Well, great! Everyone regardless of colour or creed is getting some good old God given freedom today.

Hey, that’s a…Does anyone have a pen? Pencil? No, it needs to be more than a stick.

We are, however, distracted reliably by the arrival of the gold shiny stuff.

And the jovial guy on the wagon lobs this golden calf at the grandson.

If Original model Old Testament God would like you to take one message from this film, it’s this grandfather’s total disapproval of idol worship.

And for one last moment with the trio, the boy points out the fire bearers, who have a meeting with Joshua scheduled, so they can be reminded that doing their job is a good idea.

Back to Command central

Yeah, because I was going to hide the fire so no one could get at it. Who scheduled this meeting, again?

Miriam, Moses’ sister, is still a plucky gal. In this version she’s packing up a big cart with Elisheba when she sees Joshua.

She’s organizing the medical teams, but she’s a woman so she needs to ask a man where to park them. Joshua gives it a little thought, and is telling her where to park (in cubits) when he spots something in his eye line.

Seriously, Move On

Dathan’s party has joined the Exodus.

Of course he has a travel parasol. And packed a lot of silk.

Dathan is getting nowhere near his just deserts, but he is getting heckled a bit, and maybe jostled. Then Joshua comes over and points out the new order of things.

He puts Lilia up on the wagon, and an old lady up there with her. And Lilia is so happy and smiling and a bit girlish.

Lilia, the last possible reason outside of the walls you built in your head to stay with Dathan, (He’s powerful and could maybe still have Joshua killed) just ran out. You need to dump the asshole that is now powerless over you, take half the silk, move to a different section of the Exodus and follow your bliss. Or assassinate him first and share out the silk with everyone else he had slaving for him? That could work. Do you have four brave friends and a lethal weapon? Because until the titular Commandments land I think we might be in an ‘International Waters’ kind of situation, here. Something to think about, hmmm?

Dathan is muttering darkly about ‘new masters’ but no one’s listening today. Many are watching though and he gets taunted with cries of “Hey, Governor” as he runs over to see Pentaur, Pharoah’s Guard Captain, played by associate producer, and DeMille’s right hand guy on this shoot, Henry Wilcoxon.

Dathan’s points are simple and practical. They’ve got a historically impossibly large number of people who are going to get thirsty, hungry, and tired and sunburnt very quickly. And then they’re going to dehydrate, starve and get sunstroke while exhausted.

And if you threaten someone’s survival needs they can get biddable pretty damn quick. When that time comes, the brick pits are going to sound good. That’s Dathan’s plan.

And you know it wouldn’t be a terrible plan, if it weren’t for the fact that apocalypse level shit had to go down in order to get the Exodus going. There’s been an actual God doing actual God Level stuff but Dathan’s prediction math is still set for standard Tuesday.

And then you put such thoughts aside because we’re going over to Moses and it’s always great with Moses. It’s quieter out here, in the shade of the last Sphinx before the desert, the noise from the great crowd is muffled a little.

Moses has a little moment of collection and preparation and he’s just talking quietly to his God, asking the expected fundamental questions of a good man about to lead a trusting multitude into a desert.

Joshua comes up to tell him everyone is assembled, and Moses says that they’re heading to God’s Mountain to get the Commandments. And if Lilia if you want to go for that aggressive coercive rapist departure option, then there might be a clock on it, OK? OK.

Mr Python, I presume.

The flourish players that kick off the Exodus start announcement look like they’re guys from random bronze age jobs with horns, but their look and sound are so rehearsed and choreographed they’re clearly an ace brass section that is touring together in the off season.

Then there’s this moment.

There’s a mule that doesn’t want to move today gag, and a disproportionate amount of adorable children herding small animals in the Exodus, and this.

But the stars in this section are the wide shots, anyway. In them you can see De Mille’s vision from 1923 finally getting fully realized and see mass crowd scenes that were seldom rivaled in the coming decades and wouldn’t be surpassed until Gandhi in 1982, and then later by a lot of movies after Gladiator (2000) and The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) when CGI came of age.

As Moses and the people make their way towards the camera, the score finally settles into something a bit more stately for the size of the moment.

Heston spoke about De Mille taking endless pains about the set up of each shot. Heston sounded a bit unconvinced, if supportive about the necessity for all the detailing while everyone was stood in full costume.

“And you think, this is ridiculous, we will never, never, turn a camera. But finally he got what he wanted and that’s when he shot. And it is this kind of determination that is required to make a film like this.”

The Old Man

There was one scene, a studio shot, where Bithiah stops her litter for an old man, that becomes a bit of a jewel, if you know the background.

The old man was played by H.B. Warner, Cecil’s Jesus Christ in his incredibly successful silent 1927 retelling of the Jesus story The King of Kings. The King of Kings was another very important biblical epic for Cecil, professionally he was pretty secure this time but Paramount was in deep financial trouble. The King of Kings was a critical and commercial hit that stood a lot of re releasing and was a lifeline to a studio that was in desperate straights throughout its production.

Warner was 79, very ill and living in a nursing home by the time The Ten Commandments was filmed. Cecil remembered him, and was a big believer on going out with your boots on so asked Warner if he wanted to play a small part. Warner was enthusiastic, but could not walk, and had difficulty breathing. An ambulance brought him to set and it was decided actor Donald Curtis would carry him for the scene. Warner could not manage the whole psalm they’d given him to say , so Cecil told him to adapt it, and say what he thought he could.

After the game changer he made with Cecil, Warner had made the transition from silent to sound pictures as well, and became a favorite supporting player for director Frank Capra, with later career highlights in Lost Horizon, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life. This was the great old actor’s last film performance. And it’s really quite beautifully handled.

Time = Muscle

There were three takes of the full Exodus sequence, the second two requiring significant cleanup first. That was debris collection, damping and raking by over 100 labourers. Each take lasted 10 minutes of film, with at least two hours of cleanup. They did the first one fairly early in the morning, then one at noon, then evening.

We round off the sequence with a final, breathtaking shot, taking in the whole avenue of sphinxes with the entire crowd moving and Moses a tiny dot out in front. It’s an incredible shot, obtained by putting a camera right at the top of the gates of Rameses and was only accessible by a 107 foot ladder. And it was just about halfway up that ladder, on the third take, where he just had to go, himself, to check on the camera that was trying to get this shot,

that Cecil had that massive sodding heart attack.

He was about halfway up the 107 foot ladder, being followed by Wilcoxson, when he stopped and started panting, and hooked his elbow around the ladder. Wilcoxon held him by the legs and told Cecil that he wouldn’t let him fall.

The story as eventually reported has Wilcoxon ‘not thinking he could carry him down’ so they inched up the ladder instead. De Mille got to the camera spot at the top and a little while later when they had him under an umbrella the make up guy said he was an odd shade of grey and shiny with sweat.

And I just don’t get it. I know nothing about lifting people on ladders, but if, as appears undeniable, they were about halfway up the ladder and Cecil had to then get to the top under his own steam, then perhaps, even if really awkward, instead heading down under his own steam to where medical attention could get to him, and with Wilcoxson maybe supporting some of his weight was a way, way better plan?

Depends on your priorities, I suppose, and your knowldege. That time = muscle heart attack equation is way more widely known now than it was then. De Mille would also refuse a Bosun’s chair on a pulley after he got to the top. The crew were sure they could set up, but he only came down that ladder once it was getting dark, hours later, and he was rushed off to hospital in Cairo almost as soon as he reached the ground.

From what he said to Wilcoxson at the top, when he slapped him away:

“Who the hell do you think you are? No one tells me what to do! What choice do I have?”

Cecil had choices, some he didn’t want, and elected not to go for, and a lot he seemed to be currently unable to see.

He was intensely worried about the budget and insurance, and what if word got back to the studio? But while his last two biblical epics had been commissioned and produced in very testing times for Cecil and his studio professionally, this one, honestly not quite so much. The budget was going to be massive, but old Paramount had been broken by the early 1950s anti monopoly decision by the supreme court.

In the wake of that Cecil ended up rather with his own fiefdom. He was expensive but he reliably made money, and he was just coming off a commercial and critical success, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). This time even Zukor was all in that giving De Mille an unprecedented 8 million budget was a good idea.

I’m not saying Cecil’s money worries weren’t real and justified, but more than his other major biblical pictures, a lot of the intense worry about money this time seems to have been pressure put on Cecil, by Cecil.

His insistence that he had to climb 107 feet at the end of a really long day to check that camera, and that, once he got to hospital, he must shoot the day after a large heart attack was again all Cecil.

The production staff would all up their game so he could work with minimal physical effort as he recovered. Frank Westmore and Cecilia were even allowed to direct a few scenes, on strict approval.

The plan was drawn up by Cecil and the effective co-sponsor of his heart attack, Dr Max Jacobson. The studio was never officially informed, and Cecil played off the massive weight loss he had experienced during the location shoot as a result of dysentery.

Cecil had had a cardiac episode, and was seen to have lot weight and become really irritable during the filming at Sinai. It is not the whole cause, but a massive contribution had to be when the 73 year old started on the recommended ‘mainline these amphetamines’ treatments of Dr Jacobson. That would have started in earnest near the beginning of location filming.

Cecil thought he needed energy and they gave it to him. They massively increased the hours he could work. He called the treatment “The wonder drug” and “The miracle fluid” and he would continue them for the rest of his life. Later he would record that he had to stop every two or three days because:

“They had the same effect on me that Egypt had”

but he didn’t ever fully stop. Jacobson treated him for the rest of his life. De Mille’s daughter Katherine got hooked, would take her children to Jacobson for treatments, and son in law Anthony Quinn would later realize he had become addicted, too.

The old man in the sequence, H.B. Warner, so ill and frail at the time of shooting would surprisingly live another three years after that scene, and Cecil would outlive him by exactly one month. Cecil made some very questionable decisions to get to this point, and they came with a very heavy price.

Cecil also did something I don’t think anyone else has ever done, at least not in his field. He produced his greatest success, his cultural touchstone, and his most significant work right at the very end of his career. His best truly was his last,and as no other director has ever managed it, it’s hard to judge if only because there’s nothing and no one to really compare it to. Some directors manage a revival in their old age, and produce great work, an incredible feat, but of the big names only Cecil really summited his career at the end of it.

Film history does not take him as seriously as he merits. He was always a people’s showman, and a bit obvious as a story teller and the new directors coming out in the following decades would have no interest in ever being compared to De Mille, but at the end of his life and career he was still moving forward and growing as an artist, while future auteurs would have all those laurels they would rest on.

One More Time

Pharaoh’s heart is getting hardened, and it’s going to be the wife, again. Just a reminder, none of this rather interesting character work or plot is in Exodus, where God just heart hardens Pharaoh’s heart again.

Back in the palace, Rameses is still hoping for a miracle, but his son is still dead. Nefretiri has no time for this because she has now gone through denial and bargaining in her grief process and she’s up to totally losing her faith and demanding bloody vengeance.

Of course, Moses failed to save her son, and kept telling her he couldn’t, rather than killed him but Nefretiri is a mother that has just lost a child, and full reason is going to be away for a while.

She seems actually surprised that Rameses hasn’t killed Moses, and any ammunition she has to aim at Rameses’ power and masculinity to goad him into action is fair game. Her own humiliation is fair game, as she tells Rameses how she threw herself at Moses and he wouldn’t even take her. Rameses doesn’t acknowledge it, he can still only look at his dead son.

So, she goes to the old hits ; “Do you hear, laughter Rameses?”

Oh and it works.

And that’s it for Rameses. He’s in a place consumed with grief for his son, and the idea of the slaves laughing as they go is too much. Rameses is goaded into action, he throws Nefretiri towards the altar and bangs the gong himself.

Well, that probably didn’t even count as domestic abuse in 1956 but that dialogue is…Hold the phone, Rameses has a War Crown? Do we get to see it?

There follows a great sequence where he gives out orders readying his army, promises all the goods and treasure back to the priests, and is ceremoniously dressed in his armour.

Throughout this scene, Nefretiri is always adding to whatever Rameses says he’s going to do. He says he’s going to kill Moses, she says “Kill him with your own hands”. Then just when Rameses has got his War Crown on,

But according to that smile at the end she seems confident he doesn’t actually plan on that.

Pharaoh’s Big Exit

We go outside, back to what were the first location shots, when De Mille was first getting acquainted with Brynner and re acquainted with Dr Jacobson. These were the rehearsals for Exodus, and in any other film of the time they would have been the showpiece, The Egyptian army was absolutely necessary for these impressive equestrian shots, of what needs to be a serious threat as Pharaoh does his big reversal.


Biographical detail about Cecil and the details of the shoot are all from “Empire of Dreams” by Scott Eyman. It is rigorous, it is very readable, sourced from his De Mille’s documents held by his family and the De Mille collections at Brigham Young University, and it is miles ahead of anything else I found on the guy or his work.

Author’s Note: Sorry, Pusher 7, think I’m going to be late. Too much The Tudors to finish before January 1st. But I don’t go back to work until January 11th, and I will have completed it by then. Hope you enjoyed it.

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