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  #1  
Old 12-22-2007, 04:35 PM
Arkcon Arkcon is offline
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Banning 10 Commandments Movie

Greetings,

I'm writing to ask a question about an urban legend I remember, but can't find any other corroboration for. It is regarding the movie, "The Ten Commandments", by Cecil B. DeMille, in 1956, starring Charton Heston.

What I'd heard was that the movie was banned by the Catholic Church, and no Catholics should ever see it. The ban may have been lifted since then, either formally or informally. I do recall that most of the nuns at my grammar school hated even the mention of the film, to the confusion of other students, and me as well. It was only later that I heard the rumor.

I also realize that it could have simply have been a non-formal disapproval -- many people will react to entertaining portrayals of religious figures negatively, disapproving that the original is neglected, the topic gets romanticized, or some other disrespect gets worked in.

I'd also heard the rumor that the movie in particular was racy, hence the disapproval. Here's how that rumor goes. At the end of the film, when they have the Golden Calf, with the orgy is in full swing, and Dathan tries to sacrifice the good girl, "something" may have been seen. Given that it was 1956, this could have been a bit more cleavage, or leg. Or it could have been nudity. Or it could have been nothing, just the plot was too intense for the time -- helpless woman, sacrifice, orgy, all happening at once, was just too much for people.

As I understood it, at that time, there were no standards and practices board, every theater set their own community standards at that time. So when enough of them balked, the offending seconds of celluloid were cut out. Now they're lost forever, either they're too racy for the annual TV showing. Or perhaps they're now within modern standards, but not available for inclusion in the DVD.

Unfortunately, I can't find the rumor anywhere else, not on IMDB or Wikipedia, which are full enough of most other rumors. I suppose what we'd need is a reference by a film critic, who saw the before and after, and made some sort of comment.
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  #2  
Old 12-22-2007, 05:05 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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I was four years old, so I can't say for sure.

What I do know is that the old Legion of Decency (later called the National Catholic Office on Motion Pictures) had several levels of ratings, similar to today's ratings systems.

They ranged from "morally unobjectionable for all" through "morally unobjectionable for adults," "morally unobjectionable for adults with reservations," "morally objectable for all," and the biggy -- "condemned."

It would have been really, really unusual for a mainstream Hollywood release in the 1950s to be condemned. It may have been that the old Legion of Decency advised it would be inappropriate for children for whatever reason.
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  #3  
Old 12-22-2007, 05:17 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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I just Googled on the phrases "Legion of Decency," "ratings," and "The Ten Commandments." Several of the things that came up were Google references to the contents of books. Two of them made it clear that in fact the Catholic Church loved the movie. I don't know why the people who told you that they didn't like it came to be so mistaken, but it's just not true that Catholics disliked the movie.
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  #4  
Old 12-22-2007, 05:28 PM
Captain Amazing Captain Amazing is offline
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The Ten Commandments was rated A-1 by the legion.

You can find an archive of ratings here:

http://www.usccb.org/movies/t/tencom...sthe1956.shtml
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  #5  
Old 12-22-2007, 05:34 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Heston would have mentioned something like that in one of his autobiographies, one would think. He didn't.
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  #6  
Old 12-22-2007, 05:38 PM
Zoe Zoe is offline
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I was thirteen at the time and went to see it with my Sunday School class. If it was a cut version, we never heard about it. And I've never heard of a missing portion.

About the sexiest thing in the movie was the way Anne Baxter said the name Moses. Her lips practically trembled. (BTW, Baxter was a granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright.) And I've always thought that Yul Brenner would do in a pinch.

Eroticism was mostly just suggested in those days. Even the word virgin (from The Moon Is Blue was considered an eyebrow-raiser. Since none of my girlfriends knew what virgin meant, we certainly didn't know what an orgy was. That scene probably went right over our heads. (Oooh! Wiggly people!)

Showing legs wasn't considered offensive though. Remember those pinups from WWII?
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  #7  
Old 12-22-2007, 05:54 PM
R. P. McMurphy R. P. McMurphy is offline
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In the weekly paper that was published by the local diocese "The Catholic Weekly" I would look for the Legion of Decency ratings. All of the movies in the category "Condemned" I would put on a mental list of movies that I needed to see before I die.

The "condemned" list included stuff like "La Dolce Vita", "Pawnbroker" and anything with Bridget Bardot.
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  #8  
Old 12-22-2007, 11:22 PM
Diceman Diceman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Amazing
The Ten Commandments was rated A-1 by the legion.

You can find an archive of ratings here:

http://www.usccb.org/movies/t/tencom...sthe1956.shtml
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops still publishes those ratings. Perusing the recent releases lists, I see that, for example, The Santa Clause 3: the Escape Clause was rated A-I -- suitable for anyone. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was rated A-II -- suitable for adults and adolescents. The 2006 version of Casino Royale was rated A-III -- suitable for adults only.

There used to be an A-IV, which meant "adults, with reservations" but apparently this has been replaced with 'L,' for Limited Adult Audience, for movies with "problematic content" that many people won't like. Live Free or Die Hard was rated L for "Some crude and vulgar words and expressions, gratuitous profanity, a couple making out in a car, innuendo, and pervasive nongraphic violence, including explosions and shootings albeit with little gore."

The worst rating is O -- Morally Offensive. Hitman got slammed with an O because of "Pervasive graphic violence, rear and sustained upper-female nudity, nongraphic sexual activity, much rough and some crude language, and two uses of profanity."
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  #9  
Old 12-22-2007, 11:27 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diceman
The worst rating is O ... "Pervasive graphic violence, rear and sustained upper-female nudity, nongraphic sexual activity, much rough and some crude language, and two uses of profanity."
What happens if they try to rate The Story of O? Cosmic implosion?
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  #10  
Old 12-23-2007, 04:48 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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_The Story of O_ isn't listed on the website for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. I picked a random famous pornographic movie - _Deep Throat_. It's rated O - morally objectionable. _The Story of O_ would be rated the same, I guess, if they had bothered to include it.
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  #11  
Old 12-23-2007, 08:46 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Captain Amazing has destroyed the rumor by pointing to the actual rating. I'd like to add, the notion of a biblical epic by Cecil DeMille being down-played by the Catholic Church is just plain silly. DeMille was out to entertain vast masses, and he did it very well; they would certainly have invited the raters to a pre-release screening, and they would have made any cuts necessary to get the highest approval rating.

The ratings in those days were partly about politics, and molding films to fit their philosophy/theology. And the Hollywood studios, desirous of reaching the largest possible audience, would certainly have complied with a biblical epic.
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  #12  
Old 12-23-2007, 09:14 AM
Bill Door Bill Door is online now
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Are the ratings on that site the same as those initially issued? Because I remember Miracle on 34th Street as having been rated by the Legion of Decency as being objectionable for all because the mother was divorced, and on the site it's listed as A-II, allowed for adults and adolescents.
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  #13  
Old 12-23-2007, 10:12 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Door
Are the ratings on that site the same as those initially issued? Because I remember Miracle on 34th Street as having been rated by the Legion of Decency as being objectionable for all because the mother was divorced, and on the site it's listed as A-II, allowed for adults and adolescents.
Yeah, pretty much like the rating on Galileo's books have probably changed.
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  #14  
Old 12-23-2007, 10:53 AM
Diogenes the Cynic Diogenes the Cynic is offline
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For the record, DeMille made two different versions of The Ten Commandments. Before the famous Charleton Heston version, he also made a silent version in 1923. Before the Hays Code, There was a Hollywood trend (participated in by DeMille and others) towards staging racy scenes within Biblical epics -- scenes which are comically tame by today's standards but which aroused the ire of the Legion of Decency. While I don't know if his 1923 version of the Commandments was particularly controversial, I do know that a couple of his other movies caused some pearl clutching and that the Biblical epic genre, in general, was a large impetus for the develpment of the Production Codes.

Last edited by Diogenes the Cynic; 12-23-2007 at 10:53 AM..
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  #15  
Old 12-23-2007, 11:03 AM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Door
Are the ratings on that site the same as those initially issued? Because I remember Miracle on 34th Street as having been rated by the Legion of Decency as being objectionable for all because the mother was divorced, and on the site it's listed as A-II, allowed for adults and adolescents.
While I can't find an exact listing in a newspaper from 1947, I did find a listing of movies which had the "National Legion of Decency" rating listed in parenthesis when it differed from that of Parent's Magazine. The listing said (objectionable in part). So, I doubt that it was "objectionable for all."
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  #16  
Old 12-23-2007, 08:16 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C K Dexter Haven
Captain Amazing has destroyed the rumor by pointing to the actual rating. I'd like to add, the notion of a biblical epic by Cecil DeMille being down-played by the Catholic Church is just plain silly. DeMille was out to entertain vast masses, and he did it very well; they would certainly have invited the raters to a pre-release screening, and they would have made any cuts necessary to get the highest approval rating.

The ratings in those days were partly about politics, and molding films to fit their philosophy/theology. And the Hollywood studios, desirous of reaching the largest possible audience, would certainly have complied with a biblical epic.
And DeMille was a rightwinger and an antisemite, so I imagine his version of your average biblical epic would be pretty much in concert with the Catholic church's views.
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  #17  
Old 12-23-2007, 09:51 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
And DeMille was a rightwinger and an antisemite, so I imagine his version of your average biblical epic would be pretty much in concert with the Catholic church's views.
Or possibly Mel Gibson.
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  #18  
Old 12-23-2007, 10:02 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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Originally Posted by Boyo Jim
Or possibly Mel Gibson.
Spearchul brethrun!
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  #19  
Old 12-24-2007, 09:47 AM
Captain Amazing Captain Amazing is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
And DeMille was a rightwinger and an antisemite, so I imagine his version of your average biblical epic would be pretty much in concert with the Catholic church's views.
Was he an anti-semite? I hadn't heard that. I know Bnai Brith protested King of Kings.
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  #20  
Old 12-24-2007, 10:07 AM
Sunspace Sunspace is offline
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The "Legion of Decency"? Why am I thinking this would make another comic-book series all by itself?

("Sponsored by le Capitaine Catholique!")
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  #21  
Old 12-24-2007, 06:55 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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Originally Posted by Captain Amazing
Was he an anti-semite? I hadn't heard that. I know Bnai Brith protested King of Kings.
In his speech at the Directors' Guild meeting where he tried to force all members to sign a loyalty oath, during the Cold War, his remarks were interpreted by many people present to have an antisemitic tone.
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  #22  
Old 12-24-2007, 08:36 PM
Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
In his speech at the Directors' Guild meeting where he tried to force all members to sign a loyalty oath, during the Cold War, his remarks were interpreted by many people present to have an antisemitic tone.
I might want to look at a link to this, in order to judge.

Especially considering that the man was half-Jewish himself.

So, cite?
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  #23  
Old 12-24-2007, 10:28 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Moto
I might want to look at a link to this, in order to judge.

Especially considering that the man was half-Jewish himself.

So, cite?

http://books.google.com/books?id=zWS...bEKY#PPA219,M1

Just a quick find.
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  #24  
Old 12-25-2007, 07:08 AM
jimmmy jimmmy is offline
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As to the Legion of Decency or any other Catholic league being against the 10 Commandments ... I am going to call BS unless we can get a decent cite. link

DeMille made a rush trip to Europe and had the pleasure of being received in audience by Pope Pius XII.


In fact, this was his second Papal audience as he was to meet the (WWI Pope) Benedict in 1922 but it didn't work out.

In Rome, [Cecil B.] DeMille and [Paul] Iribe were invited to see Pope Benedict XV at a private audience. When they arrived at the Vatican they were coldly received and virtually asked to leave. They looked at each other in astonishment: they had dressed precisely according to the dictates of protocol, and were scrupulously punctual. But they had overlooked one detail: the Pope had died that day.


Not to highjack this too far but: DeMille's Mom was Jewish and converted to marry his Dad - wouldn't he more properly be called a self hating Jew? Can he really be "anti-semitic"? and it is worth pointing out that Kazan had a dog in the Loyalty Oath fight obviously ...
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