I’m a big fan of silent films. While I like the 1956 version of Cecil B. deMille’s The Ten Commandments (which I first saw on the Big Screen, because they hadn’t started the yearly tradition of running it every Easter yet), I wanted to see something different. Although I had a poor recording of the 1923 version I’d recorded off the television, I have recently found a DVD copy of it with commentary (and the color section), so I watched that. For the first time, I watched it with the commentary, which was interesting. I learned;
1.) Julia Faye, who played Pharaoh’s Wife, also appeared as Elisheba in the 1956 version (she’s the one who asks Moses “Are we safe?” during the Angel of Death sequence). I believe she’s the only actor to appear in both versions. She was in most of de Mille’s later Big movies.
2.) Pat Moore, who had played Pharaoh’s son, didn’t appear in the 1956 version, but was the Sound Editor for that version. He’s also the last cast member from the 1923 version to die, in 2004. He met (possibly re-met) with Eugene Mazzola, who played the Pharaoh’s son in 1956, shortly before he died.
3.) Several of de Mille’s crew worked on both versions. de Mille, of course, directed both.
4.) Herb Alpert (of Tijuana Brass fame) appeared in the film, uncredited. The commentary claimed he was one of the boys trying to get the donkey moving at the start of the Exodus, but that seemed pretty unlikely – he would’ve been 20 at the time. The iMDB lists him instead as a trumpeter at Mt. Sinai, which is more reasonable.
5.) Although the disc claims that the color sequences were “hand tinted” (and I had also believed this to be the case for many years, until this Board set me straight), the color scenes were actually done in early Technicolor, as has been amply documented. The first color version I saw encouraged my belief that it was hand-tinted, because the coloring looked sloppy and seemed to go “outside the lines”, but the version I watched last night was much cleaner (if still very washed-out).
6.) The actual “Moses-out-of-Egypt” part of the silent version is in the lengthy “Prologue”. The rest of the film is set in the then-modern day of 1923. I’ve sat through this before, but didn’t feel compelled y watch it last night. Instead, I zipped through the special effects highlights of the 1956 version.
Other interesting versions are out there, including Spielberg’s animated Prince of Egypt (with a stunning CGI parting-of-the-Red-Sea section), the recent Exodus: Gods and Kings, and the hard-to-find made-for-TV Burt Lancaster Moses.