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The working title of this film was Prince of Egypt. Before the film's onscreen credits, producer-director Cecil B. DeMille steps out from behind a curtain onto a stage. Directly addressing the audience for two minutes, DeMille states that the Bible omits approximately thirty years in its description of the life of Moses, and that the filmmakers drew upon historical works such as those by Philo and Josephus and the Hebrew Midrash for the picture. DeMille then asserts that the subject of Moses' life is particularly timely, as it deals with themes such as whether man is to be ruled by God's law or the whims of a dictator like Rameses. DeMille announces that the filmmakers' intent was "not to create a story but to be worthy of the story divinely created 3,000 years ago, the five books of Moses." After DeMille states that the film is three hours and thirty-nine minutes long and will contain one intermission, he thanks the audience for its attention, then goes back behind the curtain. Although the prologue was included in the print viewed, the Daily Variety review noted that it would be "used in all initial playdates, but May be dropped later."
After DeMille's introduction, a special version of the traditional Paramount logo, in which the Paramount mountain is shaped like Mount Sinai and is colored mostly in red, appears and is followed by the onscreen credits. The intermission occurred following the picture's fourteenth reel, after the burning bush has spoken to "Moses" and instructed him to return to Egypt. According to the Daily Variety review, Paramount recommended a ten-minute break. The film ends with a written card stating: "So it was written, so it shall be done," and a special title card announcing the "Exit Music."
As noted in the onscreen credits, The Ten Commandments was "compiled from many sources and contains material from" three contemporary novels and was written "in accordance with the ancient texts of Philo, Josephus, Eusebius, The Midrash and The Holy Scriptures." DeMille's onscreen credit reads: "Those who see this motion picture-Produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille-will make a pilgrimage over the very ground that Moses trod more than 3,000 years ago." The opening credits contain a written acknowledgment for the "valuable cooperation" of Dr. William C. Hayes, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Dr. Labib Habachi, Department of Antiquities, Luxor, Egypt; Dr. Keith C. Seele, Dr. Ralph Marcus and Dr. George R. Hughes, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago; and Rabbi Rudolph Lupo, Jewish Community Library, Los Angeles. Studio records indicate that the scholars acknowledged were frequently consulted throughout pre-production and production on a wide variety of historical topics. Frequent voice-over narration heard throughout the film, spoken by DeMille and explaining the action, is taken primarily from the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament. Other books from the Old Testament are also quoted in the narration.
DeMille announced his intention to remake his 1923 Paramount film The Ten Commandments in spring 1952. The earlier film, which starred Theodore Roberts as Moses, focused only partially on the biblical story and included a modern-day parable about two brothers (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). Cinematographer J. Peverell Marley and editor Anne Bauchens worked on both the 1923 and 1956 versions of The Ten Commandments. In announcing his intention to remake the film, DeMille noted that the new picture would depict only the life of Moses. In August 1952, Daily Variety reported that DeMille intended the film to be "the biggest picture of his career," an ambition that many modern sources agree that he fulfilled. In an undated, circa mid-1954, letter written by DeMille to the editor of the British journal The Jewish Chronicle, the producer stated that at that time, he had been working on the picture for five years, with "the script alone requiring three years to write." DeMille estimated that the movie would "require two years to film" and would not be ready for release until the middle of 1956. Although information in the Paramount Produced Scripts Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that Edmund Penney worked on the film's screenplay, he is not listed by any other contemporary sources, and the extent of his contribution to the completed picture, if any, has not been determined.
Henry Noerdlinger, DeMille's chief researcher on many of his films, published a book entitled Moses and Egypt (Los Angeles, 1956) detailing the enormous amount of research undertaken to achieve historical accuracy in The Ten Commandments. According to Noerdlinger's book, "950 books, 984 periodicals, 1,286 clippings and 2,964 photographs were studied," and the "facilities of 30 libraries and museums in North America, Europe and Africa" were employed in the film's preparation. An October 1956 Hollywood Citizen-News article noted that Noerdlinger began his research for the film in June 1952, and an August 1956 New York Times report asserted that the historical preparation cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars." As Noerdlinger explained in his book, the Bible does not give a specific date for the exodus, nor state which pharaoh was confronted by Moses, and so the filmmakers decided upon the 13th century B.C., which was generally favored by scholars as the time of the exodus. They then chose Rameses II, who reigned from 1301-1234 B.C., as Moses' nemesis. [Scholars alternately spell Rameses as Ramses, and Sethi as Seti.] DeMille's depiction of Moses' early life, about which little is told in the Bible, relied upon other sources, as noted in an article written by screenplay author Aeneas MacKenzie for the July 31, 1955 issue of New York Times. MacKenzie stated that "certain ancient Hebrew, Moslem and other non-Biblical texts," as well as sources found in Noerdlinger's extensive research, were used to supply the "missing" details of Moses' life. Noerdlinger's book was used to help publicize the film, especially in Europe, and was given to film, religious and historical reviewers.
According to an unsourced, circa 1952 news item, contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, DeMille offered the role of Moses to William Boyd, best known for his work as "Hopalong Cassidy." In DeMille's autobiography, however, he stated: "I was never in any doubt who should play the part of Moses," in reference to Charlton Heston. In September 1954, Hollywood Reporter announced that DeMille was screening the 1954 religious film Day of Triumph "in order to appraise actor James Griffith for a possible lead." Griffith does not appear in the completed picture, however. Studio records and a September 1954 New York Times article indicate that Cornel Wilde was originally set for the role of "Joshua." According to a May 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Robert Lowery was considered for the role of "Mered."
In several contemporary sources, it was noted that Heston was cast partially due to his resemblance to Michelangelo's renowned statue of Moses. After location filming was completed in Egypt, Heston stopped in Rome so that publicity photographs of him with the statue could be taken, and in the trailer for the film, DeMille uses the photos to point out the resemblance. [Heston went on to play Michelangelo in the 1965 Twentieth Century-Fox picture The Agony and the Ecstasy. See AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70.] According to a January 30, 1955 speech Heston gave to the Bureau of Jewish Education, a transcript of which is contained in the Charlton Heston Collection, located at the AMPAS Library, Fraser Heston, the son of Charlton and Lydia Heston, was cast as "The infant Moses," several months before his birth, while his mother was still pregnant. Fraser Heston, who went on to become a screenwriter, director and producer, was three months old when the sequences featuring him were shot.
In his autobiography, DeMille related that he offered the part of "Rameses II" to Yul Brynner between acts one night while watching Brynner's famed performance as the King of Siam in The King and I on Broadway. According to Yvonne de Carlo's autobiography, she was cast when DeMille was screening footage of a film featuring Nina Foch, who was cast as "Bithiah," and DeMille was so captivated by de Carlo that he gave her the role of "Sephora." In Edward G. Robinson's autobiography, he related his disappointment over his career in the early and mid-1950s, when scrutiny by the House Committee on Un-American Activities caused him to make a string of "B" movies. Asserting that DeMille resurrected his career by casting him as "Dathan," Robinson wrote: "Cecil B. DeMille returned me to films. Cecil B. DeMille restored my self-respect."
Although Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors and dancers in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed: Wesley Gale, Dennis Nelson, Harry Schwartz, Jody Parker, Patricia Richards, Dorothea Hulse (who wove the fabric used for the robe in the 1953 Twentieth Century-Fox production The Robe, ), Cy Phelps, Norman Walker, Capri Candela, Shirley Hart, Marie Roe, Vera Lee, Virginia Lee, Edith Udane, Joan Samuels, Shirley deBrugh, Marjorie Packa, Jerry Forrey, Lee Irwin, George Bruggerman, Ron Nyman, Edward Fury, Dan Towler, Harry Thompson, Dick Lane, Gadge Johnson, Bess Flowers, Paul Busch, Michael Carr, Buddy Baer, Donald Curtis, Francis MacDonald, Cesar Ugarte, Jr., Paul Haakon, Gregor Mondjian, Aaron Gerard, Lela Zali and Moshe Lazrah. In an interview for the 2004 special collector's edition DVD of the film, music composer Elmer Bernstein noted that Victor Young was originally assigned to score the film but fell ill during production, after which Bernstein replaced him.
According to studio records, portions of the picture were shot on location in Egypt at a number of locations, including Beni Youseff, near Cairo, where the city of Per-Rameses was partially recreated; Aswan near the Nile River; the grounds of the ancient St. Catherine's Monastery, where many of the cast and crew stayed during filming of the scenes of the burning bush on Mount Sinai, which is also known as Gebel Musa; Abu Ruwash, where later parts of the exodus and the chariot chase were shot; Luxor and Kharga. As noted by a September 16, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, a second unit headed by cinematographer Loyal Griggs had been "shooting second unit sequences in Egypt for some time" before the main unit, led by DeMille, left for location and began shooting on October 13, 1954. A October 13, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that DeMille had four of Paramount's newly developed VistaVision cameras shipped to Egypt for the location shoot. As noted by an October 1952 Daily Variety news item, the extensive location shoot represented the first time that DeMille personally directed footage outside of the United States. According to modern sources, DeMille suffered a heart attack during filming at Beni Youssef, but returned to the set shortly after.
On October 24, 1955, Life reported that the immense reproduction of Per-Rameses included gates that were 107 feet tall, with two 35-foot statues, made to resemble Brynner, flanking the gates. A June 1955 The Picture News Magazine article estimated that the gates, which were part of one of the largest location sets ever built, were 650 feet wide, 620 feet deep and 108 feet high. An April 1956 Good Housekeeping article reported that the set was a quarter of a mile long and took six months to construct. Production manager Don Robb had arrived in Egypt in February 1954 to coordinate the construction and hire the extensive numbers of people and animals needed, according to studio records, and stayed on long after the shoot was completed to finalize any remaining business.
Heston, Brynner and Henry Wilcoxon were the only major players to shoot on location, and Brynner was in Egypt for only a brief time to film the sequences in which Rameses leads the chariots chasing the Hebrews during the exodus. The rest of the cast had doubles, shown in long shot, for the location filming. In several papers in the Heston Collection, Heston noted that DeMille always insisted that he stay in character as Moses during filming, even during rest periods on the set, in order "to stay within the context of the part." Heston credited the then-unusual direction with stimulating the authentic reactions he received from the thousands of Jewish, Christian and Moslem extras used during the exodus sequences. In numerous contemporary and modern interviews, Heston related how profoundly moved he was by the experience of being followed by the many extras calling out, "Moussa, Moussa, Moussa" to him.
In his autobiography, DeMille noted that due to the desert heat, the film negative had to be packed in ice to protect it and completed footage was flown to Hollywood at the end of every day's shooting. After being developed, prints were flown back to Egypt for DeMille to view at Cairo's Misr Studio. According to a November 19, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, DeMille employed eighty-eight assistant directors-six from Hollywood and eighty-two hired in Egypt-to help him control the crowds needed for the exodus scenes. Contemporary sources estimated that between 7,000 and 10,000 people were used as extras, with approximately 5,000 head of livestock. According to an American Cinematographer article on the film, it "mobilized the greatest number of extra people ever used in a motion picture," a statement challenged by some film historians when discussing other contemporary "spectacles," such as Quo Vadis and Around the World in Eighty Days. In a 1990 Los Angeles Times interview, Heston stated that upon their return from location shooting, "DeMille shut down the production for several weeks while he edited the footage together and blocked out specifically what he needed to do at the studio." Heston made the 1955 Universal film The Private War of Major Benson during the interval.
As noted by contemporary news items and information in the Paramount records, in exchange for the extensive cooperation provided by the Egyptian government, which supplied approximately 200 cavalry soldiers and horses, plus equipment, to be used as background extras, Paramount agreed to produce a travelogue about Egypt. Directed mostly by Arthur Rosson, who served as the second unit director on The Ten Commandments, the documentary was shot in color and VistaVision and was entitled Ancient Egypt and Modern Egypt.
Although information in the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library gives the lyrics for several songs to be included in the picture, they are heard only in the background as chants by priests or others. The songs were written variously by Bernstein, Noerdlinger and Wilcoxon. Cinematographer Marley was borrowed from Warner Bros. for the production. Noted artist Arnold Friberg designed the costumes of the principal male characters-Moses, Rameses II, Sethi and Baka-and also painted the special version of the Paramount logo that appears at the beginning of the film, according to contemporary sources. Modern sources report that Friberg was largely responsible for the "look" of Moses, including the different makeups that Heston wore as the character aged. Friberg's portraits of Heston as Moses were used widely in the film's publicity, and a number of his paintings were used in the commemorative booklet sold at movie theaters during the picture's exhibition. According to studio records, artist Roy Rulin designed many of the film's dcor and props, including the Golden Calf, but because he did not have a contractual obligation to receive an onscreen credit, his name is not listed among the other art and set directors.
In DeMille's autobiography, the director called recreating the voice of God "the greatest single problem" in the film. In a September 1953 NewsLife interview, DeMille stated that the sequence in which Moses was to receive the ten commandments would be filmed "with special symphonic sound being used to represent the universal language of the Lord's voice." A September 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Guy Prescott had recorded the "voice of God" for the film that week, although in February 1980, an item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column claimed that Alan Jeffory was the offscreen voice of God. In his autobiographical collection of his 1956-1976 journals, Heston wrote that he supplied the voice of God. In 1996, Parade magazine reported that DeMille himself had claimed to supply the voice of God, as did singer-actor J. D. Jewkes. The article concluded that "only DeMille and his sound editor, Loren L. Ryder, who died in 1985, knew the truth-because the voice used in the film was run through mixers, changers and echo chambers." According to DeMille's autobiography, Heston's voice was used during the burning bush sequence, but an unnamed friend, who was not a professional actor, was used for the sequence in which God gives the ten commandments to Moses.
Among the film's noted special effects was the parting of the Red Sea, which was supervised by John P. Fulton, who also did the special effects for DeMille's 1923 version of The Ten Commandments. For the 1956 film, the huge Red Sea set included two giant water tanks, according to an April 1955 New York Times report, which covered not only a 300 by 300-foot square area of the Paramount backlot, but also part of the RKO backlot. According to the Time review, the special effects team "built a 200,000 cubic-foot swimming pool, [and] installed hydraulic equipment that could deluge the area with 360,000 gallons of water in two minutes flat." According to modern sources, Fulton simply projected the film of the water pouring out of the tanks in reverse to simulate the parting of the sea, with footage of the actors then superimposed over the shots of the water. A May 20, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item asserted that the Red Sea sequence would cost $500,000, both for filming and creating the special effects. The Time review, however, claimed that the scene "cost more than a million dollars and took 18 months to shoot."
As explained in a report submitted by the studio to AMPAS for consideration for an Academy Award nomination for Best Special Effects, part of the live-action footage for the Red Sea sequence was shot on location in Egypt, and part of it on studio sound stages in front of blue screen backings. The report goes on to state that the water "in the first scenes of the encampment is actually the Red Sea," while miniatures and the water in the tanks were used for the rest of the sequence. Matte paintings of the bottom of the sea and of the sky were combined with the rest of the footage. The studio report concluded that "the opening and closing scenes of the sea are a combination of as many as 12 original negatives printed together with stationery split screen mattes, rotoscope hand-made mattes and Blue Screen Mattes." For the sound effects in the sequence, thirty-five separate sound effects tracks were used, including an "actual Atom Bomb rumble that was recorded during one of the Atom Bomb tests" to simulate the thunder.
According to a May 1954 version of the screenplay, the look of the pillar of divine fire was suggested by the dcor paintings done by Pavel Tchelitchev for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo version of the ballet "Firebird." Studio records add that several of the animators who worked on the pillar of fire, the finger of God, the burning bush and other effects were borrowed from the Walt Disney Studios. The studio special effects report noted that the writing of the commandments on the tablets "was accomplished by animating three different drawings for each frame," and that nine shades of color were used for the pillar of fire.
In December 1953, DeMille announced in a Los Angeles Times article that his picture would probably have a budget of at least six million dollars. By September 1954, Los Angeles Times was reporting that the budget would be eight million dollars, and in November 1954, Paramount board chairman Adolph Zukor announced that DeMille was "working on an unlimited budget." On July 27, 1955, Daily Variety announced that the film was the costliest motion picture made to that date and revealed that the profits would be split "50-50" between DeMille's production company, Motion Picture Associates, and Paramount. According to studio records, the final budget was over thirteen million dollars, and in a speech DeMille made in New York just prior to the film's premiere, he claimed that "only six motion pictures have ever grossed as much as The Ten Commandments cost to make."
An October 1956 Hollywood Citizen-News article reported that before DeMille completed the final edit of the picture, he "invited West Coast top figures in the religious world-laymen as well as clergy-to view the film at Paramount Studios so that he might have their reactions and advice." The guests, ranging from James Francis Cardinal McIntyre to Jewish rabbis and Protestant ministers, were very favorable in their responses. The Ten Commandments, which did not have a formal general release date, played as a special roadshow engagement at "advanced" prices and generally on a reserved-seat, twice-daily basis, before going into a more general release at "neighborhood" theaters at regular prices in mid-to late 1958. Even when the film played at drive-in theaters, exhibitors were required to run it for a minimum of two weeks and pay Paramount a per person royalty, according to July 1958 Hollywood Reporter news items.
The film received mixed reviews, with many critics praising the spectacular nature of it but dubious about its historical accuracy. Time referred to the film as "in some respects the most vulgar movie ever made." New York Times, however, commented on the then-current conflict between Egypt and Israel and stated that the film "is a moving story of the spirit of freedom riding in a man, under the divine inspiration of his Maker. And, as such, it strikes a ringing note today." The scope of DeMille's overall achievement was highlighted by many reviews, including Cue, which stated: "DeMille has built himself a towering monument-the biggest, most spectacular, and by all means the most impressive of the 70 motion pictures that have constituted his life's work." Hollywood Reporter declared that The Ten Commandments "is not just a great and powerful motion picture, although it is that; it is also a new human experience." Heston's portrayal of Moses, arguably the role with which he is most identified, received mostly positive notices, although the Time critic called him "ludicrously miscast." The Daily Variety review, however, termed him "outstanding" and stated that the role was "splendidly performed." In his autobiography, Heston judged his work in the film as "generally impressive, often very good, and sometimes not quite what it needs to be."
In a November 1956 editorial about the film, influential New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote that because of its subject matter, The Ten Commandments was "weighed with responsibilities that are seldom borne in such manifest fashion by the product of the screen." Although Crowther mildly criticized the invention of Moses' relationship with Nefretiri, he concluded that the film was "unquestionably an interesting romance about a magnanimous individual who gives himself to a high cause." A year later, Crowther wrote another editorial about the picture, noting that 1,300,000 people had seen it at the Criterion Theatre in New York alone. Crowther pointed out that in addition to the DeMille name, "which gives [The Ten Commandments] a trademark that is special in the motion picture field," the film reaped the benefits of "excellent promotion" and "the incalculable asset of its support by church authorities." The Ten Commandments played at the Criterion Theatre in New York for seventy weeks, according to a February 25, 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item.
In August 1958, in order to broaden the film's appeal, Paramount began showing a version subtitled in Spanish at the Mayan Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, which catered primarily to Spanish-speaking customers. The move was so successful that it was repeated in other parts of Southern California, Arizona and Texas. According to September 1958 Hollywood Reporter news items, The Ten Commandments had not to that time been exhibited in Mexico because the country "so sternly keeps a low ceiling of admissions that Paramount cannot set up any form of roadshowing." In order to "siphon" off prospective Mexican theater-goers, the studio arranged for buses to take customers from Tijuana to see the film in San Diego, CA, and from Juarez and Laredo to see it in El Paso and Laredo, TX. Other subtitled versions were shown throughout the United States in areas heavily populated by foreign speakers.
The film's power at the box office was the subject of numerous contemporary articles, including a March 19, 1957 editorial by Hollywood Reporter publisher W. R. Wilkerson, who commented on the fact that the film was then taking in one million dollars per week, an unprecedented feat. The picture had played in only eighty theaters by the time it grossed ten million dollars, according to a April 5, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, with more than seven million people paying to see it. The item also stated that Paramount and DeMille "reportedly are getting 70 percent of the theatre gross," and that the predictions by studio executives of a $100,000,000, worldwide gross seemed like "a distinct possibility." In December 1960, Hollywood Reporter noted that the film's worldwide gross had reached $60 million, and in July 1965, New York Times reported that The Ten Commandments was one of only five films to have grossed more than thirty million dollars domestically, and put its domestic total to that time at $34.2 million.
As noted by several contemporary sources, DeMille did not receive any personal profit from The Ten Commandments, which was the seventieth and last picture he directed before his death on January 21, 1959. [DeMille did supervise the 1958 Paramount release The Buccaneer, however, which was directed by his son-in-law, Anthony Quinn, and also starred Brynner and Heston. See entry above.] DeMille's percentage of the profits went to the DeMille Trust, which had been established in the early 1950s by the director and his wife. According to a speech DeMille gave just prior to the film's opening, the trust was established for "charitable, religious and educational purposes." Hollywood Reporter news items also related that in January 1956, DeMille assigned twenty-five percent of his profits to fifty key employees who worked on The Ten Commandments, both in front of and behind the camera. The fifty employees received an annual stipend from the film's profits, and according to a December 15, 1960 Daily Variety news item, the financial arrangement would remain in effect for as long as the film continued to be exhibited theatrically. Contemporary sources noted that it was the first time in film history that such an arrangement had been made, and that some of the recipients had worked with DeMille from 10 to 25 years or even longer. Many of the cast and crew who worked on The Ten Commandments, such as editor Bauchens, associate producer Wilcoxon, photographer Marley, assistant director Francisco Day, actor H. B. Warner and researcher Noerdlinger, had collaborated with DeMille on numerous of the producer's earlier films.
In October 1958, Hollywood Reporter announced that Pakistan was "the first country in the Free world to bar exhibition" of The Ten Commandments. The article reported that the action was not "leveled against the picture because of its content, but because Pakistan `fears the exhibition of the film at this time May incite a small group of illiterate fanatics.'" The article went on to state that a movie theater in Pakistan had been burned by a Moslem group the previous year when it exhibited a film on Christianity, and that The Ten Commandments was still "barred in the Soviet Union, Red China and all countries held captive behind the Iron Curtain." According to a December 1959 New York Times article, "no one in the United Arab Republic" had ever seen the film, because "the censor has refused to give it his stamp of approval," despite the location shooting done in Egypt. The article further reported that the film had been censored because "in the great clashes between the Egyptians and the Jews, the Egyptians were always the villains and the Jews the victims."
Modern sources state that Sam Cavanaugh served as a cameraman and Pat Moore as a sound editor on the picture and add to the cast Herb Alpert as a drum player, future film producer Jon Peters as a child extra, Michael Burden, Richard Farnsworth, Amadeo Nazzari, Tim Cagney and Vernon Rabar. DeMille's autobiography and other modern sources note that DeMille's daughter, Cecilia Harper, aided him not only on the set every day during the location shoot, but at night by attending official functions for him. DeMille's granddaughter, also named Cecilia, married Egyptian major Abbas El Boughdadly, who portrayed "Rameses' charioteer" in the picture, on July 6, 1955. The Ten Commandments was the last film of actor H. B. Warner, who died in 1958.
The September 14, 1956 issue of Collier's featured a number of Brynner's snapshots taken during filming of The Ten Commandments. Brynner later became well-known for his portrait photography. Several claims were made throughout the years that the tablets carrying the ten commandments were auctioned off, but in a July 17, 1995 letter to People magazine, Heston stated that the tablets recently auctioned at Christie's were fiberglass duplicates carried by his stand-in, not the original, fifty-pound, red granite tablets that he carried. Heston then surmised that the original tablets were still in the DeMille family collection. According to a 1963 memo in the studio records, various props and wardrobe from The Ten Commandments were used in the 1965 United Artists release The Greatest Story Ever Told (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).
Heston made several recordings of the Old Testament; the first being made for Vanguard Records in the late 1950s. Heston made several other recordings of the Bible, which have been widely sold and are still available. Bernstein's score, which was praised in reviews of the film, was released on a soundtrack album by Dot Records. Another of the varied ways in which the film was promoted was the placing throughout the United States of between 2,000 and 4,000 granite monoliths, six feet in height and inscribed with the ten commandments, in a joint partnership between DeMille and the National Fraternal Order of the Eagles. Stars of the film were present at the unveilings of several of the monoliths during the 1950s. Since 2001, several cities have sued to have the monuments removed on the grounds that they violate the separation of church and state.
The Ten Commandments received an Academy Award for Best Special Effects and was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Art Direction (Color), Best Cinematography (Color), Best Costume Design (Color), Best Film Editing and Best Sound Recording. DeMille received the first Torah Award presented by the National Women's League of the United Synagogues of America. Heston received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor and Brynner was named Best Actor of 1956 by the National Board of Review, which also encompassed his performances in Anastasia and The King and I. In 1999, The Ten Commandments was added to the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board.
The Ten Commandments has been re-issued theatrically a number of times. The picture was initially withdrawn from distribution in late 1960, by which time Daily Variety estimated that over 51,00,000 people in the United States had seen it. In addition to being rereleased in 1966 (at which time it was again banned in Pakistan), the picture was revived in late 1975, at which time Paramount advertised that it would never be released theatrically again. In 1990, however, a restored print of the film was re-issued in 70mm Super VistaVision with a six-track soundtrack remixed in Dolby Stereo. According to a letter to the editor, published in Hollywood Reporter on February 11, 1991, the restored print represented the first time that the DeMille's introduction to the picture had been included in theatrical prints since the 1950s. The film has played yearly on the ABC television network since the late 1960s, and in March 1997, Hollywood Reporter noted that the network had renewed their rights to broadcast the film through the year 2009. The news item also reported that the picture had consistently won its time slot during its Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday broadcasts. The picture was first issued on DVD in 1999, and in March 2004, Paramount released a special "collector's edition" of the film, featuring several documentaries about its making.
Among the films about the ten commandments are the ten 1987 short films entitled Dekalog, which were directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski for Polish television before they received a theatrical release, and the 1997 animated film The Ten Commandments, directed by Michael Sporn and featuring the voice of Joel Briel as Moses. Films depicting Moses include the 1975 television movie Moses the Lawgiver, which aired on CBS, was directed by Gianfranco De Bosio and starred William and Burt Lancaster as Moses at different ages; the 1980 Columbia parody Wholly Moses, directed by Gary Weis and starring Dudley Moore; the 1996 TNT television production Moses, directed by Roger Young and starring Ben Kingsley as the title character; and the 1998 animated DreamWorks feature The Prince of Egypt, directed by Brenda Chapman and Steve Hickner, and featuring the voice of Val Kilmer as Moses. In April 2006, ABC broadcast a four-hour, two-part miniseries entitled The Ten Commandments. Directed by Robert Dornhelm, the miniseries starred Dougray Scott as Moses and Paul Rhys as Rameses.