The Ten Commandments (1956)

35mm film, 70 mm (1989 re-release), “photographed in VistaVision”, Super VistaVision (1989 re-release), “color by Technicolor”, 1.85:1, 2.20:1 (1989 re-release)
mono, English

An American religious fantasy film directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

Plot Summary

The Pharoah Rameses I orders that all first-born Hebrew males be slaughtered. Moses is saved when his mother launches into the river Nile in a reed basket and he's found and adopted by the pharaoh's daughter Bithiah and her brother Pharaoh Seti. As an adult, Moses falls in love with Princess Nefertiri and is hated by Seti's son, Rameses. But the truth about his past is revealed and Moses is thrown out of Egypt and into the desert. He is visited by God who gives him the Ten Commandments and orders him to return to Egypt to lead the Hebrews from and into the promised land.


Directed by: Cecil B. DeMille
Copyright 1956 by Paramount Pictures Corporation
Paramount presents a Cecil B. DeMille production
Produced by: Cecil B. DeMille
Associate Producer: Henry Wilcoxon
This work was compiled from many sources and contains material from the books: Prince of Egypt by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Pillar of Fire by Rev. J.H. Ingraham, On Eagle's Wing by Rev. A.E. Southon
And was written for the screen by: Æneas MacKenzie, Jesse L. Lasky Jr, Jack Gariss, Fredric M. Frank
Director of Photography: Loyal Griggs
Edited by: Anne Bauchens
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Sound Recording: Louis Mesenkop, supervisor; Harry Lindgren, Gene Garvin
Costumes: Edith Head, Ralph Jester, John Jensen, Dorothy Jeakins, Arnold Friberg
Makeup: Wally Westmore, supervisor; Frank Westmore, Frank McCoy
Hair Stylist: Nellie Manley
Special Photographic Effects: John P. Fulton
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler, Albert Nozaki
Locations: Abu Rudeis, Egypt [uncredited]; Abu Ruwash, Egypt [uncredited]; Beni Youssef, Egypt [uncredited]; Luxor, Egypt [uncredited]; Los Angeles, California, USA [uncredited]; Red Rock Canyon State Park, Cantil, California, USA [uncredited]

Charlton Heston (Moses)
Yul Brynner (Rameses)
Anne Baxter (Nefretiri)
Edward G. Robinson (Dathan)
Yvonne De Carlo (Sephora)
Debra Paget (Lilia)
John Derek (Joshua)
Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Sethi)
Nina Foch (Bithiah)
Martha Scott (Yochabel)
Judith Anderson (Memnet)
Vincent Price (Baka)
John Carradine (Aaron)
Olive Deering (Miriam)
Douglass Dumbrille (Jannes)
Frank DeKova (Abiram)
Henry Wilcoxon (Pentaur)
Eduard Franz (Jethro)
Donald Curtis (Mered)
Lawrence Dobkin (Hur Ben Caleb)

Alternative Titles

Els deu manaments – Spain (Catalan)
Os Dez Mandamentos – Portugal
I dieci comandamenti – Italy
Los diez mandamientos
– Argentina, Spain
Les dix commandements
– Canada (French), France
Dziesiecioro przykazan
– Poland
Kymmenen käskyä
– Finland
De ti bud
– Denmark
De tio budorden
– Sweden
– Hungary
Die Zehn Gebote
– Austria, West Germany

Extracts included in
100 Years at the Movies (1994)
20 Dates (1998)
The 54th Annual Academy Awards (1982)
AFI's 100 Years, 100 Thrills: America's Most Heart-Pounding Movies (2001)
AFI's 100 Years… 100 Heroes and Villains (2003)
Arise! The SubGenius Video (1992)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Hollywood vs. (1994)
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (1991)
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies (1995)
Precious Images (1986)
Word Pictures: Proving Through Archaeology (2000)

See also
Bruce Almighty (2003)
History of the World: Part I (1981)
The Life of Moses (1909)
Moses (1996)
Moses the Lawgiver (1975)
Moses und Aron (1974)
The Pigeon that Took Rome (1962)
The Prince of Egypt (1998)
The Ten Commandments (1923)

Production Notes

In the UK, the film set a new box office record at the Plaza Cinema in London.


Monthly Film Bulletin vol.25 no.288 (January 1958) p.4
This enormous film (it is not, in fact, a remake of de Mille's own 1923 The Ten Commandments) is less of a brash, pseudo-Biblical charade than one might at first have expected. The quartet of script-writers […] adopt an air of heavy reverence towards their central character. What is missing, though, despite the magnificent costumes and the lavish pictorial values, is any evidence of even an elementary historical sense. […] It is all presented like a Drury Lane spectacle of 1900. Most unsatisfactory of all is the film's totally inadequate approach to character. Moses is a beef-and-brawn comic strip hero; Yul Brynner's Rameses has stature but no novelty; Edward G. Robinson makes Dathan heavily theatrical; Anne Baxter is a glacial, intermittently fiery Nefretiti. And so on. Save for the sequences involving Jethro's man-hungry daughters and the protracted orgy of the Golden Calf, de Mille's characteristic preoccupations are restrained. The worst moments of The Robe are recalled, though, in the scenes of the burning bush and the giving of the Ten Commandments – a melodramatic pot pourri of portentous voices, sepulchral music and lightning flashes. In contrast, the exodus and the parting of the Red Sea are well staged – two episodes which give temporary impetus and drama to a film which is for the most part lacking in both these qualities. – from a review by R.B.



  • American Cinematographer vol.64 n4 April 1983 pages 46-52,124-130 – illustrated article (Parting the Red Sea (and other ) by Paul Mandell)
  • The Daily Cinema no.7937 (6 January 1958) pp.1, 6 – article (DeMille Recaptures Family Habit: Shatters 31-year record at Plaza)
  • Kine Weekly vol.512 no.2730 (28 January 1960) p.16 – note (Your films by Josh Billings)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.25 no.288 (January 1958) p.4(UK) – credits, synopsis, review (by R.B.)
  • The Movie p.2400 – credits, review
  • TV Times 14-20 April 1990 p.19 – review


  • The 50 Greatest Jewish Movies: A Critic's Ranking of the Very Best by Kathryn Bernheimer – review
  • John Carradine: The Films by Tom Weaver – article
  • Past Imperfect by Alan F. Segal pp.36-39 – article
  • by Walt Lee p.482 – credits
  • Written In Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille's Epic The Ten Commandments by Katherine Orrison – articles