The Ten Commandments will once again air on ABC this Saturday, March 26, beginning at 7:00 p.m. While not as big of a tradition as A Charlie Brown Christmas, which has aired on network television since 1965, The Ten Commandments has been aired regularly over the Easter weekend on ABC since 1973, with one exception in 1999. According to IMDB, when the network failed to air the movie that year, it received many irate calls from families who had grown used to watching the special performance every year.
With the film’s actual running time of three hours and 40 minutes, and allowing for commercials, viewing the 1956 classic can be a major undertaking. Still, the network still sports good numbers in ratings with each showing, so the iconic film continues to be shown. It has become such a staple that ABC barely needs to advertise.
Considered by many to be Cecil B. DeMille’s best work, it was also the director’s last. DeMille was 75 years old when making the movie and was the oldest working Hollywood director. He actually suffered a heart attack during the production and returned to work two days later.
The Ten Commandments provided Charlton Heston’s most remembered role as Moses leading the Jewish people from the land of Egypt to the Promised Land. The film also stars Yul Brynner as Rameses, Anne Baxter as Queen Nefretiri, Edward G. Robinson as Dathan, Yvonne de Carlo as Sephora, Vincent Price as Baka, Debra Paget as Lilia, John Derek as Joshua, Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Sethi, Nina Foch as Bithiah, Martha Scott as Yochabel, and Judith Anderson as Memnet, among others.
Now, here are ten facts about the epic film that you may not know.
- The film was a reboot. The Ten Commandments was actually a remake of DeMille’s 1923 silent film.
- At the time of The Ten Commandments’ first release on November 8, 1956, it was the most expensive film ever made: $13.27 million.
- Fortunately, the movie was also the highest-grossing that year as well. By the end of its run, the film had made a net profit of $18,500,000.
- The Ten Commandments was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won for Best Visual Effects. Charlton Heston was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama), and Yul Brynner won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor.
- The film was picked for preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1999 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
- In 2008, The Ten Commandments was chosen by the American Film Institute as the tenth best film in the “epic” genre.
- Yvonne de Carlo beat out at least 22 other stars for the role of Sephora. Grace Kelly was DeMille’s first choice for the role, but she was unavailable. DeMille said of De Carlo’s performance that he “sensed in her a depth, an emotional power a womanly strength which the part of Sephora needed and which she gave it.” Ironically, this same actress would be best known for her role as Lily for The Munsters TV show.
- Vincent Price who played the role of Baka was known for his many role in low-budget horror movies and later became the villain Egghead on the Batman TV Show.
- Known for its “cast of thousands,” The Ten Commandments featured at least 14,000 extras and 15,000 animals.
- Though the film was shot on location in Mount Sinai and the Sinai Peninsula, less than five percent of the movie was actually filmed in Egypt.
[Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]