Saturday, May 19, 2018

State Fair ( 1962 )

Often when a film becomes a smashing box office success, the production studio that made it believes they can replicate its ticket sales with the next generation, and so, every 15-20 years the same titles crop up with new casts and slightly modified scripts.

State Fair is one such film. The 1932 novel by Phil Strong was brought to the screen in 1933 as a Janet Gaynor/Lew Ayres hit for Fox Studios. It told the story of the Frake family and their adventures at the Iowa State Fair, focusing on the romantic entanglements that the two teenage children, Margy and Wayne, get themselves into. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II then set this story to music for the 1945 Technicolor musical adaptation starring Dana Andrews, Jeanne Craine, Vivian Blaine, and Dick Haymes. This was a most entertaining production and it set the bar high for future remakes, one of which was State Fair ( 1962 ).  

For this picture, Fox took the opportunity to cash in on the popularity of two of the top singing stars of the era - Pat Boone and Bobby Darin - and paired them up with two pretty gals, Ann-Margret and Pamela Tiffin, to make what they considered prime bait for the younger generation. To lure in the older crowd, one of Fox's biggest stars of the 1940s, Alice Faye, was cast as Melissa "Ma" Frake and Tom Ewell, a popular stage and screen actor of the 1950s, was cast as Papa Frake. Richard Rodgers also added a few extra tunes to spice up the picture. And so, with an ideal cast, a dependable and well-used story, and lush Cinemascope, the brass at Fox thought this remake would be a box-office hit. They thought wrong. The film lost nearly a million dollars. 

In life, imitation is often the sincerest form of flattery but in Hollywood it is a sign of unimaginative filmmaking. The 1962 version of State Fair tries so hard to have the bucolic charm of its predecessors that it fails to stamp its own impression, which is unfortunate since it really only disappointments when it attempts to duplicate the 1945 version. It is during these scenes that the acting seems bland and uninspired. The cast is uncomfortable in their roles and the entire production comes off as an apology to the audience for having such a "hokey" old-fashioned plot to work with. They should have taken a cue from Bye, Bye, Birdie ( 1962 ) a musical which oozes with small-town naivety and yet is perfectly at home in its own generation. There certainly is nothing hokey about a fair....unless you make it out to be. 

Screenwriter Richard L. Breen adapted Sonya Levien and Paul Green's original screenplay in an attempt to inject some new verve into the story and moved the Iowa setting to Dallas, Texas which, not surprisingly ( since Texans do everything big ) features "the largest state fair in America". It was filmed on location at the modern Dallas fairground which boasts nearly 100 acres of exhibition halls, dance and dining venues, and a stock car track.  Pat Boone gets to try his racing skills on the track and Ann-Margaret performs a show-stopping rendition of "Isn't it Kinda Fun" at a Hollywood Bowl style outdoor theater on the fairgrounds. The giant 52' tall Big Tex who booms his welcome speech to the fairgoers, continues to greet visitors today. 
Pat Boone, who could croon as well as Dick Haymes, and Ann-Margret were the only redeeming actors in the film. They added a genuine warmth and sincerity to their parts, which the rest of the cast should have mirrored. Pamela Tiffin, sweet as she looked, was no comparison to Jeanne Crain. Her airy interpretation of Margy lacked a depth of character, and one had to wonder what she saw in Jerry Dundee ( Bobby Darin ) who seemed bent on simply making her one of his conquests. Tom Ewell did an adequate job in the role that Will Rogers originally performed in the 1933 version, but Alice Faye was wasted - and wooden in the few scenes she had. She had signed for the part believing that she would be reunited with her screen partner, Don Ameche, and be directed by Henry King ( who filmed the original '33 version ). Instead, Jose Ferrer took the reins....and found himself riding a dead horse. Or was he the man to blame for killing it?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Famous Stars and Their Mothers

They are just mother's boys and girls grown tall! 

Believe it or not, Hollywood stars have a few things in common with regular folk like us.....for example, they have mothers, too! At least, that is what this photo-spread from the Mother's Day week issue of Movie-Radio Guide would have us believe. But honestly, if it weren't for the captions, the resemblance between some of these stars of the 1930s/1940s and their maters may have gone unnoticed ( not that one would expect Cesar Romero's mother to share his trademark moustache ). 

We'd like to thank the Old Time Radio Researcher's Group for making so many great movie and radio magazines available to the public....and we'd also like to wish a Happy Mother's Day to all of our readers! 

Eleanor Powell of the twinkling feet and mother Blanche ( above ) always spend the day together. 
Cesar Romero with his mother Maria ( right ) taking time to chat with another beloved mater of the screen, Lela Rogers, star Ginger's mom. 
Formal party is what the irrepressible Mickey Rooney stages for Mother Nell on the great day! Inset: Homey describes Mother's Day in the Darnell family. Linda is getting some fine points on baking from Mom.

Mary Livingston and daughter Joanie have much in common besides the matching red, white, and blue jumpers they are wearing. One of those common interests is story-book time at the Benny's.

Every day is Mother's Day for Titian-haired Greer Garson, for she and her mother, Mrs. Nina S. Garson, are inseparable pals. Instead of making the rounds with some dashing screen hero when on a recent New York trip, Greer's constant companion was her mom. They are seen here at the Stork Club.
Mother of Lucille Manners, soprano star of "Cities Service Concert" ( Fri. NBC ) is herself musically accomplished and was Lucille's first teacher. Kate Smith's grandmother ( pictured ) as well as her mother, is a good pal to the CBS singer. Mrs. Benjamin Hanby is modern, too, and travels by air.
Betty Winkler transferred her dramatic activity from Chicago to New York and took her mother along. Betty stars in "Abie's Irish Rose". 
First grown-up luncheon date for Shirley Temple, Mother's Day, 1941, at the Brown Derby with Mrs. Gertrude Temple. 
Radio star Gracie Allen is not only one of America's favorite entertainers, she's doubly that to a couple of young Americans named Ronnie and Sandra. The two children of Gracie Allen and George Burns like their mom and dad on the air, but they like even better Gracie's reading and George's antics at home. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

"Very interesting....very interesting, indeed" these two men seem to be saying. But just what are they looking at that is so interesting? That's for you to think about! If you've seen this film, then drop the name of its title in the comment box below and the first person to correctly guess the film collects a prize!

If you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Book Review: Hitchcock's Heroines by Caroline Young

While a number of great books have been written about the Master of Suspense and the making of his films, few have focused on the leading ladies of Hitchcock's films. In Hitchcock's Heroines, which made its printed debut this week, author Caroline Young shines the spotlight on the stunning blondes ( and other actresses of various hair colors ) of 23 films dating back to Alfred Hitchcock's breakthrough motion picture, The Lodger ( 1927 ).

This beautiful 193-page book, published by Insight Editions, is filled with rare publicity photos, behind-the-scenes candids, and costume sketches, which makes it a delectable coffee-table book to peruse as well as being a great read. 

Madeleine Carroll, Teresa Wright, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine, Grace Kelly, Doris Day, Eva Marie Saint, and Tippi Hedren are just a few of the actresses that Young profiles. The author's easy-going writing style makes it an entertaining and highly-addictive book. For each film, Young delves into how the leading lady was cast, the production of the film itself, and the actress' experience on the set ( as well as her opinion of Mr. Hitchcock ). 

"Tallulah liked to drink, was witty, and had the mouth of a sailor—just the kind of woman Hitchcock enjoyed spending time with..."

There is also an emphasis throughout the text on the costumes the gals wore in each film, which will be a delight to classic film fashionistas. Hitchcock was particular about details and so many of these costumes helped to accentuate the nature of the characters themselves and provide compositional balance through color and silhouette. Since Young had blogged about Hollywood fashion ( Classic Hollywood Style ) for several years, and also authored a book focusing on fashion in "films of the golden age" entitled Classic Hollywood Style, it seems natural that she would highlight the costumes designers and their work in Hitchcock's films. 
"[Her] clothes had to match the budget of a woman in her first year as a member of staff, yet she was also to have pride in her appearance and look groomed." - describing Ingrid Bergman's appearance in Spellbound

Numerous quotes from vintage magazine articles and recent interviews with the stars liven up the text and the splendid layout by Katherine Winterson provides ample room for side columns featuring plot summaries and bios of each film and actress profiled. 

In short, if you like Hitch and his leading ladies, you'll love this book!

Hitchcock's Heroines retails for $29.99 and is available to purchase through Amazon,  Barnes & Noble, or directly from the publisher

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Around the World in 80 Days ( 1956 )

In 1872 London, Phileas Fogg ( David Niven ), a methodical Englishman of independent means, makes a wager with fellow gentlemen at the private Reform Club that he can circumnavigate the globe within 80 days. His skeptical comrades think that with all of the unforeseen delays that could happen en route - typhoons, shipwrecks, missed trains - it is impossible. But with £20,000 at stake, Fogg is determined to prove them wrong. 

"An Englishman never jokes about a wager, sir."

Joining him on his expedition is his faithful manservant Passepartout ( Cantiflas ), Princess Aouda ( Shirley MacLaine ) whom they rescue in India, and, following along behind, the unshakable Inspector Fix ( Robert Newton ) who believes Fogg to be the recent robber of the Bank of England. 

Around the World in 80 Days is a three-hour epic to behold. It doesn't play out like your usual big dramatic blockbuster spectacle ( as perhaps some critics may have expected ) but more like a mega travelogue sans the voice of Fitzpatrick. In fact, this is exactly the way it was supposed to play because it is not a regular movie and was not intended to be one. It was a filmed event. Producer Mike Todd stressed this when promoting Around the World in 80 Days to distributors: "Do not refer to Around the World in 80 Days as a movie. It's not a movie. Movies are something you can see in your neighborhood theatre and eat popcorn while you're watching them....Show Around the World in 80 Days almost exactly as you would present a Broadway show in your theatre."
Mike Todd, who earned his household-name status through his 1957 marriage to Elizabeth Taylor, had always enjoyed the novels of Jules Verne and long dreamed of putting this story into production as a live show. In 1946, he invested $40,000 to co-produce with Orson Welles (!) a Cole Porter musical adaptation of "Around the World in 80 Days" but pulled out after one glance at the unusable script. Eight years later, he once again felt ready to attempt an adaptation of Verne's classic tale of adventure, this time making sure that he remained in full control of every aspect of the film. 

"Crisis or no, nothing should interfere with tea!" 

Filming began in August 1955 and quickly wrapped within 75 days. Todd, a Broadway impresario, had never made a motion-picture before but he knew what he wanted and knew how to get things done. He was involved in every aspect of the production, down to the most minute detail. He personally visited every country to keep an eye on filming ( with 33 assistant directors employed there was a lot to keep an eye on ) and to cast all of the characters. The King of Thailand, a friend of his, loaned him his 165-foot royal barge for a 15-second sequence; he persuaded the Nawab of Pritam Pasha in Pakistan to loan him his private elephant herd; bribed Ronald Colman to make a cameo appearance by gifting him a yellow Cadillac for a half day's work; and most impressive...he convinced the entire population of the city of Chinchon, Spain ( 6,500 people ), to appear as extras in the bullfight sequence! 

Todd assembled a huge cast that was comprised of the four principal players, over ninety featured players, and guest appearances, or "cameos" as Todd christened them, by 40 top actors from around the world. These included Marlene Dietrich, Cesar Romero, Noel Coward, Frank Sinatra, Red Skeleton, Beatrice Lillie, Trevor Howard, Evelyn Keyes, John Gielgud, Victor McLaglen, Joe E. Brown, Peter Lorre, Charles Coburn, Hermoine Gingold, and Robert Morley, to name just a few. 
With the "extra" players, the cast amounted to 68,894 people, the largest ever assembled for a film ( not counting the 7,959 animals employed! ). Of course, these actors needed to be costumed as well, and so 74,685 costumes were created. 

It was one of the most expensive productions in history ( $6 million ) but grossed seven times its cost in box-office receipts. The all-star international cast, exotic locales, and the lure of Todd-AO ( the latest 65mm widescreen process that Todd helped create ), made Around the World in 80 Days the attraction of the year. 

Critic reception, however, was mixed. Some felt that the voyage around the world was unendurable ( "about two hours too long" ) while others enjoyed every step of the journey. While it is true that the film's script is about as exciting as a game of whist, the location scenery, the fun of spotting the celebrities, and the impressive cinematography more than make up for its occasional moments of boredom. 
At the Academy Awards, Around the World in 80 Days was nominated for eight Oscars, walking away with five of the little statuettes, including the coveted Best Picture award.  Some viewers feel that it was the film's sheer "spectacularness" that earned it the Best Picture Oscar, but looking at the other nominees that year ( The Ten Commandments, The King and I, Giant, Friendly Persuasion ) it was a race against equally spectacular productions, so I feel it justly earned its place in the Best Picture winner's circle for its grandeur....even though Giant was definitely the better picture in terms of acting and directing. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Invitation to the Dance ( 1956 )

Most fans of MGM musicals of the 1950s can rattle off the titles of Gene Kelly's pictures when called upon, but I bet you 23-80 that the majority of these musical aficionados will forget to include Invitation to the Dance among those titles. 

This 1956 dance extravaganza features Kelly in not one, nor two, but three separate stories all told through the art of dance, sans dialogue. As early as 1947, Kelly had envisioned a film where dance could take center-stage. He wanted it to be a showcase of some of the most talented ballet artists of his time, gathered from around the world, but the brass at MGM - knowing that Gene Kelly's name would be drawing the audiences in - insisted that he star in all three segments. 

Some critics felt that Invitation to the Dance was too much dance to handle in one sitting and that may be. Kelly himself agreed with "those who found the whole thing a bit much", but, having seen it over the course of three days ( one segment each day ), I found it to be delightful. Each segment is entirely different from the others with the costumes, art direction, music, and dance styles all being unique. 

The first segment, "Circus" set in 18th-century Italy, features Kelly as a clown who is in love with a ballerina ( Claire Sombert ) that only has eyes for a great tightrope walker ( Igor Youskevitch ). The clown's love story parallels that of the character which he enacts daily in front of his audience. At the beginning of this segment, Kelly does a fantastic pantomime dance with the other members of the dance troupe and, later, Youskevitch's muscular prowess is a marvel to behold. 
The second segment, "Ring Around the Rosy", takes us from Italy to Paris, where a mad party is taking place. The host of the party has just given his wife ( Dephne Dale ) a new bracelet as an anniversary gift but shortly thereafter she passes the bracelet onto her lover, an artist ( Igor Youskevitch ). Then, within the span of one night, it goes from hand to hand ( with Claude Bessy, Belita, Diana Adams, Tommy Rall, Gene Kelly, and Tamara Toumanova all being recipients ) until it returns to the possession of the party host. This was the most explosive and creative of the three segments, featuring some very imaginative modern dance sequences. 

"Sinbad the Sailor", the last segment, is set in modern Arabia. Kelly portrays a sailor on shore leave who befriends a boy ( David Kasday ) with a magic lamp. Together they embark on a journey to the palace of a sultan, meeting a princess ( Carol Haney ) en route. This segment felt like the weakest of the three, because of the focus on the animation. The animation, while novel, extended too long, and seeing dancers in Arabian costume performing traditional dance would have been more welcoming. 
In the early 1950s, MGM had millions in frozen assets in England that they could not take out of the country. These funds could be used only if they employed British artists, and so in 1952, production on Invitation to the Dance began at Elstree Studios outside London. Since the majority of the dancers were from Europe, this seemed like a clever decision, but Gene Kelly, who also directed the film, later regretted the move because the soundstages were not nearly as large as the MGM soundstages in Hollywood and the smaller space made filming the large production numbers more difficult. 

In fact, Kelly later regretted the entire project. The production took much longer than planned. Since most of the ballet dancers had other dance engagements throughout the Continent, much of the film had to be shot in bits and pieces, and Kelly's quest for perfection led him to overwork his dancers. Russian dancer Igor Youskevitch said, "There were times, I think, when [Kelly] overdid things. He rehearsed us all so rigidly - and on cement floors! - that it required superhuman energy to not collapse."
After two years, Invitation to the Dance was completed. But MGM's distributors felt that there was no audience for it, especially with motion-picture attendance rapidly declining and television becoming increasingly more popular. The film sat on a shelf for two more years until it was finally released in special "art house" theaters throughout New York City in 1956. Ultimately, it grossed only $200,000 in North America ( $415,000 overseas ) making it MGM's biggest creative flop of the year. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Louisa ( 1950 ) - When Grandma Starts Neckin'

What do you do with a meddling mother-in-law? That's a subject that has been addressed in many comedies over the years, one of which was Louisa ( 1950 ) which starred Spring Byington as the titular nuisance. Actor and former president Ronald Reagan, who always had a knack for playing comedy, portrayed the leading man in this amusing Universal Pictures comedy that has sadly fallen into the realm of obscurity. 
Hal Norton ( Reagan ) is a well-to-do architect whose life turns upside-down when he discovers that his widowed mother, Louisa, who lives at home with his wife and children, has fallen in love again and plans to re-marry. He had recently encouraged her to stop interfering in the lives of his family and to get out of the house and take part in social activities, but he did not expect her to woo the first man she met! This man happens to be the local grocer, Mr. Hammond ( Edmund Gwenn ), who doesn't resemble Hal's father in the least. Hal's children ( Piper Laurie, Jimmy Hunt ) find grandma's romantic behavior comical, while Hal simply thinks it is absurd. His dislike for Mr. Hammond changes when he invites his boss, Mr. Burnside ( Charles Coburn ), over for dinner and finds that he, too, has become smitten with his mother! Comic mayhem then ensues when the two beaus go head-to-head vying for the attention of the charming Mrs. Norton. 

The script, penned by Stanley Roberts, milks the over-65 romance angle to its fullest, cleverly hinting at how adults in love, at any age, behave like teenagers. Hal and his family learn a valuable lesson from the episode, too: they were interfering in Louisa's life as much as she interfered in theirs when she was certainly at an age to live her own life and make up her mind on whom she wished to marry. 

"There is no fury like a discarded lover of 65"

It's rare to see a December-December romance with older actors in the lead roles, getting all of the juicy dialogue to banter around; and it is even rarer to see one with such capable actors such as Charles Coburn, Spring Byington, and Edmund Gwenn taking on these parts. It is these actors who make Louisa such a delightful little comedy. Coburn especially steals every scene that he is in, in a role a bit reminiscent of his Uncle Stanley character in George Washington, Slept Here ( 1942 ). Also in the cast was Connie Gilchrist ( once again as a smart-alecky maid ), and Martin Milner. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

From the Archives: The Restless Years ( 1958 )

In this scene from The Restless Years, Miss Robeson ( Virginia Grey ) is announcing to her drama students that she is looking for lead performers for the upcoming school production of "Our Town". Miss Robeson is hoping Sandra Dee ( in the second row ) will sign up for the part, but the girl  is hesitant. It takes a little coaxing from her boyfriend John Saxon ( front row ) to convince her she is good enough. 

From the Archives is a series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Warriors ( 1955 )

By 1955, Errol Flynn, that rakish swashbuckling actor of the 1930s, was no longer the young and frisky new kid on the block. He was a veteran of some fifteen adventure films, and all that vine-swinging, sword fighting, heavy drinking, and wooing of women took its toll on the physical appearance of the handsome lad. In The Warriors, Errol is slightly plumper around the waist and his step is not quite as spry as it once was, but the glint is still in his eyes and he remains as handsome as least, for this viewer. 

Walter Mirisch, who was production head of Allied Artists, the studio that was releasing The Warriors ( the most prestigious production in the history of the company ) wrote that: "[Flynn] did not look well in the picture. His face was puffy and he was clearly too old for the role, but I hoped careful photography might offset that. It didn't. Before we started to shoot, I asked him to diet and hopefully lose some weight, which he didn't do. There were only traces left of the face, physique and charm that he had brought to The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk and all those other great adventure films of his youth."
The Warriors, released in England as The Dark Avenger, tells the story of the 14th-century ruler, Edward the Black Prince, portrayed by Flynn, who quells an uprising plot devised by the French nobleman Comte Robert De Ville ( Peter Finch ). Joanne Dru is cast as the young and comely widow Lady Joan Holland, who takes shelter with her two sons within the walls of the Prince's castle.

Daniel B. Ullman penned the script which, while hardly outstanding, is entertaining enough and easy to follow ( always a plus with "historical" films ). It moves along at a brisk pace and gives you little chance to yawn. The capable Henry Levin ( Journey to the Center of the Earth ) took the directorial helm and the beautiful background scenery was captured on location in England on the grounds of Elstree Studios where they utilized the castle that MGM had erected for Ivanhoe ( 1952 ). 
Rounding out the cast is Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Holt, Michael Hordern, and Robert Urquhart....but, alas, no Alan Hale. He passed away five years earlier.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game who could this violinist be? I'm sure most will instantly recognize the film this scene is from, but since I'm feeling generous today I'll contribute a hint to help: this grey-haired fiddler had a son who was quite famous as a television actor for many years and who also played the oboe. 

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


Congratulations to The Tactful Typist who correctly guessed "The Last Holiday" ( 1950 ) starring Alec Guinness and Kay Walsh. This fiddler is none other than David McCallum Sr., principal violinist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and father to the actor David McCallum. In the film, this fiddler was a symbol to Mr. Bird of impending death.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Old Man Khottabych ( 1957 )

Lenfilm Studios, one of Russia's most famous film production companies, made a number of great children's films in the 1940s and 1950s, one of which was Old Man Khottabych ( Старик Хоттабыч ). This 1957 classic was based on the 1938 children's book of the same name by author Lazar Lagin, who also penned the screenplay for this picture. 

It tells the story of a little boy named Volka, who discovers an ancient clay vessel that contains a 3,000-year-old genie named Khottabych. Like most depictions of genies in film, this fellow isn't what you would expect from the noble line of jinn and his acts of benevolence often result in trouble for Volka...especially since the old man is completely out of touch with modern times. However, no matter how much mischief he causes you can't help but love him as Volka does. He's a gentle old man with narrow eyes, a long white beard, a wily sense of humor, and a sweet-tooth for Eskimo pies. Much of his magical powers are contained in his beard which he needs to pluck a strand of hair from in order to weave his spells. 

Like Jeannie in the 1960s television series I Dream of Jeannie, old Khottabych is beholden to his "master" for freeing him from his bottled captivity and desires to honor his savior in extravagant ways. But little Volka is a Young Pioneer ( the Soviet version of the Scouting movement ) and, like a loyal Communist, does not consider it right or just to accept riches or favors without sharing them with others. Old Khottabych doesn't understand this way of thinking and by the end of the movie, he finds that the only way he can please Volka is by sharing his tricks with everyone at the circus...which he happily joins since they serve Eskimo pies there in abundance. 
Old Man Khottabych is one of Russia's most beloved family film classics and justly so. The story is an engaging mix of fantasy, adventure, and humor with great acting and some impressive special effects of flying carpets, disappearing people, and floating objects. Nikolai Volkov gives an especially good performance as Khottabych. His relationship to Volka is like a tender grandfather and you can clearly see why in his eyes he considers the lad "the illustrious Volshya, honored of all boys". Alyosha Litvinov ( Volka ) and Genya Khudyskov, who portrays Volka's schoolmate Zhenya, are also ideally cast. 
What is most interesting to see in the film is the images of city life in Moscow and the Communistic mindset of its citizens, even the children. When Khottabych desires to bestow upon Volka a palace with his name engraved on a plaque outside the gate, Volka adamantly refuses such a gift unless it is donated to his school and shared among his fellow students. An odd but admirable statement for a child to make. When Khottabych is upset with Volka's teacher, Olga, he desires to curse her but this, too, Volka puts an end to. He goes to great lengths to persuade the old man that he loves and admires his teacher. If this were an American film, Volka would be clapping his hands at the thought of his teacher having a curse put on her! Ah yes...the differences in cultures. 

Old Man Khottabych won the Moscow International Film Festival Award and the Vancouver International Film Festival Award upon its release in 1957. It was released in the States three years later under the title The Flying Carpet and is currently available on DVD, dubbed in three different languages with subtitles in thirteen different languages. Unfortunately, this is a Russia-issued DVD, so unless you have a region-free player you are better off viewing the film here on Youtube. It is not only in HD but also features English subtitles. Even old man Khottabych could not conjure up a copy of the film so easily as this! 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

On the Set of The Ten Commandments ( 1956 )

Tonight, as part of television tradition, ABC will be airing The Ten Commandments in honor of Passover week. For those who are unfamiliar with the film ( were you wandering in the desert wilderness with Moses? ), this 4-hour production tells the story from the Old Testament of Moses, the prince of Egypt ( portrayed by Charlton Heston ), who discovered that he was the true son of a Hebrew slave woman and renounced the throne to join his people. Years later, on Mount Sinai working as a shepherd, he hears the voice of the Lord speak to him, selecting him to lead these Hebrews out of slavery and out of Egypt into the Promised Land.

2018 marks the 55th year that this epic Cecil B. DeMille production has been televised on ABC ( except for 1999, the only year they dropped it )...and so, to honor and join in the celebration of this favorite annual occasion, we have compiled a little gallery of snapshots featuring behind-the-scenes photos taken on the set of The Ten Commandments

Happy Passover and a Blessed Easter to all of our readers! 

John Carradine, Martha Scott, Charlton Heston, Olive Deering, and Anne Baxter discuss the script with director Cecil B. DeMille. 
Charlton Heston, dressed as Prince Moses, stands in front of one of the many massive sets seen in the film. 
"Hello, valet service? Would you bring my chariot around to the front gate in ten minutes? Thank you!"
Filming the spectacular scene featuring Moses' return from his journey to Ethiopia. 
Yul, with his ever-present camera, capturing a snapshot of a gritty looking Moses in chains. 
Heston gets his chains tightened for Moses' dramatic entrance.
Cecil B. DeMille getting a light-reading for the opening sequence featuring Miriam and Baby Moses in the reeds. 
The construction of Bithiah's bathing pavilion, complete with palm trees. 
Yvonne DeCarlo seeing what the behind-the-camera viewpoint is like. 
Anne Baxter, as Nefertari, smiles at the camera while Cecil B. DeMille gives some last-minute direction to Yul Brynner.
Extras waiting in the blazing California sun to make their brief appearance in the movie.
Donald O'Connor visits the set during the filming of the brick-making scene. 
Charlton Heston gives Yul Brynner a good-luck handshake before filming commences. 
Charlton Heston and extras standing before the "blue screen". Heston still strikes a powerful figure, even without the parting sea behind him.


Yvonne De Carlo, as Sephora, modeling her shepherd's gown for a wardrobe test. 
Edith Head discusses a wardrobe matter with DeMille about one of Sephora's costumes, while Yvonne DeCarlo adjusts her earring.
A John Jenson sketch of one of the costumes worn by Dathan ( Edward G. Robinson ). Perhaps another actor was considered for the role of Dathan because this man hardly resembles Robinson!
Heston, as Moses, poses for this costume test. This is the shaggy shepherd suit he wears before he heads up to Mt. Sinai to be transfigured.
Nina Foch, as Bithiah, lounging in one of the many beautiful Edith Head costumes seen in The Ten Commandments.
Not only did costumes undergo color tests but eye color, too! Here, Debra Paget, poses for a photo with her "own eyes" compared to using contact lens.... seen here. Can you guess which option they went with for the final film?
Anne Baxter and Yul Brynner had the best looking costumes in The Ten Commandments and this garment was especially impressive. The white and red colors on the hedjet/crown atop Ramses' head represents the unity of Upper ( white ) and Lower ( red ) Egypt.
Moses, looking splendid in his leather tunic. 
One of the many beautiful gowns that Anne Baxter gets to wear as Nefertari. This one may possibly have been designed by Edith Head but Dorothy Jeakins also worked on the film.
Another Nefertari costume sketch.
When it comes to the fashion industry, sometimes the sketches look better than the costumes in reality, but not in this case. Anne Baxter knows how to fill out this sheer garment!
Debra Paget as Lilia, complete with leather slippers and her water cask.

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