Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) starring Charlton Heston depicting the Book of Exodus’ telling of the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt is considered by some DeMille’s greatest cinematic achievement. However, before Heston’s portrayal of Moses, DeMille made a version of The Ten Commandments in 1923. This film’s budget was 1.5 million and was probably the most expensive movie made during that era.
The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille shows how DeMille recreated Egypt for his 1923 version of The Ten Commandments in the sand dunes of Guadalupe, which is located about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. For this endeavor, he hired 3,500 cast and crew. Carpenters were tasked with constructing Ancient Eqypt with 168,000 meters of lumber, 11,000 kg of nails and 300 tons of plaster. Paul Iribe, who was considered to be one of the great founders of French Art Deco, asked for about four forty ton statues of Rameses the Great, eight plaster lions, more than a dozen sphinxes and a 120 ft-high backdrop of symbols and hieroglyphs. After shooting of The Ten Commandments was completed, DeMille decided that instead of having the set dismantled, it would be buried beneath the sands of Guadalupe.
Director Peter Brosnan decided to make a documentary about the archaeological dig to uncover DeMille’s lost city. The project would take some thirty years to complete due to complications with the dig because of permit issues and other factors. But Brosnan and his team remained undaunted.
The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille is a documentary achievement as it takes you through the steps to get the necessary permits to start the dig to unearth the buried movie set and the actual dig that uncovered the set pieces. This was a large undertaking showing dedication and perseverance. If you are fascinating with movie sets and archaeology, The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille is a film not to be missed.
Photos Courtesy of The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille
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