Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thou Shalt Not...

I have some favorite old movies I watch over and over again. Some are classics, like Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, or The Grapes of Wrath. Others are close to classics, like Twelve Angry Men, or The Last Angry Man. Still others just plain fun to watch, movies like The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Adventures of Robin Hood (The Errol Flynn version) or a Tale of Two Cities (by the way, knowledgeable readers would have noticed that all but two of the movies mentioned—GWTW and Robin Hood—are in black and white).

I was all set for my more-than-upteenth viewing of one of my favorites when I discovered that ABC will not be airing this season the Charlton Heston version of The Ten Commandments. Heresy! ABC always, always broadcast The Ten Commandments right before Passover. And this year it was to be extra important because Ellie’s boyfriend, Donny, inexplicably to me, at least, had never, ever seen it. Must be something about growing up in Omaha. What better way to bond than to curl up on the couch and watch Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner (Gilda’s favorite) as Ramses go sandal to sandal in the Egyptian desert, verbally jousting for the deliciously campy Anne Baxter as Nefretiri?

The first time I saw The Ten Commandments I was seven years old, shortly after the movie came out in 1956. My mother took my brother, sister and me to Radio City Musical Hall for the showing, prior to which we ate lunch at a nearby Schrafft’s (only real old-timers will remember the Schrafft’s chain of coffee shops). The movie was, quite simply, a spectacle worthy of the big screen. I’ve seen other Bible movies, such as Samson and Delilah, or David and Bathsheba, Quo Vadis or The Robe, but none have the scope and epic proportions as The Ten Commandments.

Had I known ABC would dump The (real) Ten Commandments (ABC has a two-part cartoon version it now broadcasts), I would not have thrown out my videotaped copy several months ago in another one of Gilda’s attempts to get me to be less of a pack rat. At one time I had tapes of more than 400 movies, but DVDs and cable movie channels obscured the necessity of keeping all but a handful of tapes. I rushed to my prized stash, but The Ten Commandments apparently had not made the cut. How could I have been so efficient? How could I have been so compliant with Gilda’s wishes? As Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri says, “Oh, Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!”

Last Friday it occurred to me that the White Plains Library might have a DVD of The Ten Commandments. It did. In fact, it’s the 50th anniversary copy, which means it also contains the 1923 silent film version. I’ve already emailed Ellie and Donny that Tuesday afternoon there will be a command performance of The Ten Commmandments. Let the plagues begin!