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Sunday June 23rd 2024

The Ten Commandments | 1956

The Ten Commandments filming location: Convent of St Catherine, Egypt
The Ten Commandments location: 'Mount Sinai': St Catherine's Monastery, Egypt | Photograph: Shutterstock / Japan_mark3

Over 30 years after his first version, Cecil B DeMille returned to The Ten Commandments, ditching the modern day moralities to produce the peak of Hollywood mega-kitsch, which lurches wildly from hysterical camp to heart-in-mouth drama. This epic was shot largely on the Paramount lot in Hollywood, though this time there was some genuine location filming in Egypt.

First off, where’s Mount Sinai? It didn't used to be on any map. There is, however, in the Sinai massif a cluster of peaks in the south of the Sinai Peninsula, toward Sharm El-Sheik. Among these Jebel Must – the Mount of Moses – is the most popular candidate, and is now generally referred to a Sinai. And that’s where DeMille and crew turned up in October 1954. The crew stayed at Saint Catherine's Monastery (more properly, The Greek Orthodox Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai) at the foot of the range.

Footage was shot for the Burning Bush scene, though the bush itself, with risible cartoon flames, was obviously filmed in the studio.

The Treasure City of Pharaoh Sethi (Cedric Hardwicke) was built at Beni Youssef near Cairo, which is also where the genuinely moving Exodus scene was staged. 10,000 Arabs playing the Children of Israel, were drafted in, along with 15,000 camels, water buffaloes, sheep, horses, oxen, goats, duck, geese, pigeons, dogs, donkeys and, of course, many cattle.

Yul Brynner also shot some scenes on location, chasing the Children of Israel to the Red Sea, but clearly not the banishment of Moses into the wilderness, which cross-cuts between Charlton Heston, very obviously alone on location, and Brynner, very obviously in the studio.

And you can safely ignore those over-enthusiastic tour guides who claim that The Ten Commandments was filmed at Mount Teide in the Canary Islands. It wasn't (and neither was Planet Of The Apes).