The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Opinion

April 27, 2011

VALLEY: Thou salt not overact

MEDINA —  

Such irony: All of the actors playing Jewish people in the film were hams. I refer to, of course, the epic Cecil B. Demille motion-picture “The Ten Commandments.”

I can’t believe that at one time I considered this to be the greatest movie I’d ever seen. The film’s first release, in 1956, had the hype, the “cast of thousands” and thundering soundtrack that convinced me it was the best there ever was. And the fact that I was only 8 years old probably didn’t hurt, either.

My opinion is meant to neither denigrate the Hebrew people nor their valiant story of the Exodus. But I happened to catch the last half hour of the film on its annual holiday showing the other night, and there stood the blue-bearded Charleton Heston as Moses — he looked every part the way Will Ferrell would on a “Saturday Night Live” skit. Ludicrous can’t scratch the surface in describing how over-the-top, how over-dramatic his portrayal was.

He was outdone only by John Carradine. Carradine, a distinguished character-actor of olden days, brought along his exaggerated theatrics to portray Moses’ brother Aaron. He can be excused for some of his excesses because of the fact that he learned his trade on the stage prior to the days of close-ups and microphones.

You might think, however, that the director would have conveyed to Carradine the need to tone it down just a tad. Like the time he stretched out both arms and boisterously announced how big of a crush he had on his camel. Did you miss that part?

And then, there was Edward G. Robinson. What can I say about the man who played the silver-screen’s classic gangster “Little Caesar?” His role is that of Moses’ antagonist, Dathan. Unfortunately, he plays this character the same way he played the gangster.

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