I first watched Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 film, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, in late January 1973 at the Elwood Movie Theater with my mother and neighbor/classmate, Debbie Poynter, 48 years ago.
The previous August 1972, Mother, who was already several months pregnant with my future sister, Dena, took me to the Indiana State Fair to see a traveling animatronic figure of President Abraham Lincoln sponsored by Disney Studios.
That particular day was scalding hot, the lines terribly long, and no canopies or shade into the pavilion hosting the event. It was obvious Mother was not feeling well and though I was pretty responsible for a seven year-old, going on eight, she was not about to leave me alone in the line. Nor was she to abandon this maternal mission of love, knowing just how much I loved Abraham Lincoln.
Finally, we were seated inside; air conditioning, Lincoln come to life, and a chance to rest our tired legs. The presentation didn’t last too long and we both dreaded returning to the heat and discomfort brought with it.
We stepped into the lobby of the pavilion and saw folks taking cover from a storm that had quickly blown in. Ironically, no one had thought to seek shelter in the pavilion. Mother grabbed my hand, pulled me back through the exit door, and before I knew it, we were once again seated for another Lincoln presentation. In fact, we sat there for a third presentation. I’m sure much of it was due to her own comfort but I also know she was doing it for me.
Mother was only a few weeks away from delivering my sister when we walked uptown to the Elwood Movie Theater on a fairly mild winter’s day. I cannot recall how we came about going to see THE TEN COMMANDMENTS; did I see the title on the marquee or did Mother learn it was playing and thought I’d like it; I just do not remember.
Before the movie began, Debbie and I were both aware Mother was not feeling her best. As the extra long movie wore on, Mother could barely hide her discomfort. Several times, both Debbie and I asked if we should just go ahead and go home. Mother threw on her best game face and acted as though all was well, “the movie’s not over.”
I know Mother was aware of my deep involvement with the movie and its musical score and was not about to disrupt it. We stayed through the closing credits and walked back home.
It has been years since I ever sat and watched THE TEN COMMANDMENTS from beginning to end without working on something else. Per usual, I watched the first 15-20 minutes, and kept it playing on a loud speaker while I busied my self with cooking supper, writing, reading, researching, and tidying up my study, only to pause for my favorite scenes.
I love THE TEN COMMANDMENTS for its 1956 artistic and technical mastery, the brilliance of Elmer Bernstein’s musical score, and another reminder of my mother’s love and continued support for my interests and passions.