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BYU collection taking part in 'The Ten Commandments' special edition

Published: Thursday, March 31 2011 2:00 p.m. MDT

PROVO, Utah — One of the great movies of all time — "The Ten Commandments" — has been released on Blu-ray disc. And Brigham Young University had a leading role in a new special edition of the movie, including a new documentary about how the film was made.

The Special Collections Library at BYU houses Cecil B. DeMille's collection of papers from his career, which Paramount Pictures relied on in creating the new box set. Curator James D'Arc helped gather the memorabilia when BYU acquired the collection in 1977.

It includes "1,263 boxes of personal correspondence: business letters, investment files, research files, script files," D'Arc said. He calls the history of the making of "The Ten Commandments" a historical and cultural treasure.

"That's what Paramount Pictures found when they came here last fall to spend two days looking in the 131 boxes of material we have just on ‘The Ten Commandments' alone, and over 1,100 pieces of artwork — production artwork, storyboards, custom sketches, scene renderings," D'Arc said. Among the artwork are original paintings by Utah's own Arnold Friberg, who was the chief illustrator for the movie.

D'Arc is personally excited for the new release and special features, which he believes will allow audiences to enjoy "The Ten Commandments" like never before.

"It looks better on Blu-ray than it did to audiences in the big motion picture palaces in 1956 when the film was released," D'Arc said. "Technology has been able to pull out of the camera negative all of the crystal-clear clarity, the vivid colors of the costumes, in a way that audiences, including me, back then never saw."

"Time is the tester on things like motion pictures," he continued, "and this can truly be called a classic film."

Here is a little bit of trivia found at the the BYU archive. D'arc says DeMille loved Utah and chose Salt Lake City to preview "The 10 Commandments" before it went to general distribution. When asked why he chose Salt Lake City when so many others did it in California, D'arc said DeMille replied, "I know enough to know that if audiences in Salt Lake City love my work, audiences worldwide will love it."

Another Utah connection to the film was the voice of God when God writes on the stone tablets on Mount Sinai was that of Delos Jewkes, a Utah Valley resident.

And in 1957, DeMille gave the commencement address at BYU.

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