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Sam Penrod, Deseret News
BYU had a leading role in a new special edition of "The Ten Commandments," including a new documentary about how the film was made.

PROVO — James D'Arc was just beginning his career at BYU in 1977 when he drove to Hollywood in a moving van and helped bring back a large collection of moviemaking history.

BYU had just acquired nearly everything from legendary director Cecil B. DeMille's career.

Now as the curator of the Cecil B. DeMille Collection Archive at BYU, D'Arc has had a big role in a new special edition Blue-ray release of DeMille's "The Ten Commandments."

D'Arc was interviewed for a new documentary on the making of the epic film, called "The Ten Commandments: Making Miracles."

Paramount Pictures also relied heavily on BYU's L. Tom Perry Special Collections, in the Harold B. Lee Library, where nearly everything from Cecil B. DeMille's career is preserved.

"A lot of those reproductions in the box set come from right here at the DeMille archive at BYU," he said.

The DeMille memorabilia fills several rows of shelves in the special library.

The collection contains 1,263 boxes of personal correspondence, business letters, investment files, research files and script files. D'Arc calls the history of the making of the epic movie 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," he said.

It includes the 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 they never have before.

"It looks better on Blue-ray, than it did to audiences in the big motion picture palaces in 1956, when the film was released. 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 it."

D'Arc believes "The Ten Commandments" has a timeless message, that will benefit film audiences for generations to come.

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

Other trivia found in the BYU archives:

• D'arc says DeMille loved Utah and chose Salt Lake City to preview "The Ten 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. Utah Valley resident Delos Jewkes' voice can be heard in the movie when God writes on the stone tablets on Mount Sinai.

• In 1957, DeMille gave the commencement address at BYU.