MOSES, MEL, AND ME – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Before I put a finger on the keyboard, I admit this is probably heresy, at least to some people. One simply doesn’t make fun of religious movies. It is simply not done. Especially not these days.

But I do.

Every Passover or Easter (usually, it’s both together), Marilyn and I watch “The Ten Commandments.” We don’t watch it for its high level of religious sentimentality. While Cecil B was going for life-altering moments, he gave us some much-needed laughter.

It isn’t a movie that has stood up well to the years. Time tested it — and found it wanting.

Heston-Charlton-Ten-Commandments

Every year when some big religious holiday rolls around, the lineup of movies on our favorite cable stations includes all the familiar biblical movies. Few are watchable even a few years past their shelf date, much less stand ye olde test of time.

Most are obviously well-intended, like George Stevens’, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. But the man who gave us classics like “Shane”, “A Place In The Sun” and “Giant”, wound up with a ponderous and static film in “The Greatest Story.”

Its biggest sin? Boring. Truly dull.

As I write, we are watching Mel Brooks’, “History of the World-Part One.” This movie is the perfect antidote to historical films that have become parodies or which were not really all that good in the first place. We probably have a greater appreciation of history because of Mel’s equal opportunity insults rather than the cardboard epics which play fast and loose with facts.

Mel Brooks last supper

I must admit I love watching gladiator movies. It’s a guy thing, like war films.  I also enjoy seeing semi-clad (or even lesser clad) young women engaging us in erotic dances before evil monarchs who are not playing with a full deck. We’re not talking about great cinema here.

Charlton “Call me Chuck” Heston was really honest when he talked about playing Moses. He told me it was a good gig. Working with Cecil B. DeMille (for a second time) was good for his résumé. It gave him a boost for the religious epic he really wanted to do — “Ben Hur.”

“Ben Hur” is one of the few good religious films to come out of Hollywood. William Wyler’s fine direction and brilliantly done stunts using real live (and one who died) human being — were spectacular. No computer generation. It hadn’t been invented. The chariot race alone is worth the price of admission.

history-of-the-world--part-1

This is obviously subjective stuff. If you love Cecil B’s heavy-handed narration of his version of the Old Testament, so let it be written. So let it be done. Meanwhile, we’re back with Mel. It’s the French Revolution and those generously endowed girls are displaying their charms.

It’s good to be the king!

17 thoughts on “MOSES, MEL, AND ME – GARRY ARMSTRONG

  1. Garry, I only bought (but never watched) Ben Hur because I thought I should really watch it for reasons of ‘education’…. but there you go – it’s still sitting somewhere his (its) nearly 2000 other DVDs and waiting for the moment when I will have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING better to do – but I fear I then won’t find the DVD any more! Great post though – even if you wake up and still being NOT the king but the ‘foot washer’ 😉

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    • Squirrel, I also feel honored. This is a (golden) oldie. YOU richly deserve the recognition for your artistry. I just tap out the words — as the world turns in my brain. Thanks to whoever re-posted this one. It’s like having one of your kids (I have none that I’ll claim) return for a surprise visit.
      It’s almost that time of the year again for THOSE movies. I’ll go with Chuckie’s ‘Moses’, Anne Baxter’s passionate cries of “Moses, Moses, Moses” and Yul Brynner’s autocratic “So let it be written, so let it be done”.
      Keep an eye out for Clint “Cheyenne” Walker as an extra. He’s one of the beefy slaves in Cecil B’s humble tribute to the biggest suit of all time – No, Pilgrim, it isn’t DONZO – no matter what he claims.

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    • Meeting him in person was interesting because he didn’t look like that at all. He actually looked a lot like my uncle Abe. When Garry asked him what was the most important thing to a working actor, he answered: “The ability to sleep on airplanes.” I think he was permanently in the wrong time zone.

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      • Marilyn, I think I saw Heston maybe 6 or 7 times. He always seemed sleep deprived although he covered it well. i just — having the same problem — was able to see through ‘making it look’ stuff. No criticism. Heston always tried to give us his BEST, even on those rugged, cross-country film promotion treks. He — like many of the stars before satellites — did DOZENS of interviews in towns, big and little, promoting their films. They got the same ‘unique’ questions from myriad reporters. I think I got ‘Chuck’s’ attention when I talked about how I did my news features — using seemingly small, often ignored images on larger vistas — to say things without words. he said he did the same thing in college which segued us back to beginnings in college radio. Lots of shares about idiot suits and favorite westerns. I scored brownie points when I mentioned my fondness for “Will Penny”, Heston’s Personal favorite at true time. YES, I wuz shameless in sucking up — with DIGNITY, of course.

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