Along with being April Fool's Day, today is also Palm Sunday, which most churches interpret as Cross My Palm With a Coin Sunday, but which I choose to interpret as a day for riding my palm, if you follow me. (Is that you following me?) Also Passover begins in two days, and you all know what that means; someone will be trotting out that old Cecil Blunt DeMille turkey The Ten Commandments, with that dreary hambone Charleton Heston as the most unlikely Moses imaginable. Why Blunt went with a Gentile to play the most Jewish man in literature, the original Red Sea Pedestrian, I will never know, apart from the fact that his performances were always strikingly pedestrian, and always made me see red.
And there is such a wonderful alternative. If you feel a deep need to see a movie treatment of the Exodus Myth, may I direct your attention to my own 1960 Biblical epic on the life of Moses, Torah! Torah! Torah!, from Pastafazool Films of Italy, and actually shot in Egypt, and I mean all of it, not just the background plates as in Blunt's little Paramount home movie. Blunt merely ripped off our movie, disguising his theft by releasing his four years earlier. I was so angry, I never spoke to him again!
We had a real actor as Moses, the man Cheston wished he was, possibly the most magnetic movie star of the entire 20th Century, and I should know, as I had them all, the one, the only Steve Reeves.
Sadly I did not play either of his love interests, Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, or Moses's Lanolin-soaked wife, Bo-Peep or Shepwhora or whatever her name was, the woman who drove those Brokeback Mountain shepherds into each other's arms to escape her scent. No, I played Bitchia, the sister of Pharaoh, who pulls the infant Moses from the bulrushes and raises him as her own son. Believe me, I saw the rushes every day, and they were all bull. Here's a shot which captures all the acting magic Steverino (His name in Italian.) brought to the role, as he orders Ramses to let his people come.
When Moses built a city for the old Pharaoh, Bill II, King Bill decreed that Moses's name would be carved on every pillar, while Ramses name would be nowhere. Well, the laugh was on Moses in the long run, since Ramses got his name on condoms instead, so he's seen the inside of more twa-twa than Moses ever would. They didn't teach you that in Sunday School, did they? Well our great film dared to tell the Truth, which is why it's so little remembered, despite the hottest Moses of all time. He could part my Red Sea anytime, although I'd prefer it if he waited until it stopped being red.
Sadly, Steve and I didn't have a love scene in the picture, or out of it either, despite our being a perfect match-up; he was a Male Sex God, and I was and remain a slut. I kept suggesting we do one, but our director kept giving me some nonsensical excuse about how I was playing the Mother of Moses. I had to point out that I was his adopted mother - the whole plot hinged on the fact that he was a Hebrew and I was Egyptian - so it wasn't incest. Besides, they lived just a few yards up the Nile from Thebes, where Good King Oedipus set an example Steve's Moses should have leapt on, by leaping on me. Instead, they insisted I play an imaginary, invented emotion they called "Filial Affection," rather than a real emotion, like Lust. Maybe that's why the film is so little remembered today, our selling out on the big sex scene between Steve and I that moviegoers were buying tickets to see. It was our second film together in a row (The other was the fabulous Roman epic, Caligulee, Caligula.), and we still hadn't had a bedroom scene, and Steve was increasingly avoiding me off screen as well. Audiences felt cheated.
But the critics understood. Pauline Kael wrote: "Tallulah Morehead's performance as Moses's Egyptian mother is unforgettable. She turns Moses's life in Egypt into an Oedipal nightmare so intense, any boy would part an ocean to escape.", Judith Crist wrote: "All by herself, Tallulah Morehead is five of the ten plagues of Egypt.", while Charles Champlain wrote: "This picture Sphinx!" Vindication! You can read all about it in my autobiography, My Lush Life, where I also include an account of an amazing adventure I had in Cairo while shooting the picture. This picture was so influential, that I understand the creators of the classic TV sit-com Frasier were inspired to name Frasier's brother Niles after seeing Torah! Torah! Torah! and saying, "Oh Brother!" David Hyde Pierce, you can thank me later.
Well, Little Dougie needs a nap. He is his father's first-born, but his mother's third-born (Don't ask), so every Passover, he's half-dead.