View Full Version : DeMille deemed Audrey Hepburn too thin (article)

2nd April 2010, 20:44
Every year at this time of the season, the networks broadcast what I sincerely believe to be one of the greatest and most under-appreciated movies of all time: Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments.


The film fits in obliquely with the themes of this forum because in many scenes it is a perfect cinematic expression of the aesthetic of the Sublime (the opposite/complementary mode to the aesthetic of the Beautiful that this forum discusses). The Ten Commandments is perhaps the only colour film prior to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with its depiction of Mordor, to successfully put the aesthetic of the Sublime on film.

The music is incredibly powerful -- one of the finest scores of any film in Hollywood history. The acting is grand and larger than life. The dialogue is memorable and eminently quotable. ("So let it be written; so let it be done." "Behold His mighty hand." "Those who will not live by the Law...shall die by the Law.") The language is that of the King James Version of the Bible, and even the most sincere atheist cannot deny the poetry of the words.

Moses was by far the finest role of Charlton Heston's career. In Moses, Heston created an iconic, towering figure, truly embodying the grandeur and indomitable power of will of an Old Testament prophet.

I mention all this because I came across an article about the film at the following link:


It included the following passage, which I found very interesting and revealing:

[DeMille] tested Audrey Hepburn for the role of Moses's love interest, Nefertiri ("Not pretty but a very cute personality," he wrote.) But DeMille found her breasts too small for the voluptuous costumes and the part went to Anne Baxter. What a pleasure it is to read that.

First, I've never found anything remotely appealing about Audrey Hepburn, who was to actresses what Twiggy was to models -- the girl who initiated the blight of underweight casting. To hear DeMille apply the "But she's got a nice personality" put-down to Hepburn is quite rewarding, as it is malnourished women who deserve this insult, not curvy ones.

Second, how interesting to learn that DeMille judged Hepburn's androgynous frame too skinny for the film's fashions. He obviously understood that plus-size female bodies look better in clothing than do emaciated figures. That DeMille would want a fleshier actress fits with the overall aesthetic of his movie, which is gloriously grand in scale. There is nothing minimalist about it. It embodies the uninhibited, magnificent, larger proportions of a century ago, before the "aesthetics of guilt" were instituted.

Audrey's replacement, Anne Baxter, was by no means plus-size, unfortunately, but she was far more womanly than Hepburn, and perfectly fit the role of the Egyptian princess. Here she is with the younger Moses (prior to his Mount Sinai experience):


Here she is with Moses's Egyptian rival, Ramses:


And this is how she looked when not in her Ten Commandments attire. Not full-figured, but certainly soft and voluptuous.

Anyway, the film will be airing on ABC tomorrow night. The ABC picture quality is sharp, although the movie was originally widescreen, so the TV broadcast does unfortunately crop the picture a little.

The film has many high points. The parting of the Red Sea is the most famous, but I find the actual scribing of the commandments even more epic.

But here's an audio of my very favourite scene, in which Heston concludes by declaring, "Those who will not live by the Law...shall die by the Law!" as he smashes the tablets, and the earth opens up to swallow the faithless. It's the most exciting moment in the movie. Watch for it.


3rd April 2010, 14:34
We will be glued to The Ten Commandments this evening. It's a marvelous film, and viewing it is a long-standing family tradition for the Easter season.

Sadly, Audrey Hepburn suffered from anorexia, after an adolescence spent near starvation in war-torn Europe. How sad that her tiny form, likely stunted in growth by her wartime malnourishment and then deliberately starved, became a paragon of "beauty" to so many. However good her personality was, her body was never nourished as it should have been.

3rd April 2010, 15:09
Very interesting article about a true film masterpiece, one that, unlike many so-called "classics," is genuinely exciting to watch and not just a dry artifact to study in a film class (like the tedious and overrated Citizen Kane).

This revelation pleasantly surprised me:

DeMille used his movie to spread an anti-Communist message. In an extraordinary gesture left out of the television version, when the curtains parted, DeMille himself appeared on the screen. "The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God's law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator like Rameses. Are men the property of the state, or are they free souls under God? The same battle continues throughout the world today."
These days, I expect that most people simply take the film as yet another WWII metaphor, which is what so many modern films seem to be. But it wasn't meant that way. Behind the pageantry, DeMille had a more sophisticated philosophical point to make.

I am also partial to the film's other female lead, Yvonne De Carlo, who was also infinitely more attractive than Audrey Hepburn; not plus-size, but at least curvy. I couldn't find any good screencaps of her from the film, but here are a couple of pictures of Yvonne in other film roles.





No doubt about it, the Ten Commandments brings to the screen both the sublime...and the beautiful.

4th April 2010, 22:10
the film will be airing on ABC tomorrow night. The ABC picture quality is sharp, although the movie was originally widescreen, so the TV broadcast does unfortunately crop the picture a little.
Au contraire. ABC did broadcast the film not only on the regular channels, but also in 16x9 HD, which is how I watched it (with great pleasure). The HD broadcast didn't crop the picture at all. In fact, it was the best print of the movie I've ever seen, both widescreen and in fantastic colour and resolution.

The colours were so vivid and convincing that it looked as if it had been shot as a brand-new movie, not one from 1956. It was flawless. And it truly is a cinematic masterpiece.

I'm going to venture a third choice, though, for the movie's most attractive actress: Debra Paget, who played Lilia. What a stunning beauty. Again, a Web search fails to turn up any good screencaps of her from the film, but here are a few shots from other roles that show how attractive she was. She definitely fit DeMille's voluptuous aesthetic.


I'm getting a Lindsey Garbelman vibe from this shot. Not plus-size, unfortunately, but note the curve along her side. She did at least have a soft figure, as most screen sirens did in those days.


To put so much womanly beauty in his film, DeMille really knew what he was going. Audrey Hepburn would have looked like a flat-chested, underweight nobody amid these voluptuous princesses.

If more directors had DeMille's 19th-century aesthetic rather than a modern outlook, Hollywood would be a bastion of feminine loveliness, not androgynous emaciation.