Moses is revered by three major world religions as a hero of the faith, a prophet, and a lawgiver. He is also a thriving part of popular culture. When the National Rifle Association recently elected Charlton Heston, who is best known for his portrayal of Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, as its new president, the NRA’s vice president said that it was “a way of saying, ‘Hey, Moses is on our side.'” And when Jeffrey Katzenberg, cofounder of the DreamWorks studio, wanted to show that his animation team could compete with Disney, he produced The Prince of Egypt, the first major film about Moses in more than 40 years.
THEY’VE BEEN making films about Moses since at least 1907, when the Pathé studio in France released Moses et l’Exode de l’Egypte. The Vitagraph company in America followed suit with J. Stuart Blackton’s five-part The Life of Moses, released between 1909 and 1910. Moses has popped up in movies ever since, from the all-black cast of The Green Pastures (1936), starring Rex Ingram as ‘de Lawd,’ to Mel Brooks’ randy satire History of the World Part I (1981).