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 Post subject: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:39 am 
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Prince Judah
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As I'm sure we all know, the Ten Commandments (1956) had numerous actors in bit parts, actors who would go on to long careers in Hollywood -- actors such as Clint Walker, Robert Vaughn, Michael Ansara and Woody Strode. These were very early roles for these actors and maybe even how they got their big break in Hollywood. There were also a few actors in the film with long careers behind them who ended up in tiny roles in it, such as Onslow Stevens.

I'll start this thread with Clint Walker, because I just obtained a new DVD of the 1966 film The Night of the Grizzly, a favorite of mine from childhood. By 1966, Walker had been a movie star for several years and, in this quasi-western, he played an ex-lawman who just settled on a farm where a marauding grizzly bear is killing livestock and men. As it happens, the DVD also has a recent interview with Walker (he is still alive and kicking as of this writing). Walker spoke mostly about the Grizzly film but he also, at one point, went into the story of how he got his break in Hollywood; that's where it got really interesting. I mentioned very generally how Walker got his break on the Ten Commandments thread but here is the detail:

Walker was working as a sheriff's deputy in Las Vegas when a friend of his, a small-time character actor, told him that he would get him an interview with one of his connections. That connection turned out to be Henry Wilcoxon, also an actor and the right-hand man to Cecil B. DeMille. Wilcoxon took a liking to Walker and set up the next meet - with DeMille himself (as you might guess, this was during the time that DeMille was preparing to start filming on the Ten Commandments). On his way to meet with DeMille, Walker spotted a lady whose car had a flat tire on the freeway. Walker stopped and changed the tire for her; she asked him if she had caused him any delay on his way somewhere, causing him to be late; he replied that he probably was late. He arrived at DeMille's office and, sure enough, DeMille told him that he was late. Walker explained that he had stopped to help a lady with a tire change; DeMille replied that he knew this very well - that lady was his secretary!

Would Walker have gotten a role in Ten Commandments if he didn't stop to help a lady with a tire? Who knows - but Walker's story is similar to Heston's big break; though, Walker actually benefitted from an altruistic act on his part. It almost seems like someone was watching out for Walker and his future that day. I may have heard about this story before but I didn't remember it until seeing that interview with Walker just the other day.

Walker is also quite religious and spiritual; around 1970, he was in a freak accident while skiing - a ski pole pierced his heart partially and he was actually dead for a time, a matter of a minute. According to Walker, he experienced his soul or spirit detaching from his body. He didn't describe it with that old story of light at the end of a tunnel, just that he was seperated from his body for a brief time and had continued existing. He is firmly convinced that though the body dies, the spirit cannot be killed and goes on. This is based on his personal experience, not just theory or belief. It's always intriguing to hear someone like Walker speak of such matters, because it comes across like matter-of-fact and not just some fancy story.


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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:38 am 
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That's a very interesting and funny story, Chrysagon, almost makes one believe in fate. I also wonder how many men would help out a lady in that situation these days compared to back then. Somehow I think the number is much lower.

Also, the movie you mentioned is one I've never heard of before, but I looked it up on IMDb and it looks very promising.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 4:45 am 
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Detective Thorn wrote:
I also wonder how many men would help out a lady in that situation these days compared to back then. Somehow I think the number is much lower.



Well, I would. Of that I am certain . I have done such things many times-- stopped on my way , even turned away from my proper direction to help out ladies, old people and little boys. To share something personal with you -- I have a very bad habit of getting into scrapes trying to help and support other people, not simply on concrete terms but even in matters of counsel or mental support. It is wrong sometimes, I know, but I can't help it.

As for the spiritual story, it touched me very deeply, Chrysagon. These things are not to be taken casually. And when it comes from a good and believing man's own experience, it is of much value. Chuck himself talked of feeling something 'holy' inside himself, while doing Moses, and he had a strange feeling during delivering the words-- "Hear, O Israel..." I read that somewhere, I am sure.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:38 pm 
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Prince Judah
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Detective Thorn wrote:
That's a very interesting and funny story, Chrysagon, almost makes one believe in fate. I also wonder how many men would help out a lady in that situation these days compared to back then. Somehow I think the number is much lower.

Also, the movie you mentioned is one I've never heard of before, but I looked it up on IMDb and it looks very promising.

I think you would like the Grizzly film, Thorn. It's old-fashioned, aimed mostly at children and resembles the Disney movies of that period, but had a bit more edge to it - there are some fairly brutal fight scenes :punch: and, of course, the scenes with the killer bear would probably scare most children, though that's something you wouldn't concern yourself with. Walker has this one shirtless scene as he's chopping wood - he's like 6'5" or 6'6" and was just all muscle, no flab at all, like something out of a super-hero comic book, with shoulders probably wider than Heston's in his prime. When he punched someone, I found it hard to believe that he didn't take their head off! :lol:
btw, this film also had Ron Ely - the TV Tarzan - just before he took the Tarzan role!

Judah wrote:
As for the spiritual story, it touched me very deeply, Chrysagon. These things are not to be taken casually. And when it comes from a good and believing man's own experience, it is of much value.

Oh, I know it. Things like this also depend on the source. It's something else to hear and see someone like Walker actually talking about it, explaining it, rather than just reading about it. Walker resembled Heston in some ways and he had a conviction about him, a strength of purpose and determination. After I listened to his story, I had to sit back and reflect for a while, it was that strong of an impact.


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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:58 am 
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Since this thread is about the bit-players, I think I can mention the Ithiopian(?) actress who played the Nubian king's daughter. A brief but very important part. She speaks only two lines, with remarkable grace and dignity, handing her necklace to Moses as a token of admiration, friendship and goodwill, earns Nefritiri's envy but remains calm and respectable. A very strong performance. Any information about her life and work?

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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:09 pm 
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itsjudah24 wrote:
Since this thread is about the bit-players, I think I can mention the Ithiopian(?) actress who played the Nubian king's daughter. A brief but very important part. She speaks only two lines, with remarkable grace and dignity, handing her necklace to Moses as a token of admiration, friendship and goodwill, earns Nefritiri's envy but remains calm and respectable. A very strong performance. Any information about her life and work?
I'm afraid I have nothing, Judah; and, based on the lack of response here, no other members had anything either.

But, I've neglected this thread long enough. It's time to focus on another of the bit players in The TEN COMMANDMENTS - Woody Strode, who played the brother of the Nubian princess. Strode was a former pro footballer and wrestler. Unlike Clint Walker, Strode had roles in previous films and on TV stretching back a decade before the DeMille film, but these were small or bit parts - he was still an unknown when he appeared in The TEN COMMANDMENTS in the unusual choice of dual bit parts (as a king and then as a slave - DeMille probably tried to get as much use of his presence as possible, similar to how he used Walker). But, it can be argued that because the DeMille film was so big, even such bit parts were instrumental in furthering a person's movie career (all an actor had to say, maybe, was "I was in DeMille's Ten Commandments..").

Like Walker and in some ways Heston, Strode was blessed with looks and a physique that gave him an advantage for physical roles on film; he was 6' 4", in perfect shape and just looked very powerful. So, it's no surprise that many remember him best for his brief role as a gladiator in SPARTACUS (1960), another epic in which he had to fight the title character (Kirk Douglas) to the death. It's also no surprise that even though Douglas himself looked tough, he seemed outmatched by Strode's imposing gladiator. On the Spartacus DVD, one of the audio commentators was so enamored of Strode and his abilities that he was derogatory about Douglas' performance when comparing him to Strode.

That might be a bit too much, but there's no denying that it was there, in those scenes, that Strode showed he could merely sit there and say nothing, and just his gaze was enough to make for a compelling scene - perhaps more compelling than Douglas, I admit. At that time, Strode became a favorite of director John Ford, who cast him in a substantial role - the title character no less - in SERGEANT RUTLEDGE. Strode also appeared as a bandit in Ford's SEVEN WOMEN. But, it wasn't until Strode starred in THE PROFESSIONALS (1966), joining an all-star cast including Burt Lancaster & Lee Marvin, that he became a bonafide movie star, one of the rare black stars of that period, only represented back then by more traditional handsome actors like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Strode was also perhaps the first black action star, along with Jim Brown. Strode was impressive in THE PROFESSIONALS, running around with a bow-and-arrow, and wreaking havoc by firing explosives at the team's targets (this was like an earlier version of Rambo - remember Rambo in RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART 2 in 1985?).

And, since he was an action star, it would have been great if he starred with Heston and Clint Walker in some action spectacular in the sixties, a combination Major Dundee/The Dirty Dozen type of film, for example. As often happens, Strode was probably not utilized to his full potential, starring in many cheap international action pictures after becoming well known. He did have at least one good role as a villain in one Tarzan movie (and, strangely, it was also a dual role - he played brothers, a good one and an evil one). I was also surprised to see him much later in a small horror picture, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977), where-in he played a poor farmer and had to rely on his speaking acting ability rather than any action stunts. He could do it - as he got older, he could no longer rely on just physical action for his roles. However, as late as 1983, he was playing a boxing champ in prison in the film VIGILANTE, in which he easily knocked out a huge inmate with his abilities; though much older, Strode still looked like someone you do not want to challenge physically - he reminded me a bit of Charles Bronson at this stage.

Additional trivia: just like Yul Brynner, Strode appeared in the same two films with Heston - The TEN COMMANDMENTS and The BUCCANEER. Strode died in 1994.


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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:34 pm 
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I continue this thread on the bit players (who later became well-known) of The TEN COMMANDMENTS with a note of sadness because the next one we focus on is Michael Ansara, who just died at age 91. http://www.deadline.com/2013/08/r-i-p-m ... trek-kang/ I just found this out about an hour ago.

In The TEN COMMANDMENTS, Michael Ansara played one of the taskmasters or overseers who stood around barking orders at the slaves or even whipping them. Though it's a very brief role - a bit part - he can be recognized in the scene fairly easily by his distinctive voice; it's deep and very authoritative. Unlike Walker and Strode, Ansara was not credited -- you will not see his name among the many listed as the cast credits come to an end near the start of the film. Why this is, I dunno; why are some bit players credited and others are not? Possibly, some names simply could not be fitted in. His was a speaking role, so he was not just a glorified extra.

I best remember Ansara as the ultimate Star Trek TOS Klingon, Kang, in the great episode Day of the Dove (1968).
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But his biggest TV role was as Cochise in the TV series "Broken Arrow" - a role he got right after The TEN COMMANDMENTS and which made him a TV star. He later appeared with Heston and many other stars in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965).

Ansara's other genre credits in sf & horror include Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), a small role in It's Alive (1974), then Day of the Animals (1977) and The Manitou (78). He also guest-starred in numerous TV shows, including a memorable episode of Lost in Space, playing a ruler and the father of Kurt Russell, who was a young boy at the time. And, we mustn't forget The Outer Limits episode "Soldier" (1964) - perhaps an even more compelling role for Ansara then his Kang

He also reprised his role of Kang on later Star Trek series, DS9 and Voyager. R.I.P.


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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:38 am 
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I had no idea that was him in The Ten Commandments, nice piece of trivia. I just heard of his passing a couple of hours ago as well. Kang is probably my favorite Klingon in Star Trek: The Original Series. May he rest in peace.

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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 5:35 am 
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Yes, Thorn, Ansara is one of the actors on that big list you initiated years ago of Recurring Actors in Heston films. I consider his Kang to be the definitive Klingon on the original Star Trek and it's also my favorite.

This thread now enters a strange area because I just found out about another bit player in The TEN COMMANDMENTS who just died earlier today - Gail Kobe, who is credited as "Pretty Slave Girl" in the film. I'm not sure what scene she is in; I would have to watch the film again to try to spot her. I didn't plan on posting this today; I just read that she died half-an-hour ago, at age 82. http://www.deadline.com/2013/08/r-i-p-gail-kobe/ -- it's an eerie connection or coincidence how Ansara and Kobe, two bit players in the DeMille film starting their careers in 1956, now pass away within a day of each other.
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Kobe did not do many films after The TEN COMMANDMENTS - in fact, she barely did any; her career was almost all in television, including 3 Twilight Zone episodes and 2 Outer Limits episodes. She also became a producer at some point. R.I.P.


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 Post subject: Re: Bit Players from the Ten Commandments
PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:25 pm 
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That is eerie, bet that doesn't happen very often.

R.I.P.

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