On Location: Eqypt in California

On Location: Eqypt in California


“Location, location, location!”

If the place where the story is set is important, then the movie version of that story should be shot in that place or at least somewhere that looks like that place.

For The Ten Commandments, the final film of his career, legendary Hollywood director Cecile B. DeMille took his cameras, cast and crew off to Egypt, Mount Sinai and the Sinai Peninsula.

Here’s the 1956 film’s trailer:

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 But shooting “on location” can be expensive and so movie makers often end up filming at place that stands-in for the “real place,” just as stunt doubles do for film stars.

Rather than truck everyone to the Middle East, DeMille came up with a more cost-effective solution for shooting his 1923 silent movie version of The Ten Commandments: Drive a little over 150 miles up the coast to the little town of Guadalupe and build “Egypt” there.

Here’s a  clip from the original black & white DeMille screen saga.

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 In 1922, in the year before DeMille’s movie was released, English archeologist Howard Carter became famous when he unearthed the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun, better known as “King Tut.”

Today, others are digging up “Egypt, ” but like DeMille did in 1923 they haven’t traveled across the seas to the Land of the Pharaohs. Instead, they’ve followed DeMille’s footsteps north from Hollywood to Santa Barbara County and are sifting through the sands of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, looking for remnants of the sphinxes and temple built for filming the original Ten Commandments.

(Amin Eshaker Flickr Photo)
(Amin Eshaker Flickr Photo)

You can find an exhibit about DeMille’s Egyptian set at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, just under 10 miles west of the town of Santa Maria on U.S. Highway 101. While you’re there, head out to the dunes and hike on your own or take a private naturalist-led tour.

(The 1956 version of DeMille’s Ten Commandments is available in DVD and Blu-ray formats, and there is a DVD with both the 1923 and 1956 DeMille classics. Purchases made from Amazon.com through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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