This is the Cascade County courthouse in Great Falls, Montana. I stopped in town for lunch the other day, and wandered over to the courthouse afterward.
What is that large monument peeking out from all that greenery?
How did that get there? As it turns out, it probably came from the great director Cecille B. DeMille. Hundreds of “Ten Commandments” monuments were installed across the country in the mid-1950s and 1960s, as promotion for DeMille’s over-the-top film of the same name. The director worked with the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a civic organization that was already hard at work distributing paper copies of the commandments, to manufacture and distribute the statues — thousands of them. Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and some of the other stars of the film attended some of the dedication ceremonies. So, yes, many of the monuments that religious conservatives defended so vigorously in court a few years ago were in fact nasty old Hollywood promotional tools. To be fair, a few years ago I received a promotional “Elizabethtown” oven mitt in the mail at work, and that thing works so well I would gladly go to the Supreme Court to defend it. Everyone knows the founding fathers were Orlando Bloom fanboys, so clearly it was their original intent that I keep using that mitt. Get your mitts off my mitt, feds!
Anyway, I couldn’t dig up conclusive evidence that this particular monument was part of De Mille’s publicity stunt, but I think it’s extremely likely. The timing makes sense, and, most damning of all, the granite Cascade County monument appears identical to a DeMille monument in Austin, TX, that was the subject of a 2005 Supreme Court case.
Oh, and Cascade County has at least one other connection to Charlton Heston. The county sold a DVD collection consisting of five of Heston’s films for a cool $18 earlier this year. Um, case closed?