The Ten Commandments silent film
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Credit: Screeshot courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Cecil B. DeMille's original Ten Commandments film and more are now part of the public domain

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Jan 4, 2019

A number of genre staples are now in the public domain, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

One of the biggest properties on the list is Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 silent version of The Ten Commandments, which would serve as the basis for the director's much more famous 1956 remake with Charlton Heston. Like the remake, the original tells the story of the Israelites' enslavement in ancient Egypt and eventual emancipation by Moses (played by Theodore Roberts).

Two other Silent Era films (circa 1923) currently free to use by anyone who so chooses are: a short comedy, entitled The Mummy, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame from director Wallace Worsley. Universal's more iconic take on The Mummy (with Boris Karloff) would not be released until 1932 when movies with sound were already the widespread standard of Hollywood productions.

Among the books now free to the masses are Tarzan and the Golden Lion by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jack-the-Jumper and Little White Rabbit and Jack-the-Jumper and the Old Witch Woman (both Peter Rabbit books) by Linda Stevens Almond. 

Edwin John Prittie's illustrations for Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, as well as William Dean Howells' abridgement of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote are also on the list. 

Alice in Wonderland Disney

Credit: Disney

Lastly, the serialized stories of Doctor Doolittle, published by Hugh Lofting in the New York Tribune, are also in the public domain. Adapted several times for radio, television, and film, Lofting's titular character — who can speak to animals — will next be played by Robert Downey Jr. in Stephen Gaghan's The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle (out Jan. 17, 2020).


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