Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cecil B. DeMille Doc Robbed of Its Close-Up

The genesis for the excavation of this long-lost Hollywood film set dates back to 1983, when central California filmmaker Peter Brosnan deciphered a cryptic mention in a Cecil B. DeMille autobiography and tracked down the beach remains site for a pivotal portion of DeMille's 1923 silent epic The Ten Commandments. However, per the Santa Maria Times' latest article about this matter, a permitting snafu may have caused irreparable harm.
Brosnan had hoped to dig up the plaster film set remains in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes through this past Friday, November 18th. But because of the September 30th permitting goof and the fact that excavation work cannot be done in the winter (storms) or spring-summer (endangered species habitat), he must wait until the fall of 2012. While Santa Barbara County officials went ahead and expedited the erroneously exempted permits for December, Brosnan had already decided this would not leave enough time to beat the winter rains.

Brosnan lost his lead archeologist over the delay and told reporter Marga K. Cooley, with whom he visited the site yesterday, that the North County bureaucratic glitch may have cost him dearly in other ways as well:

“I wanted to see what’s out there now, and see if it made any sense to go back next year,” Brosnan said. “What we found was what we were afraid of ... most of that sand has moved. Everything is now on the surface being sand blasted. The last six weeks may have been our last chance to rescue anything.”
Brosnan said the level of the sand has dropped, in his estimation, by ten feet. “What had been a large empty area of sand now has two piles of plaster in the middle of it,” he said. “It’s possible that underneath that there’s some well preserved material.”

Brosnan says he plans to finish his documentary about the long-ago local shoot no matter what. But depending on what the Dunes site looks like next spring, the final product may not include the dramatic element of a "big reveal" oceanfront dig.

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