Cecil B. DeMille (1881–1959)Producer | Director | Editor

Date of Birth 12 August 1881, Ashfield, Massachusetts, USA
Date of Death 21 January 1959, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart ailment)
Birth Name Cecil Blount DeMille
Nickname C.B.
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

His parents Henry C. DeMille and Beatrice DeMille were playwrights. His father died when he was 12, and his mother supported the family by opening a school for girls and a theatrical company. Too young to enlist in the Spanish-American War, Cecil followed his brother William C. de Mille to the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, making his stage debut in 1900. For twelve years he was actor/manager of his mother's theatrical company. In 1913, Jesse L. Lasky, Samuel Goldwyn and DeMille formed the Lasky Film Company (which years later evolved into Paramount Pictures), and the next year went west to California and produced the successful six reeler, The Squaw Man (1914), of historical significance as the first feature length film produced in Hollywood. He championed the switch from short to feature-length films and is often credited with making Hollywood the motion picture capital of the world. Rather than putting his money into known stars, he emphasized production values. He also developed stars, notably Gloria Swanson. He produced and directed 70 films and was involved in many more. Many of his films were romantic sexual comedies (he is supposed to have believed that Americans were curious only about money and sex). His best-known were biblical epics: The King of Kings (1927), The Ten Commandments (1923), and The Crusades (1935). From 1936 to 1945 he hosted and directed the hour-long "Lux Radio Theatre", which brought the actors and stories of many movies to the airwaves and further established him as the symbol of Hollywood. He appeared as himself in the classic Sunset Boulevard (1950) with his former star Gloria Swanson as the fictitious disturbed former silent film actress Norma Desmond. His niece Agnes de Mille was the acclaimed choreographer of both the original Broadway production and film version of Oklahoma! (1955).

Spouse (1)

Constance Adams (16 August 1902 - 21 January 1959) (his death) (4 children)

Film epics, religious or otherwise.

One of the 36 co-founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
Although married to wife Constance for fifty-six years, DeMille had long-term affairs with two other women: Jeanie Macpherson and Julia Faye, occasionally entertaining both women simultaneously on his yacht or his ranch. His wife knew of the affairs, but preferred to live with their children in the main house.
DeMille was notable for his courage and athleticism and despised men unwilling to perform dangerous stunts or who had phobias. He criticized Victor Mature on the set of Samson and Delilah (1949), calling him "100 percent yellow".
Only eldest daughter Cecilia de Mille was the DeMilles' natural child, daughter Katherine DeMille and sons John and Richard de Mille being adopted later.
Following his death, he was interred at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery (now called Hollywood Forever Cemetery) in Los Angeles, California.
Son of Beatrice DeMille, brother of director William C. de Mille, uncle of Agnes de Mille and Peggy George.
Uncle-in-law of B.P. Fineman.
Was the original host of the popular "Lux Radio Theater", which presented one-hour radio adaptations of popular movies, often with the original stars, always with many of the biggest names in Hollywood. DeMille served as host/director of the series from its debut in 1936 until 1944, when a politically-oriented dispute with the American Federation of Radio Artists forced his suspension, and ultimate resignation, from the program. William Keighley succeeded him for the remainder of the program's run.
A photograph of DeMille working on the set of Cleopatra (1934) appears in the selvage on the right side of a sheet of 10 USA 37¢ commemorative postage stamps, issued 25 February 2003, celebrating American Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes.
Grandfather of Cecilia DeMille Presley.
He was perhaps the only director to film two remakes of one of his films: The Squaw Man (1914) (the first film he ever directed), The Squaw Man (1918) and The Squaw Man (1931).
At his death, DeMille was in the process of producing/directing an epic film about the creation of the Boy Scouts, to star James Stewart. His estate papers include a script and extensive research material.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 207-222. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Remade four of his own films.
Before casting of Victor Mature as the male lead of Samson and Delilah (1949), DeMille considered using a then unknown bodybuilder named Steve Reeves as Samson, after his original choice, Burt Lancaster, declined due to a bad back. DeMille liked Reeves and thought he was perfect for the part, but a clash between Reeves and the studio over his physique killed that possibility. Almost a decade later, Reeves found fame and stardom appearing in Hercules (1958) and many other Italian films.
To promote The Ten Commandments (1956), he had stone plaques of the commandments posted at government buildings across the country. Many of them are still standing to this day, and some are now the subjects of First Amendment lawsuits.
Died the same day as Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer.
He and his wife adopted daughter Katherine DeMille in 1920, when she was 9. He father had died in World War I and her mother died of tuberculosis. Her birth name was Katherine Lester.
His son, John Blount Demille, was born in 1913. He was of Spanish descent.
DeMille is the subject of many Hollywood legends. According to one famous story, DeMille once directed a film that required a huge, expensive battle scene. Filming on location in a California valley, the director set up multiple cameras to capture the action from every angle. It was a sequence that could only be done once. When DeMille shouted "Action!", thousands of extras playing soldiers stormed across the field, firing their guns. Riders on horseback galloped over the hills. Cannons fired, pyrotechnic explosives were blown up, and battle towers loaded with soldiers came toppling down. The whole sequence went off perfectly. At the end of the scene, DeMille shouted "Cut!". He was then informed, to his horror, that three of the four cameras recording the battle sequence had failed. In Camera #1, the film had broken. Camera #2 had missed shooting the sequence when a dirt clod was kicked into the lens by a horse's hoof. Camera #3 had been destroyed when a battle tower had fallen on it. DeMille was at his wit's end when he suddenly remembered that he still had Camera #4, which he had had placed along with a cameraman on a nearby hill to get a long shot of the battle sequence. DeMille grabbed his megaphone and called up to the cameraman, "Did you get all that?". The cameraman on the hill waved and shouted back, "Ready when you are, C.B.!".
In another famous story, DeMille was on a movie set one day, about to film an important scene. He was giving a set of complicated instructions to a huge crowd of extras, when he suddenly noticed one female extra talking to another. Enraged, DeMille shouted at the extra, "Will you kindly tell everyone here what you are talking about that is so important?". The extra replied, "I was just saying to my friend, 'I wonder when that bald-headed son-of-a-bitch is going to call lunch.'" DeMille glared at the extra for a moment, then shouted, "Lunch!".
In another story, DeMille welcomed a new assistant to his private bungalow on the Paramount Studios lot. "This is an old building," he told the young man. "You'll notice the floor slants down and to the left. I'm placing you in the left side office at the end of the hall, so you can watch the heads as they roll by.".
In still another story, DeMille was sitting in a Paramount executive's office, discussing a film he wanted to make. The climax of the film would be yet another huge battle sequence, requiring thousands of extras. When the studio executive complained that it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay all the extras needed for the battle, DeMille smiled wickedly. "I've got that covered," he said. "We'll use real bullets.".
The lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globe Awards) is named after him.
An active supporter of the practice of blacklisting real or alleged Communists, progressives and other "subversives", in 1952 DeMille attempted to get Joseph L. Mankiewicz removed as President of the Directors Guild because he would not endorse the DeMille-inspired loyalty oath. Directors George Stevens and John Ford managed to block DeMille's efforts.
He was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party.
Stuntman Jack Montgomery, who played a Christian cavalryman in DeMille's The Crusades (1935), recalled in an interview the tension that existed between DeMille and the dozens of stuntmen hired to do the battle scenes. They resented what they saw as DeMille's cavalier attitude about safety, especially as several stuntmen had been injured, and several horses had been killed, because of what they perceived to be DeMille's indifference. At one point, DeMille was standing on the parapets of the castle, shouting through his megaphone at the "combatants" gathered below. One of them, who had been hired for his expertise at archery, finally tired of DeMille's screaming at them, notched an arrow into his bow and fired it at DeMille's megaphone, the arrow embedding itself into the device just inches from DeMille's head. He quickly left the set and didn't come back that day. He came back the next day, but for the rest of the picture, DeMille never shouted at the stuntmen again.
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 1725 Vine Street; and for Radio at 6240 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.
During his silent movie days, DeMille wanted to film a romantic scene on a California beach. His plan was to film the hero and heroine walking together on the beach as the sun slowly rose over the ocean behind them. He instructed his cameramen to "film the perfect sunrise." However, his cameramen informed him that this would be impossible - the sun does not *rise* over the ocean in California. It *sets!* "Well, then get me a sun-*set*," said DeMille. "We'll use rear-screen projection, and run the film in reverse so it looks like the sun is *rising* in the background." DeMille's camera crew went to the beach and filmed the sun setting over the ocean. A few days later, DeMille filmed the scene with the two actors on a movie soundstage made up to look like the beach. The on-location film of the Pacific sunset was reversed and projected on a rear screen, so that it looked as if the sun was rising slowly on the horizon behind the two actors. The scene was filmed in one take, and DeMille was ecstatic. The following day, DeMille and his crew gathered in a studio screening room to watch the scene. The film looked perfect - until DeMille noticed something that literally reduced him to tears. The reversed "sunrise" behind the two actors looked spectacular - but the waves on the beach were flowing backwards into the ocean, and all the seagulls in the rear projection scene were flying backwards.
After The Ten Commandments (1956), his remake of his earlier The Ten Commandments (1923), DeMille began work on a project about Lord Robert Baden-Powell and the Boy Scout movement, but eventually abandoned it in favor of The Buccaneer (1958). The actor he had in mind to play Baden-Powell was David Niven.
He was buried alongside his brother William C. de Mille at Hollywood Forever Cemetary. Among the pallbearers were Adolph Zukor, Samuel Goldwyn and Henry Wilcoxon.
Profiled in "American Classic Screen Profiles" by John C. Tibbets and James M. Welch (2010).
Even when DeMille directed a contemporary story, he would frequently insert a sequence showing the same stars in a previous historical era, playing earlier incarnations of their modern-day characters. According to Gloria Swanson, who became a star in DeMille's films, he included these scenes because he genuinely believed in reincarnation.
Beginning in 1940 and continuing on to the end of his career, DeMille always narrated his films.
President of DeMille Pictures Corporation, formed in 1925.
From 1940 onward, all of the films that he produced and directed were made in color.
According to Tim Adler's book about the history of the Mafia in Hollywood, in the late 1930s De Mille was threatened by the mob, which wanted to swindle him while he was in his hospital bed. DeMille stood up from the bed and ordered the gangster to get out of his room, because he -- DeMille -- was not afraid of the Mafia.
According to DeMille he fell in love with film after watching The Great Train Robbery (1903) in Manhattan with Jesse L. Lasky. Several days later they lunched with Sam Goldfish (later to change his name to Samuel Goldwyn) and attorney Arthur Friend and formed the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, which later grew to be Paramount Pictures.
In a swipe at movie censors, published a satirical newspaper article in which he censored Mother Goose rhymes.
His mother was of Jewish descent.
Charlton Heston, star of DeMille's The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) and DeMille's remake of his own The Ten Commandments (1956), wrote in his autobiography In The Arena of DeMille: "I should have thanked him for my career.".
A conservative Republican, DeMille refused to cast liberal Democrat Burt Lancaster in Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) due to politics, despite Lancaster's imposing physique and real life experience as a circus acrobat, which allowed him to do his own stunts.
Highly praised for his ability to manage large crowds of extras, the key to DeMille's success at managing the crowds was to give each extra very specific, detailed instructions on what they were to be doing in any given scene, whether it was crossing the street or walking after a carriage or even just conversing with one another. This gave the scenes featuring large crowds a sense of realism and being alive that they otherwise would have liked.
His decision to cast Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments (1956) helped undermine the blacklist that DeMille had previously supported.