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Director

Vitae, Cecil B. DeMille (Film Director)

Cecil Blount DeMille (* 12. August 1881 in Ashfield, Massachusetts; † 21. January 1959 in Hollywood) was one of the most successful Directors and Producers in the history of Hollywood.
About the Director

Cecil Blount DeMille (1881-1959)

His creative period spanned from the silent film era to the Hollywood-System of the 1950s and his career in Hollywood – from errand boy to producer of multi-million dollar films – was certainly unique.


DeMille has taken his place in history primarily as a director and producer of Bible films and monumental historical films. He filmed lavish productions at tremendous expense with spectacularly large crowd scenes and luxurious set décor, which were intended to impress by the opulence of their sets and the fascination of their settings, be it a desert or a town in the old west.

His work was generally stamped by biblical motifs, from the early film about Jesus, The King of Kings, to Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments, which were all huge box office successes. His use of large panoramas demonstrated his feel for directing large masses, screen layout and spectacular effects.

Life

The DeMille family, with roots in the Netherlands, had a background in theater. Cecil’s creative period spanned from the silent film era to the Hollywood-System of the 1950s. His career in Hollywood – from errand boy to producer of multi-million dollar films – was certainly unique.

Before becoming a film director and producer, Cecil B. DeMille worked as an actor, author and director for stage productions. In 1913 he joined the first generation of film-makers in Hollywood and was one of the founders of Paramount Studios. He was reputed to be a tyrant and wrote the screen-plays and did the editing for many of his 75 films. DeMille also sat on the board of a bank and established an aviation company.

He died in 1959 while planning to direct his first science fiction film and was buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

DeMille’s creative period spanned from the silent film era to the Hollywood-System of the 1950s. His career in Hollywood – from errand boy to producer of multi-million dollar films – was unique.

DeMille has taken his place in history primarily as a director and producer of Bible films and monumental historical films. He filmed lavish productions at tremendous expense with spectacularly large crowd scenes and luxurious set décor, which were intended to impress by the opulence of their sets and the fascination of their settings, be it a desert or a town in the old west.
His work was generally stamped by biblical motifs, from the early film about Jesus, The King of Kings, to Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments, which were all huge box office successes.
His use of grand panoramas demonstrated his feel for directing large masses, screen layout and spectacular effects.

DeMille’s Legacy

DeMille directed dozens of silent films, mainly short Westerns, before making his breakthrough in 1919 with the frivolous comedy, Don’t Change Your Husband. In the early 1920s he shot many such films, mostly starring Gloria Swanson. With the strengthening of the Hays (censorship) Code he quickly changed his style, turning to morally unobjectionable topics of a mostly religious nature.

His work was generally stamped by biblical motifs, from the early film about Jesus, The King of Kings, to Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments, which were all huge box office successes. He was awarded a Best Film Oscar in 1952 for The Greatest Show On Earth.

DeMille was, in his day, one of the most important figures in the film industry and could, thanks to the enormous success of his productions, pretty much do as he liked. He repeatedly had confrontations with the unions, which protested the working conditions on his productions.

He is best known for his gigantic 1956 production of The Ten Commandments, a remake of his film with the same title from 1923. No expense was spared, major stars such as Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner were cast and every available technical resource was employed in this remake.

From 1950 to 1953 he received many awards for his life’s work, including an honorary Oscar and a Golden Globe. DeMille was unable to finish work on his last film, The Buccaneer, which was completed by his son-in-law, Anthony Quinn.

Cecil B. DeMille has taken his place in history primarily as a director and producer of Bible films and monumental historical films. He filmed lavish productions at tremendous expense with spectacularly large crowd scenes and luxurious set décor, which were intended to impress by the opulence of their sets and the fascination of their settings, be it a desert or a town in the old west. Terrifically large panoramas demonstrate his feel for directing large masses, screen layout and spectacular effects to create maximum impact within a relatively naïve story-line.

 

Filmography

Silent Movies
1914 - The Squaw Man
1914 - The Only Son
1914 - Brewster's Millions
1914 - The Virginian (first filming of the subject matter upon which the television series from 1962 was based)
1915 - The Cheat – with Fanny Ward, Jack Dean and Sessue Hayakawa
1915 - Carmen – with Geraldine Farrar and Wallace Reid
1917 - Joan the Woman – with Geraldine Farrar
1918 - You Can't Have Everything
1919 - Male and Female – with Gloria Swanson
1919 - For Better, for Worse – with Gloria Swanson
1919 - Don't Change Your Husband – with Gloria Swanson
1923 - The Ten Commandments – with Estelle Taylor
1927 - The King of Kings – with H. B. Warner as Jesus

 

Talking Movies
(as Director, partial list)


1932 - The Sign of the Cross – with Fredric March,
1934 - Cleopatra – with Claudette Colbert
1935 - The Crusades – with Loretta Young, Henry Wilcoxon
1936 – The Plainsman – with Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur
1938 – The Buccaneer – with Fredric March, Franciska Gaal
1939 - Union Pacific – with Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea
1940 - North West Mounted Police – with Gary Cooper, Madelleine Carroll, Paulette Goddard
1942 – Reap the Wild Wind – with Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard
1944 - The Story of Dr. Wassell – with Gary Cooper
1947 - Unconquered – with Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard and Boris Karloff
1949 - Samson und Delila – with Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature, George Sanders and Angela Lansbury
1952 - The Greatest Show on Earth – with Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston and James Stewart
1956 - The Ten Commandments – with Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter and Edward G. Robinson
1958 – The Buccaneer with Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston (due to illness DeMille passed direction to his son-in-law, Anthony Quinn)