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Cecil B. DeMille DIRECTOR


Famous director Cecil Blount DeMille was born on August 12, 1881, in Ashfield, Massachusetts while his play writing parents were on vacation. He grew up in Washington, North Carolina. When he was twelve, his father passed away and his mother turned their home into an all-girls school. Later, she formed the DeMille Play Company to act as an agency for plays and playwrights. Instead of going off to fight in the Spanish-American war, as he was too young, DeMille attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Soon after, he helped his mom manage her company, directing and stage managing a number of shows for twelve years. In 1900 he also debuted himself on the stage and went on tour. In 1913, he helped establish the Lasky Film Company with Jesse L. Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn.
The trio’s first endeavor was “The Squaw Man” (1914) starring Dustin Farnum, which DeMille co-directed, co-wrote, and co-produced with Oscar Apfel. He even appeared as an extra in the feature. The movie was a major success and helped to change Los Angeles into a big film city. It was so successful in fact, that DeMille remade the film twice more, a silent one starring Elliott Dexter again and Jack Holt, Noah Beery Sr., Thurston Hall, Tully Marshall and Monte Blue in 1918, and a sound one starring Warner Baxter, Lupe Velez, Raymond Hatton, Charles Bickford, J. Farrell MacDonald, Roland Young and Dickie Moore in 1931. His first picture as the sole director, however, was “The Virginian” (1914) also starring Dustin Farnum, which was also partly written by him. Pretty much the entirety of his films were at least partly written and edited by the director himself. One such exception is the most important one of his pictures at that time: “The Cheat” (1915) starring Fannie Ward, Sessue Hayakawa, Jack Dean and Raymond Hatton. It was a fundamental piece of work crucial to the development of the classic Hollywood type of filmmaking. The storyline was about a careless woman who lost charity funds in the stock market and was forced to perform sexual behaviors for an Asian man to get some of her money back. She however found an alternative way to find some cash and tried to end her deal with the man, but it resulted in violent vengeance. DeMille made extensive use of various lighting techniques, adding creepy shadows, making characters appear out of pitch dark, as well as surrounding them with smoke – all characteristics of the standard film noir picture.
With the commercial fruitfulness that “The Cheat” (1915) offered, the director was able to turn out more great movies like “Joan the Woman” (1916) starring Geraldine Farrar as Joan of Arc, with Hobart Bosworth, Tully Marshall, Raymond Hatton, Ramon Novarro, Jack Holt, Donald Crisp, Jack Hoxie and Wallace Reid, “The Golden Chance” (1916) starring Cleo Ridgely, Wallace Reid and Raymond Hatton, “The Little American” (1917) starring Mary Pickford, Jack Holt, Raymond Hatton, Wallace Beery, Hobart Bosworth, Ramon Novarro, Colleen Moore and Ben Alexander, “The Whispering Chorus” (1918) starring Raymond Hatton, Noah Beery Sr., Kathlyn Williams, Elliott Dexter, Jack Mulhall and Tully Marshall, and “The Affairs of Anatol” (1921) starring Wallace Reid, Gloria Swanson, Monte Blue and Bebe Daniels. DeMille additionally created a string of popular domestic and social comedies which include “Old Wives for New” (1918) starring Florence Vidor, Elliott Dexter, Raymond Hatton, Noah Beery Sr., Tully Marshall and William Boyd, “Don’t Change Your Husband” (1919) starring Elliott Dexter, Gloria Swanson, Raymond Hatton and Jack Mulhall, and “Why Change Your Wife” (1920) starring Gloria Swanson, Thomas Meighan, Bebe Daniels and William Boyd. They gained a great deal of attention by their focus on married life as opposed to the way-too-typical boy-meets-girl formula. He also hit a home run with his first take on “The Ten Commandments” (1923). The million dollar making film depicted the life of Moses in the first part, and then showed how two brothers either received salvation or damnation based on their moral decisions in the second.
By the mid-twenties, the director quit his current studio, Paramount, to set up his own. With his new studio in the old Thomas Ince Studios, which he renamed the Cinema Corporation of Amercia, he put out two of his best features: “The Volga Boatman” (1926) starring William Boyd and Elinor Fair and “The King of Kings” (1927) starring H. B. Warner and Joseph Schildkraut. Still, his performances were not enough to sustain the company, and it was absorbed the Pathe Exchange and the director signed a three picture deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. While there he made his first talkie, “Dynamite” (1929) starring Conrad Nagel, Julia Faye, Joel McCrea, Kay Johnson and Charles Bickford, as well as “Madam Satan” (1930) co-starring Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny, Lillian Roth and Roland Young and “The Squaw Man” (1931), which were both box-office failures due to the Great Depression.
In 1932 DeMille returned to Paramount, where he spent the remainder of his film career. He turned out great hits, his specialty being religious and historical epics, like the Biblical “The Sign of the Cross” (1932) starring Fredric March, Claudette Colbert, Elissa Landi and Charles Laughton and the Academy Award nominated “Cleopatra” (1934) starring Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Joseph Schildkraut, William Farnum, Henry Wilcoxon, Irving Pichel and C. Aubrey Smith. In 1936, until 1945, he was a host of the Lux Radio Theatre, a dramatic anthology series that aired on the CBS news network. He also directed “The Plainsman” (1936) starring Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, James Ellison, Porter Hall and Charles Bickford, “The Buccaneer” (1938) starring Fredric March, Franciska Gaal, Akim Tamiroff, Margot Grahame, Walter Brennan, Ian Keith, Spring Byington, Douglass Dumbrille, Beulah Bondi and Anthony Quinn, “Union Pacific” (1940) starring Randolph Scott, Robert Young and Dean Jagger, “Northwest Mounted Police” (1940) starring Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, Robert Preston and Madeleine Carroll, “Reap the Wild Wind” (1942) starring John Wayne, Ray Milland, Paulette Goddard, Robert Preston, Susan Hayward and Charles Bickford, “Unconquered” (1947) starring Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, Howard Da Silva, Ward Bond, Boris Karloff and Henry Wilcoxon, and “Samson and Delilah” (1949) starring Victor Mature, Hedy Lamarr, George Sanders, Henry Wilcoxon and Angela Lansbury. With all of his successes, he became Paramount’s most bankable director of that time.
In the fifties, he turned into one of Hollywood’s top leaders for the anti-Communist witch hunt, but also produced two of his best pieces. “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952) starring James Stewart, Charlton Heston, Dorothy Lamour, Cornel Wilde, Betty Hutton and Gloria Grahame, was a garish showbiz drama set in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circuses, and focused on two rivaling trapeze artists vying for the limelight. It took home two Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture, because of its intense action sequences and extreme drama. The last of DeMille’s work was his remake of “The Ten Commandments” (1956) sarring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, John Derek, Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price, Debra Paget, John Carradine, Cedric Hardwicke, Martha Scott and Yvonne De Carlo. This time around, his picture was four hours full of thousands of actors and stunning visual effects. Plus, he embedded himself into the film, as he was the voice of God. The director went out with a big bang, as this film earned seven Academy Award nominations and nabbed the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
Due to his health, DeMille took a break from filmmaking. He had a second heart attack on January 21, 1959, and passed away. The seventy seven year old had had a plan for a science fiction movie, but was never able to accomplish it. The esteemed director still lives on as one of Hollywood’s best, though. With his Honorary Award from the Academy Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Director’s Guild of America, Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Golden Globes, and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he proves his cinematic merit. He will always be remembered for his innovating work in the silent era, as well as his titan stature in the Hollywood Golden Age.


1956       The Ten Commandments 

1934-1955    Lux Radio Theatre

1952       The Greatest Show on Earth

1949       Samson and Delilah

1948       California's Golden Beginning 

1944       Unconquered 

1944       The Story of Dr. Wassell

1942       Reap the Wild Wind 

1940       North West Mounted Police

1939       Union Pacific

1938       The Buccaneer

1936       The Plainsman

1935       The Crusades

1934       Cleopatra

1934       Four Frightened People

1933       This Day and Age

1932       The Sign of the Cross 

1931       The Squaw Man 

1930       Madam Satan

1929       Dynamite

1929       The Godless Girl

1928       Walking Back 

1927       The King of Kings

1926       The Volga Boatman

1925       The Road to Yesterday

1925       The Golden Bed

1924       Feet of Clay

1924       Triumph

1923       The Ten Commandments

1923       Adam's Rib

1922       Manslaughter

1922       Saturday Night

1921       Fool's Paradise

1921       The Affairs of Anatol 

1921       Forbidden Fruit

1920       Something to Think About

1920       Why Change Your Wife?

1919       Male and Female

1919       For Better, for Worse

1919       Don't Change Your Husband

1918       The Squaw Man

1918       Till I Come Back to You

1918       We Can't Have Everything

1918       Old Wives for New

1918       The Whispering Chorus

1917       The Devil-Stone

1917       Nan of Music Mountain 

1917       The Woman God Forgot

1917       The Little American 

1917       A Romance of the Redwoods

1917       Lost and Won 

1916       Joan the Woman

1916       The Dream Girl

1916       Maria Rosa

1916       The Heart of Nora Flynn

1916       The Trail of the Lonesome Pine

1915       Temptation

1915       The Golden Chance

1915       The Cheat 

1915       Chimmie Fadden Out West

1915       Carmen

1915       Kindling

1915       Chimmie Fadden

1915       The Arab

1915       The Wild Goose Chase

1915       The Captive

1915       The Unafraid

1915       The Warrens of Virginia

1915       After Five

1915       The Girl of the Golden West

1914       The Ghost Breaker

1914       Rose of the Rancho

1914       The Man from Home

1914       What's His Name

1914       The Virginian

1914       The Call of the North

1914       The Man on the Box 

1914       The Only Son

1914       The Master Mind 

1914       Brewster's Millions

1914       The Squaw Man

Matinee Classics - Reap the Wild Wind starring Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard, Raymond Massey, Robert Preston, Lynne Overman, Susan Hayward, Charles Bickford, Walter Hampden, Louise Beavers and Martha O'Driscoll
Matinee Classics - Cecil B. DeMille
Matinee Classics - The Sign of the Cross starring Fredric March, Elissa Landi, Claudette Colbert, Charles Laughton, Ian Keith, Arthur Hohl, Harry Beresford, Tommy Conlon, Vivian Tobin, Ferdinand, William Mong, Joyzelle Joyner, Richard Alexander, Nat Pendleton, Charles Middleton and Clarence Burton
Matinee Classics - The Crusades starring Loretta Young, Henry Wilcoxon, Ian Keith, C. Aubrey Smith, Katherine DeMille, Joseph Schildkraut, Alan Hale Sr., Sven Hugo Borg, Montague Love, Ramsey Hill, Lumsden Hare, Maurice Murphy, William Farnum and Hobart Bosworth
Matinee Classics - What's New Radio Show hosted by Cecil B. DeMille
Matinee Classics - Samson and Delilah starring Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature, George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, Henry Wilcoxon, Russ Tamblyn, Olive Deering, Edgar Dearing, Fay Holden, Julia Faye, William Farnum, Lane Chandler, Moroni Olsen, Francis McDonald, Wee Willie Davis, John Miljan, George Reeves, Nils Asther, Mike Mazurki and Jeff York
Matinee Classics - Squaw Man starring Warner Baxter, Lupe Velez, Eleanor Boardman, Charles Bickford, Roland Young, Paul Cavanagh, Raymond Hatton, Julia Faye, DeWitt Jennings, J. Farrell MacDonald, Mitchell Lewis, Dickie Moore and Victor Potel

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