Edit
Cecil B. DeMille Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (36) | Personal Quotes (12) | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

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

Mini Bio (1)

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 Blvd. (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).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (1)

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

Trade Mark (1)

Film epics, religious or otherwise.

Trivia (36)

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 criticised 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 being adopted later.
Interred at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery (now called Hollywood Forever), Hollywood, California, USA.
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. De Mille 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 is 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) (released in the USA as "Hercules") 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 yelled "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 yelled "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 yelled, "Lunch!"
In another story, DeMille welcomed a new assistant to his private bungalow on the Paramount 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 Globes) 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, yelling 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 yelled at the stuntmen again.
He has two 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.
DeMille was buried alongside brother William C. de Mille at Hollywood 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.
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 Corp., formed in 1925.
From 1940 onward, all of the films that he produced and directed were made in color.

Personal Quotes (12)

The public is always right
[to his crew] You are here to please me. Nothing else on Earth matters.
Give me any two pages of the Bible and I'll give you a picture.
[on the set of North West Mounted Police (1940) when Chief John Big Tree's war whoops became too enthusiastic] Mr. Big Tree, please - if you just moderate it a little. It's too harrowing. After all, this is only a massacre.
It was a theory that died very hard that the public would not stand for anyone dressed in clothes of another period . . . I got around this objection by staging what we call a vision. The poor working girl was dreaming of love and reading "Tristan and Isolde". The scene faded out, and scenes were depicted on the screen that the girl was supposed to be reading . . . Thus a bit of costume picture was put over on the man who bought the picture for his theater, and there was no protest from the public.
Every time I make a picture the critics' estimate of American public taste goes down ten percent.
A picture is made a success not on a set but over the drawing board.
I make my pictures for people, not for critics.
I didn't write the Bible and didn't invent sin.
[Referencing "The Squaw Man"] I love this story so much that as long as I live I will make it every ten years.
[A week before his death DeMille was asked what his future plans were] Another picture, I imagine... or, perhaps, another world.
Most of us serve our ideals by fits and starts. The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly.

Salary (3)

The Warrens of Virginia (1915) $500/week
The Captive (1915) $500/week
Sunset Blvd. (1950) $10,000

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page