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Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic (2004)

Documentary about the legendary American film director from his introduction to the film industry in its early years to his death in 1959. After a falling out with Adolph Zukor, he left ... See full summary »


Kevin Brownlow




Cast overview, first billed only:
Kenneth Branagh ... Narrator (voice)
Steven Spielberg ... Himself - Interviewee
Martin Scorsese ... Himself - Interviewee
Frank Coghlan Jr. ... Himself (as Junior Coughlan)
Baby Peggy ... Herself - Interviewee (as Diana Serra Cary)
Angela Lansbury ... Herself - Interviewee
Henry Hathaway ... Himself - Interviewee (archive footage)
A. Arnold Gillespie A. Arnold Gillespie ... Himself - Interviewee (archive footage)
Agnes de Mille ... Herself - Interviewee (archive footage)
Cecilia DeMille Presley ... Herself - Interviewee
Samuel Goldwyn ... Himself - Interviewee (archive footage)
Betty Lasky Betty Lasky ... Herself - Interviewee
Cecil B. DeMille ... Himself (archive footage)
Robert S. Birchard Robert S. Birchard ... Himself - Interviewee
Charles Chaplin ... Himself (archive footage)


Documentary about the legendary American film director from his introduction to the film industry in its early years to his death in 1959. After a falling out with Adolph Zukor, he left Paramount Pictures to found his own company but it too failed and moved on to MGM where his films were less successful than he had hoped. By 1931 DeMille, despite his huge successes in the silent era, was practically unemployable. Given a second chance at Paramount DeMille found his now classic formula of religious or epic tales with more than just a tinge of sex. Firmly re-established, he would stay with the studio for the rest of his career. He became a fervent anti-communist leading to a confrontation with his colleagues in the Directors Guild. He continued making films regardless and died as one of the most commercially successful in Hollywood history. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

5 April 2004 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Photoplay Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

Only the narrator's name is in the cast/crew list. All other credited performers are identified by the narrator or with an onscreen graphic. See more »


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User Reviews

Interesting documentary on DeMille's life narrated by Kenneth Branagh...
29 June 2009 | by DoylenfSee all my reviews

Not only does this two-part TV documentary aired on TCM cover the life and career of CECIL B. DeMILLE, but it features interview segments with people like Elmer Bernstein, Steven Spielberg, Gloria Swanson, Charlton Heston, Angela Lansbury and Martin Scorsese, all telling interesting anecdotes about the great showman.

Lansbury had high regard for him as a director who "ruled the set with an iron hand" and Spielberg says that DeMille gave people "more than their's money worth" with his epic films. Although he was a taskmaster who strove for what he considered perfection, he was either reviled or loved by his crew, depending upon which person you talk to.

He died in '59 at the age of 77 and narrator Branagh sums it up as "the end of a life of Biblical proportions." I found the section devoted to the political witch hunts of the '50s less than compelling unless you have a complete understanding of that period of history. But when the documentary gets back on the track with his film-making projects, like SAMSON AND DELILAH and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, it's on safe ground again.

A generous amount of clips from his early silent films leads to the sound era and his early struggles to make a foothold in Hollywood. The turning point came in '34 with THE SIGN OF THE CROSS and CLEOPATRA, both of which assured him of an important place in film history a s a director of great spectacles.

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