Cecil B. DeMille

Cecil B. DeMille

Active - 1914 - 2007  |   Born - Aug 12, 1881 in Ashfield, Massachusetts, United States  |   Died - Jan 21, 1959   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Adventure

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Biography by AllMovie

An actor and general manager with his mother's theatrical troupe since the mid-1900s, Cecil B. DeMille formed a filmmaking partnership in 1913 with vaudeville artist Jesse L. Lasky and businessman Samuel Goldfish (soon to be known as Samuel Goldwyn). Their first venture was The Squaw Man (1914), which DeMille co-directed, co-wrote and co-produced with Oscar Apfel. This successful and elaborate six-reeler launched DeMille on a lifelong career in films. His first solo effort was the Western The Virginian (1914), which he also co-scripted. He edited and wrote (or co-wrote) almost all his successful films, with the notable exception of the popular melodrama The Cheat (1915). Writer Jeanie Macpherson began working for DeMille in 1914 with The Captive (1915), and wrote most of his later silent films: hits that included witty romantic farces (Don't Change Your Husband); epic morality tales that combined modern dramas with visions of history (Joan the Woman [1916]) or the Bible (The Ten Commandments [1923]); and perhaps DeMille's greatest artistic success, the handsome and moving life of Christ, The King of Kings (1927). Macpherson also wrote the director's first three talkies, ending their collaboration in 1930 with the bizarre comedy Madam Satan (1930). DeMille continued to score hits in the '30s with epics (Sign of the Cross [1932], Cleopatra [1934]) and Westerns (The Plainsman [1937], Union Pacific [1939]). His output became more sporadic during the '40s, but he still pleased the public with his rugged action films Northwest Mounted Police (1940) and Reap the Wild Wind (1942). DeMille's last three films -- Samson and Delilah (1950), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), and The Ten Commandments (1956), a remake of his 1923 movie of the same name -- were the most successful releases of their respective years. DeMille's final directorial effort, The Ten Commandments was also the decade's box-office champ. He died in 1959 at the age of 77; his memoir, The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille, was published posthumously later that year.

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  • Began his career as a stage director before he was hired by Jesse L. Lasky for his Lasky Feature Play Company, which eventually evolved into Paramount Pictures.
  • Adopted son Richard is really his biological nephew; Richard was born out of wedlock to Cecil's brother, William.
  • One of the original founders of the Screen Directors Guild.
  • Had a cameo appearance in the film Sunset Boulevard; one of the film's most famous lines is "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup." 
  • Defied convention by hiring actor Edward G. Robinson and composer Elmer Bernstein, both part of the Communist blacklist of the 1950s, to work on the film The Ten Commandments.
  • Made four remakes of his own movies, including two of the same film, The Squaw Man.