William C. de Mille

Active - 1914 - 1939  |   Born - Jul 25, 1878   |   Died - Mar 18, 1955   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Although filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille was by far the most famous member of the DeMille clan, many of his contemporaries considered his older brother William C. DeMille to be the more talented director. Certainly William was the better playwright, as he proved time and again in the early years of the 20th century. The elder DeMille might have remained in the theatre all his life had he not been urged to head westward to write and direct motion pictures by his kid brother Cecil. William started his film career in 1914 at Cecil's stomping grounds, the Famous Players-Lasky studio (later Paramount). Affectionately referred to as "Pop" by his fellow workers, William eschewed Cecil's preoccupation with spectacle, concentrating instead on intimate stories with strong human values; as a result, he never displayed the awesome visual sense of his younger brother, but invariably "scored" in the emotional department. Few of DeMille's silent films survive today, though if such rare extant productions as Miss Lulu Bett (1921) are any indication, his was a career that warrants a full-scale reassessment someday. After talking pictures arrived, William C. DeMille cut down his output, regarding the silent cinema as being of more artistic value; he made his last film, His Double Life (co-directed by Arthur Hopkins) in New York in 1933. William C. DeMille was the father of choreographer Agnes DeMille, who once provided a succinct epitaph for both her father and her more celebrated uncle: "Cecil spent his lifetime building up a legend. Father was interested only in the truth."

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