Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Legendary film preservationist Kevin Brownlow (infamous for his 1982 restoration of Abel Gance's Napoléon) and Patrick Stanbury co-helm the affectionate cinematic homage Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic. As narrated by Kenneth Branagh, this documentary explores the life, legacy, and cultural contributions of director extraordinaire DeMille, widely regarded as the 20th-century equivalent of P.T. Barnum -- and hence, one of the greatest showmen in modern history. The film documents how DeMille became the first individual to define the perfect cinematic admixture to satisfy the taste of the average lay viewer: a combination of unearthly sets, magnificent costumes, and earth-shaking spectacles, cloaked in an oxymoronic blend of two-dimensional moralizing and envelope-pushing sexuality -- in other words, the very same formula still employed by Hollywood, decades after DeMille's death. A number of top American filmmakers turn up to offer insights into DeMille's craft, including Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, as well as actors including Charlton Heston and Angela Lansbury; several of DeMille's family members also shed light on the director's private life and personal relationships. The film discusses DeMille's childhood and early theatrical career, his co-establishment of Paramount Pictures, and his production of some of Hollywood's most magnificent spectacles, including Cleopatra (1934), Samson and Delilah (1949), and The Ten Commandments (1956, for which, Brownlow and Stanbury interpolate stunning behind-the-scenes footage of the parting of the Red Sea). Brownlow received the coveted Mel Novikoff Award in the year of this film's release.
career-retrospective, film-clips, film-director, filmmaker, pioneer, special-effects