Synopsis by Tom Wiener
Originally shown on American Movie Classics in August 1998, this documentary traces the lives and careers of siblings Cecil B. De Mille, William De Mille, and Agnes De Mille. The lion's share of screen time belongs to Cecil, the master showman of Hollywood's Golden Age, whose career dates back to the very beginnings of filmmaking on the West Coast. The De Milles came from a New York theatrical family, but Cecil was the first to understand the potential of films to eclipse the stage as a popular entertainment medium. After some initial reluctance, William followed his brother west, where Cecil and Jesse Lasky had established the company that would eventually become Paramount Pictures. William directed several pictures, helped found the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, then moved on to become head of the Theatre Department at USC. Agnes pursued her artistic ambitions as a dancer and broke through to wide acclaim in the 1940s by choreographing and starring in Aaron Copland's Rodeo and choreographing the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein Broadway hit Oklahoma. Cecil's preoccupation with historical and religious subjects resulted in a long string of box office successes, from his silent versions of The Ten Commandments (1923) and King of Kings (1927) through Union Pacific, The Plainsman, and Samson and Delilah. Hosting and narrating this film is Charlton Heston, who starred in De Mille's Oscar-winning The Greatest Show on Earth and his final film, The Ten Commandments (1956). Original interviewees include Cecilia De Mille Presley (Cecil's granddaughter, who is also this film's executive producer), Anthony Quinn (married for many years to one of Cecil's adopted daughters), actresses Evelyn Keyes and Lisa Mitchell, choreographer Michael Kidd, and composer Elmer Bernstein (who worked with both Agnes and Cecil); there are several excerpts from a previously filmed interview with Agnes De Mille.