- NAME: Cecil B. DeMille
- OCCUPATION: Actor, Filmmaker, Screenwriter
- BIRTH DATE: August 12, 1881
- DEATH DATE: January 21, 1959
- EDUCATION: Pennsylvania Military College, American Academy of Dramatic Arts
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Ashfield, Massachusetts
- PLACE OF DEATH: Hollywood, California
- Full Name: Cecil Blount DeMille
- AKA: Cecil B. DeMille
- AKA: Cecil DeMille
- AKA: Cecil De Mille
- AKA: Cecil B. De Mille
- AKA: Cecil Blount De Mille
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Cecil B. DeMille was an actor, director and producer who became a giant of the 20th century film industry, known for epics like The Ten Commandments.
Cecil B. DeMille - Full Episode (45:26)
A short biography of Cecil B. DeMille, whose name was synonymous with "biblical epic" and "director." Having directed over fifty films, he was called the "King of Hollywood," thanks to films like "Cleopatra" and "The Ten Commandments."
A full biography of Cecil B. DeMille, the Hollywood directing legend known for his lavish productions.
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With the era of talking pictures underway, DeMille helmed more biblical and ancient history films, as seen with The Sign of the Cross (1932), featuring Fredric March and Claudette Colbert, and Cleopatra (1934), also starring Colbert and nominated for a slew of Oscars. Westerns and adventure films were to follow over the ensuing years,
including The Buccaneer (1938) and the Gary Cooper vehicle Northwest Mounted Police (1940), noted as the first film DeMille directed in Technicolor.
DeMille directed several notable features during the 1940s, including Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and Unconquered (1947). In 1949—a banner year—he was awarded a special Academy Award for 37 years of showmanship in the movie industry, appointed chair of the Motion Picture Industry Council, and saw the release of the biblical epic Samson and Delilah, starring Victor Mature, Hedy Lamarr and Angela Lansbury. The film was a hit, and won an Oscar for art direction.
DeMille was notorious for his ego and dictatorial tendencies on sets while his populist movie vision resulted in great financial windfalls, helping to establish Paramount as a reigning studio. The last decade of DeMille's filmic output would continue to be fruitful. In 1952, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association—the organization that stages the Golden Globes—named a special award after the filmmaker that would annually honor a major figure in the entertainment industry.
The following year, DeMille's circus epic The Greatest Show on Earth was released, starring Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton and James Stewart in a colorful multi-plot circus extravaganza. The film was nominated in five Oscar categories, including best director, and won awards for writing and best picture, with DeMille receiving his first non-honorary Oscar in his role as a producer.
DeMille's last film—his second incarnation of The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Anne Baxter—would be regarded as a landmark achievement. The film, released in 1956, took liberties with scripture to become an iconic film, with thousands of actors inhabiting a desert setting and grand visual moments that included the parting of the Red Sea. The movie earned seven Oscar nods, winning for its special effects.
In real-world affairs, DeMille helped to propagate the Red Scare of the 1950s, where well-known entertainers were blacklisted for alleged communist ties. Nonetheless, he hired two blacklisted figures for The Ten Commandments, actor Edward G. Robinson and composer Elmer Bernstein, with speculation that the film still served as a vehicle for the director's politically conservative beliefs.
DeMille died on January 21, 1959 in Hollywood, California, at the age of 77, from a heart ailment. DeMille produced and directed dozens upon dozens of movies throughout his career, and his legacy has continued to be written about and scrutinized as film evolves.
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