Monday October 20, 2014
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16-053 Cecil Blount DeMille I

Monday Oct 20, 2014

Lead: For almost five decades, Cecil Blount DeMille helped define Hollywood film-making. He specialized in lucrative, highly successful epic movies.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Born in the early 1880s, DeMille came up in a home with an odd mix of religion, education and entertainment. His father and mother were teachers and actors and his father was an Episcopal lay minister. Stories from the Bible and graphic depictions of biblical scenes were a vivid part of his memory and upbringing. Small wonder that, at the height of his career, DeMille made his fortune and reputation translating these long-established memories into fanciful, popular, if not exactly accurate, depictions of great events from the Bible.

He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and first went on stage in 1900. Even when DeMille was one of the foremost directors in American film, he never stopped being an actor. Often he featured himself as the narrator, on-screen as well as in voiceovers.

In the years just before World War I, prospects in the American theater were on the decline. DeMille teamed up with vaudeville producer Jesse L. Lasky to explore the possibilities in the growing popularity of motion picture films. Lasky’s brother-in-law Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn) and DeMille formed a production company to produce feature length motion picture versions of popular plays. Their first was The Squaw Man. Released in 1914 it was a box office success. DeMille assumed control of the company and begin building a reputation as one of the finest directors in the business. Shortly after combining with two other companies to form what became Paramount Pictures, DeMille released Joan the Woman in 1916. Critically acclaimed, it only generated a small box office and DeMille's career went into a temporary eclipse.

Next time: unqualified success.

Research by Holly Walker, from Richmond, Virginia this is Dan Roberts.


DeMille, Cecil B. The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. Donald Hayne, ed. Englewood Cliffs: Printice-Hall, Inc., 1959.

Higham, Charles. Cecil B. DeMille. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973.

Louvish, Simon. Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007.

Patt, George C. “Forty-five Years of Picture Making: An Interview with Cecil B. DeMille.” Film History 3 (2, 1989): 133-145.

Copyright 2014 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.


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