DEMILLE, CECIL B.


DEMILLE, CECIL B. (1881–1959), U.S. film producer and director. DeMille was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts. His parents, Henry and Beatrice, were playwrights. His father was a minister, for whom his mother, born an English Jew, converted. After his father died, when DeMille was 12, he worked for several years at his mother's playhouse. In 1913, together with Jesse Lasky and Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn), De-Mille formed the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Co., the basis for Paramount Pictures. The company's debut cinematic venture was The Squaw Man (1914), and the three were instrumental in Hollywood's becoming the film capital of the world. DeMille, who produced or directed as many as 70 films, and discovered such stars as Gloria Swanson, is renowned for his sweeping, epic style and frequent moral content, evident in films such as The Ten Commandments (1923, remade 1956), The King of Kings (1927), Cleopatra (1934), Samson and Delilah (1949), and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). He also managed to weave a persona that matched the largeness of his films, hosting the popular radio series Lux Radio Theater every week for more than a decade, and frequently appeared in his movies as himself, well before the director Alfred Hitchcock employed the same tactic. Perhaps the most memorable example of DeMille's famous cameos occurs in Sunset Boulevard (1950), starring his protégé Gloria Swanson. During the McCarthy era of that same decade, DeMille temporarily fell out of favor for his adamant anti-Communist politics, but his views did not mar his legacy as a Hollywood legend.

[Casey Schwartz (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.