b. Cecil Blount deMille, 12th August 1881, Ashfield, Massachusetts, USA
d. 21st January 1959, Hollywood, California, USA

1. The Enigmatic Pop Culture Professional

Legendary producer-director Cecil B. DeMille, (1) affectionately known as C.B., was a seminal cofounder of Hollywood and a progenitor of Paramount studio who became a mega-star of the American cinema during its Golden Age. He quickly became the archetypal image of a movie director; especially when wearing his trademark puttees, barking orders through a megaphone, and having an attentive chair boy two lock-steps behind his every move. This iconic but frequently unsung auteur helped turned an obscure Californian orange grove into the movie centre of the world and made “Hollywood” synonymous with success. DeMille’s life and career was itself an epic adventure. Not only did he help instigate the West-coast genesis of this billion dollar industry, but he adroitly navigated the arrival of sound films, the introduction of colour films, the Great Depression, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, shifting demographics, volatile fads, Communist hysteria, the challenge of television, cut-throat competitors, interfering bosses, controlling censors, agitating politicians, uppity actors and numerous Hollywood scandals involving drugs, sex and murder. (2) He survived them all, and whereas vast distances, massive workloads, personal crises and sickness could slow down the indefatigable DeMille, only death could stop him.

This self-confessed pop culture professional (3) with over seventy feature films to his credit became “Hollywood’s most successful money-director,” (4) and although originally remembered as the “bathtub king,” (5) DeMille is best remembered today for his monstrous mob scenes and spectacular epics, or as Aubrey Malone cheekily put it: “In the beginning was the epic, and the epic was with DeMille and the epic was DeMille.” (6) Alongside his flamboyant showmanship and international reputation as “the Barnum of Hollywood films,” (7) he is frequently identified with his Oscar-winning circus picture The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and his four indelible Bible pictures The Ten Commandments (1923), The King of Kings (1927), Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Ten Commandments (1956) plus “the near impossibility of mentioning his name without the epithet “master of the biblical epic” attached to it.” (8) And yet, despite DeMille’s fame, fortune and fecundity, he still remains Hollywood’s best-known unknown. As his biographer Simon Louvish put it: “For such an auteur, of such world-wide renown, the ignorance with regard to his best work must surely be considered peculiar, if not astounding,” (9) and as film scholar Eric Smoodin lamented: “De Mille rarely receives the serious academic recognition and study that he deserves.” (10)

Part of the reason for being critically ignored, devalued or dismissed is rooted in him being “one of the most complex and multi-faceted men in America,” (11) indeed, “no one on the Hollywood scene ever contradicted his own legends more consistently than he did as you got to know him better and better.” (12) For example, Cecil was pegged as a sentimental Salvationist, a warm-hearted man-of-God and a cinematic lay preacher, but also as a salacious cineaste who proffered epic sex-and-sin behind a moral façade. He was a Freemason, profoundly religious but a non-church-going Christian with a strong belief in reincarnation who had an Episcopalian lay minister father, a Sephardic Jewish mother and worked in an industry dominated by Jewish immigrants. DeMille was a conservative moralist who married for life, but had a few mistresses condoned by his wife, and was loyal to them all, and they to him. He was a director of perfection and also a hokum merchant toying with the historically absurd as he fed back to the public their dreams of desire. He was a Victorian age man and a trained actor steeped in the American theatre, but he championed modern social issues concerning marriage, divorce and romance in his films. He pioneered the science and art of filmmaking and acted as a salesman for Hollywood and America, but was accused of being mired in the past, uninventive and disingenuous.

DeMille was an archconservative, a staunch American patriot, a rabid anti-Communist, and an anti-unionist who joined a union and picketed. He briefly held political office, spied for the FBI and the CIA, was a lover of democracy and freedom, but tyrannical on the set, a staunch Paramount company man but an auteur individualist. He loved creative filmmaking, success and profits and dedicated much of his energy to his Lux Theatre Radio career and then gave it away along with a fortune to social causes, favoured and distressed employees. He was an intensely private man who proactively courted the public and made himself a superstar greater than any of his film stars, yet he stayed loyal, kind and generous behind his carefully crafted enfant terrible façade. As Robert S. Birchard put it: “it may well be that Cecil B. DeMille was Cecil B. deMille’s greatest creation.” (13) The intelligentsia deemed DeMille a vulgar artist catering to the common folk, but the public loved this master of mass entertainment and voted for him via bums-on-seats to make him rich, famous and continuously in work. His biblical epics were highly recommended for children by priests and parishioners, but they were also accused of having thrown more sex-and-sin into the audience’s faces for longer than anyone else dared to, and so were either lauded as pinnacles of film faith or derided as devilry and debauchery. His filmic oeuvre was accused of being based upon pedestrian formulas, but frequently overlooked were the many interlocking sacred and secular subtexts deftly engineered therein. Consequently, critical evaluations of his films and career rarely went “beyond the valley of the wisecrack” (14) and so DeMille’s reputation is in urgent need of rehabilitation, rectification and renewal.

2. In the Beginning

Born on 12 August 1881, the son of theatre parents Henry Churchill DeMille and Matilda Beatrice “Bebe” DeMille (nee Samuel), Cecil became an icon of the American cinema when he changed careers from theatre to film, moved from New York to California, and made movies instead of stage plays. As Director-General of the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Co. (nowadays Paramount studios), he rented a barn at the corner of Vine and Selma in Hollywood and made his first film, a feature length western, The Squaw Man (1914), about embezzlement, interracial romance and murder. (15) This commercially successful debut was quickly followed by virile frontier tales The Call of the North (1914) and The Virginian (1914) before he changed to modern tales of life and love with What’s-His-Name (1914) and The Man from Home (1914) then returned to frontier tales with The Rose of the Rancho (1914), The Girl of the Golden West (1915) and the civil war adventure The Warrens of Virginia (1915). Changing genres to please the public in pursuit of the exotic, The Unafraid (1915) dealt with spies, romance and two Montenegrin brothers, The Captive (1915) focused upon a Montenegrin protagonist, warring Turks and inter-ethnic romance, The Wild Goose Chase (1915) was set in France with two American grandfathers trying to romantically match their children, whilst The Arab (1915) enhanced foreigner exoticism alongside romance and inter-religious discord.

A return to contemporary domesticity with romance and a criminal sub-plot occurred within Chimmie Fadden(1915) followed by another tale of crime and domesticity Kindling (1915). Carmen (1915) marked a return to the exotic with fighting females and romantic infatuation, jealousy and death whilst Chimmie Fadden Out West(1915) fused crime and westerns, comedy and romance before DeMille made his first world-class film involving crime and interracial rape, The Cheat (1915). It “was acclaimed at the time of its release…as canonical silent cinema,” (16) French director Rene Clair called it “one of the great accomplishments of the American cinema,” (17) and so with it “deMille showed he was a master of the film narrative.” (18) The Golden Chance (1916) dealt with alcoholism, love and blackmail, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1916) highlighted moonshiners, romance and murder, whilst The Heart of Nora Flynn (1916) focused on love, deception and scandal. The Dream Girl (1916) explored romantic fantasies of rescuing white nights, alcohol and deception, whilst Maria Rosa (1916) dealt with love, death and romance starring opera singer-cum-film star Geraldine Farrar, who also starred in Temptation (1916), about a poor opera singer, and in Joan theWoman (1917) as its heroine, Joan of Arc. Although sacred servants featured throughout his early cinema, this was DeMille’s first major religious film and employed his trademark resort to historical flashbacks (which itself subtly reinforced DeMille’s belief in reincarnation).

A Romance of the Redwoods (1917) starred Mary Pickford, America’s sweetheart, in a tale of innocence and evil, love and deception, quickly followed by her starring role in The Little American (1917) about love and war, almost-rape and patriotic deception. The Woman God Forgot(1917) continued DeMille’s penchant for exotic themes with a tale about Cortez and Montezuma, love and sacrifice in Ancient Mexico followed by The Devil Stone (1917), another exotic tale about superstition and covetousness, murder and marriage when a cursed piece of emerald jewellery that long-ago belonged to a Norse Queen is found anew and spreads its evil. With his moody The Whispering Chorus(1918), DeMille experimented with a psychological thriller and photographic double exposure to depict the desperation of his doomed protagonist who had faked his own death, but in his new identity he is accused of being his own murderer! However, the public were cool to his critic-pleasing expressionist tale of guilt and redemption and so he abandoned this high art experiment and embarked upon a remake of his groundbreaking popular western also entitled The Squaw Man (1918), and then an extensive series of domestic dramas in pursuit of audience popularity and profits.

Joan the Woman (1916)

3. The Marriage and Mayhem Films

DeMille-the-businessman quickly latched onto the Jazz Age preoccupations of wealth and sex with his comedy of manners and romantic farces. Old Wives for New (1918) dealt with marriage haste and spousal neglect, We Can’t Have Everything (1918) focused upon spousal neglect, martial boredom and affairs, whilst Till I Come Back to You (1918) explored the potential heartache of marriage with foreigners when war broke out and they are on opposing sides. Don’t Change Your Husband (1919) explored slovenly partners and the perils of hasty divorce whilst For Better, For Worse (1919) focused upon romantic rivals, mistaken motivations and re-marriage bigamy when the first husband was not dead merely wounded in war. Male and Female (1919) explored the malleability of domestic, social and romantic roles when a group of pampered aristocrats were shipwrecked on a deserted island and only survive under the leadership of their class inferior, the butler. Why Change Your Wife? (1920) dealt with mismatched partners, hasty divorce and the perils of remarriage, Something to Think About (1920) explored the problem of marrying for the wrong reasons, whilst Forbidden Fruit (1921) was essentially a retelling of The Golden Chance with an elaborate Cinderella storyline added as a flashback sequence.

The Affairs of Anatol (1921) dealt with the problem of still seeking the ideal partner after marriage and the destructiveness of persistent fault-finding, Fool’s Paradise (1921) explored the perilous path of true love whilst avoiding deception, jealousy and heartlessness, whilst Saturday Night (1922) examined the negative consequences of marrying outside one’s own social class. Manslaughter (1922) highlighted the disastrous consequences of hedonism, including a flashback to a decadent Ancient Rome, whilst Adam’s Rib (1923) dealt with the consequences of ignoring one’s spouse in the single-minded pursuit of wealth. Overall, as Charles Lockwood argued, DeMille “shrewdly sensed that Americans wanted to forget about suffering and sacrifice, and he started making sophisticated modern comedies that showed beautiful people wearing fashionable clothes, living and partying in expensively furnished homes. Drinking and adultery were very much in evidence (although true love and legal marriage always won by the end of the film).” (19) Many of these films starred “the uniquely beautiful and sophisticated Gloria Swanson, who, in retrospect, was the first and most enduring exponent of the new woman on screen” (20) and wherein “De Mille implicitly preached that modern women should protect their marriages by adopting the vamp’s erotic weapons and that men should realize that their wives needed affection and sex as well as food and shelter.” (21)

Male and Female (1919)

4. The Genesis of DeMille’s Biblical Epics and Hollywood Lay Preacher Reputation

As the son of an Episcopalian lay reader who read the Good Book to his children regularly, it is somewhat appropriate that the dramatic enactment of Holy Writ finally found its feature film expression within DeMille’s pious three-part picture The Ten Commandments (1923). This classic silent film depicted the giving of the Ten Commandments in ancient times, the disastrous consequences of breaking these holy laws in modern-day America starring two sons, one good and one bad, and a flashback scene to Jesus forgiving a leprous outcast woman. (22) Its Moses story with dramatic parting of the Red Sea and DeMille’s trademark aesthetic of astonishment wowed audiences, but more importantly, it helped saved the very existence of Hollywood itself. It did this by appeasing the women’s groups and fulminating fanatics who were in flock shock over the Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle rape-and-manslaughter trial, the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the drug addiction and death of Wallace Reid, and numerous lesser contretemps. The Arbuckle case in particular generated intense fear for as Louis B. Mayer confided to King Vidor: ““If this pressure keeps up, there won’t be any more film business.” It wasn’t a case of moving to Florida or New York. The moguls firmly believed they faced a total, complete, and permanent closure.” (23)

However, from desperately wanting to close down this Sodom-by-the-sea, DeMille demonstrated the religious-cum-ethical possibilities of Hollywood cinema, thereby assuaging the anger of the moral vigilantes and simultaneously championing a new movie market, genre and trend. As Vincent Sherman noted regarding The Ten Commandments (1923): “Along with its success, it achieved a little-known or recognized result: it made moving pictures respectable in the small towns of the south. Prior to this, the churches and their ministers regarded films as evil and the work of the devil. But this film, which condemned greed and extolled morality, was the catalyst” (24) that quickly permeated throughout America and helped save an entire industry that was soon to be under the tight control of movie censor Will H. Hays, the czar of Hollywood.

DeMille’s directorial, religious and business triumph was followed by Triumph (1924), another morality tale about wealth and rivalry between two sons, one good and one bad. Feet of Clay (1924) allowed DeMille to explore his penchant for reincarnation in a strange story about suicide, soul travel and romantic love triangles. The Golden Bed (1925) was DeMille’s last film for Paramount and continued the themes of disastrous marriages, love triangles and death coupled with an extravagant candy ball sequence. The Road to Yesterday (1925) marked the first film from his new studio, Cecil B. DeMille Pictures, and deftly mixed marriage with reincarnation using a disastrous train crash to flashback to medieval England to explore the past life roots of the couple’s modern-day marital problems. Next, The Volga Boatman (1926) was DeMille’s exotic Russophile film about revolution, love triangles and class rivalries.

The King of Kings (1927) marked DeMille’s triumphal return to the biblical epic with this innovative story about Jesus (H. B. Warner). It was DeMille’s favourite film, (25) it quickly “became the template for Jesus movies for the next eighty years,” (26) and “Some critics still consider it the best Jesus movie ever made.” (27) It featured a trademark love triangle between Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene, an epic crucifixion scene, and a very satisfying solution to apparently contrary scriptural accounts of Judas’ demise. Whereas Matthew 27:5 said Judas “went and hanged himself” and Acts 1:18 reported that “falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out” (i.e., hanging versus disembowelment), DeMille had his despairing Judas atop a small cliff face with a tree branch jutting out over a precipice. He slowly wrapped a noose around his neck and (unseen) launched himself into oblivion. His dead body is seen dangling from the jutting branch when an earthquake linked to Jesus’ death uprooted the tree and it, along with his body, plummets into the ravine below to be dashed open upon impact, thereby, cinematically harmonising the “contradictory” scriptural accounts (i.e., Matthew dealt with the mode of the suicide whilst Acts dealt with the results), thus verifying DeMille’s status as a master of the biblical epic. With The Godless Girl (1928), DeMille’s last silent film, he explored the anti-religious viewpoint—atheism, as well as the brutality of reform school life. Its protagonists turn aside from Christian teaching and suffer terribly until they regained their faith in God again. DeMille gave up being a studio mogul, sold his business and returned to full-time directing with MGM.

The King of Kings (1927)

5. Sound Cinema, DeMille’s MGM Interlude and His Second Coming at Paramount

Dynamite (1929) marked DeMille’s first sound film and first MGM production. It dealt with death, mismatched marriage and wedding for the wrong reasons, all against a mining industry backdrop including a catastrophic cave-in that needed a (very noisy) stick of dynamite to escape. Madam Satan (1930) followed, which was his first-time foray into the musical genre as he explored the relationship need of reinventing oneself in order to recapture a wondering spouse. This erotic hunt featured a showy Ballet Mechanique and another industrial disaster when the giant dirigible hosting the costume ball was struck by lightning and plummeted to earth forcing participants to parachute to safety. The Squaw Man (1931) was DeMille’s last MGM production and third remake of his miscegenetic western about fortitude and sorrow, but although competently done, his contract was not renewed. The box-office success of The Sign of the Cross (1932) marked DeMille’s triumphal return to religion, Paramount studio and a secure future with his former home studio. Technically, the film was a Roman/Christian film and not a biblical epic, (28) but trod upon holy ground nonetheless with its Neronic story of heterosexual and homosexual temptation, catastrophic conflagration, and transcendental sacrifice set against the obligatory backdrop of Christian versus pagan rivalry.

WithThis Day and Age (1933), DeMille returned to contemporary America and the crime genre in a daring tale of youth and corruption involving rough justice, torture and the inevitable romantic reconciliations. Four Frightened People (1934) dealt with bubonic plague, a perilous jungle trek, cloth-stealing chimps and attacking pygmies as four mismatched persons faced severe survival challenges and forevermore were transformed; furthermore, “Who but DeMille would give audiences a Pekinese-toting feminist lecturing South Sea natives on the liberating rewards of birth control.” (29) Returning to the ancient world, Cleopatra (1934) retold the love triangle between Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony and the very sexy Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) utilising Busby Berkley style showmanship and the deft deployment of erotic visual metaphors. The Crusades (1935) continued DeMille’s penchant for love triangles and historical reconstructions but this time tinged with action packed religious history as the holy war between Saracens and Christians was re-enacted. It is especially noteworthy for portraying Saladin as a peace-loving honourable man whilst the Christians were treacherous and blood-thirsty; especially when Saladin said: “I offer peace to you, foes of Islam” but Richard the Lion-Hearted responded by drawing his sword and saying: “We’re going to slaughter you.” DeMille’s positive portrayal of Saladin as a great and holy leader won the favour of Muslims worldwide including Egyptian Prime Minister, Colonel Gamal Abdal Nasser and General Abdel Hakin Amer who claimed it was their favourite film and they had watched it over twenty times. (30)

6. The Americana Frontier Films

DeMille was a staunch patriot and a true believer in America’s manifest destiny, which he explored within his exciting Americana films. Starting with The Plainsman (1937), he examined the mythology of the Wild West and its attempt to civilise the American frontier. It starred Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane (with Buffalo Bill Cody) and involved menacing Indians, love triangles and renegade gun-runners as it chartered the fate of these American icons using Hollywood icons, Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. The Buccaneer (1938) was a love triangle adventure starring the dashing Jean Lafitte (Frederic March) and his pirates of the Louisiana bayous who came to the aide of General Jackson and his backwoodsmen against the British during the War of 1812, thus saving New Orleans for the Americans. Union Pacific (1939) was DeMille’s epic saga about the construction of the transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific. It had a love triangle involving Barbara Stanwyck, corrupt politicians, saboteurs, gamblers and besieging Indians as it lionised the technological taming of the American frontier; symbolised by driving in a golden spike at Promontory Point. “Stanford University lent DeMille the actual Golden Spike for the film, but a “stand-in” was substituted when it came time for the silver-headed sledge to drive it into the laurelwood tie.” (31)

North West Mounted Police (1940) was set against the Riel Rebellion of 1885 when Indians and half-breeds instituted civil war by forming an independent Metis nation. DeMille’s storyline involved a love triangle, political cooperation and the lawmen services of the Canadian Mounties and a lone Texas Ranger (Gary Cooper) in pursuit of a murderer wanted in both Texas and Canada. With his sea spectacle Reap the Wild Wind (1942), DeMille returned to the theme of piracy in a love triangle story about corrupt business practices that flourished along Key West (e.g., salvage companies causing wrecks to be first on the reclamation scene). Starring John Wayne and Ray Milland as romantic and business rivals, it featured major underwater photography with men in diving suits, a thrilling battle with a giant squid, and multiple drowning deaths before the truth is outed. Set during World War II, The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944) was a modern-day biopic about heroic medical missionary and Naval Commander Dr. Corydon M. Wassell (Gary Cooper). Against orders, he selflessly led a convoy of desperately injured American seamen through a Japanese gauntlet of boats and planes to safety in Australia, thereby expecting court-marshal but earning respect, admiration and the Navy Cross for his devotion to duty. In Unconquered (1947), DeMille told a spirited historical tale about the American frontier colonies involving the defence of Fort Pitt, a love triangle, slavery, gun-runners, potential court-marshal, British redcoats, menacing red-skins and religious trickery when Captain Holden (Gary Cooper) appeared in a flash of gunpowder smoke and passed himself off as a god in order to save Abby Hale (Paulette Goddard) from a tortured death, thus finding happiness, peace and security together.

7. The Spectacular Peak Productions and the Demise of DeMille’s Directorial Duties 

Samson and Delilah (1949) marked DeMille’s spectacular return to the biblical epic with a love triangle story based upon Judges 13-16. Starring Samson (Victor Mature), Delilah (Hedy Lamarr), Semadar (Angela Lansbury) and the Saran of Gaza (George Sanders), this phenomenally successful production was a “watershed film” (32) that triggered the 1950-60s rash of American Bible pictures. As movie mogul Darryl F. Zanuck enviously claimed: “Samson and Delilah is basically a sex story and when you can get one in biblical garb apparently you can open your own mint.” (33) Scripturally speaking, the Samson saga is “the story of sexy stories…always an entertaining and sacred scandal sheet” (34) that “contains all the features that make for a top-rated movie—excessive violence, romance and sex, and R-rated humor. No wonder it attracted DeMille!” (35) However, frequently overlooked by critics and audiences too busy looking over Delilah-the-biblical-babe were the interlocking sacred subtexts deftly engineered therein that helped make DeMille “virtually the Sunday school teacher for the nation.” (36) Next, DeMille made his Oscar-winning circus epic The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), which focused upon the perils and pleasures, life and love triangle traumas of this adventurous life style. It starred Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde and Dorothy Lamour and incorporated DeMille’s penchant for hazardous tricks, spectacular train crashes and subtle social commentary with a storyline about a clown-disguised doctor (James Stewart) who is wanted by the police for the mercy killing of his wife.

The Oscar-winning The Ten Commandments (1956) was DeMille’s greatest filmic achievement and his last directorial effort after having barely survived a massive heart attack during its making. This film is considered the “epitome” (37) of the biblical epic, “the most renowned of the films drawn from the Old Testament” (38) and “one of the most famous motion pictures of all time.” (39) As classicist Jon Solomon summed it up: “In terms of scope, inspiration, colour, and biblically (divinely?) inspired special effects, the film has still not met its equal,” (40) furthermore, “DeMille’s parting of the Red Sea in 1956 and his Samsonian destruction of the temple of Dagon [Samson and Delilah (1949)]…will be remembered as the most representative and iconographical Old Testament depictions of the twentieth century.” (41) This second version (42) of his Moses biopic was an exercise in monumentality and epic craftsmanship, audience gratification and scriptural scrupulousness; in addition to being religiously inventive with its subtextual construction of Moses as a Christ-figure for additional holy effect and Christian appeasement. (43) Filled with multiple love triangles and dazzling special effects, it chronicled Moses (Charlton Heston) from castaway Hebrew baby to adopted Egyptian prince, from outlaw murderer to God’s chosen ambassador-cum-lawgiver-cum-Hebrew deliverer, and his relationships with Rameses (Yul Brynner), Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) and a multitude of lesser luminaries. The film is a true religious classic and a guilty pleasure for many scholars and directors including Martin Scorsese who saw it “maybe forty or fifty times.” (44) DeMille was too ill to work as director and so limited his formerly massive workload to behind-the-scenes duties, notably, overseeing the efforts of his son-in-law Anthony Quinn in his directorial debut, The Buccaneer (1958), a remake of DeMille’s 1938 production.

8. The Value and Legacy of DeMille Today

Before DeMille died he claimed: “my ministry was making religious movies and getting more people to read the Bible than anyone else ever has,” (45) but whatever his subject matter, DeMille “always seemed to have the capacity of serving both God and Mammon simultaneously.” (46) He was certainly “Hollywood’s king of epic film,” (47) “a giant figure in American film history” (48) and arguably the “Golden Age of Hollywood summed up in a single man.” (49) He was a trailblazing pioneer who loved profits and showmanship whilst simultaneously addressing serious social issues such as marriage haste, unrequited love, traitorous partners, slovenly and incompatible partners, marital sex and romance, honour-in-marriage, justice, duty, destiny, suicide, reincarnation, soul travel, birth control, euthanasia etc. In short, he repeatedly filled studio purses creatively fusing together social, political, religious and artistic ideas into entertaining feature films that audiences eagerly awaited and craved for again and again. In 1993 and 1995, The Cheat (1915) and The Ten Commandments (1956) respectively were selected, honoured and preserved by the United States National Film Registry (Library of Congress) for being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

If success is measured by exposure and being on the lips of others, then DeMille was clearly a success because “the total audience for all Mr. deMille’s pictures, from 1913 to 1959, is no less than 4,000,000,000 people” (50) and many times that figure today, half-a-century later! Furthermore, his cinematic offerings are still regularly screened around the world; particularly The Ten Commandments (1956), which nowadays has become a “family favorite, a good old-fashioned epic, a television tradition…a staple of American popular culture.” (51) If success is measured by the amount of money generated then DeMille succeeded again because his “seventy pictures produced during the years 1913-56 had grossed $750,000,000 by the time of his death in 1959,” (52) and who knows how many billions in today’s money! In short, “Cecil made financial gold mines.” (53) If success is measured by how well one achieved one’s personal goals, then DeMille is again a winner because his filmic oeuvre matched his passionate mission to tell an absorbing story (frequently against a background of great historical events) that itself evolved into a unique and internationally recognisable signature style—the DeMille epic. (54) As directorial peer George Cukor confessed: “The way that man could tell a story was fascinating—you were riveted to your seat. That’s exactly what he was: a great, great story teller…That was De Mille’s great talent and the secret behind his popular success.” (55)

What better legacy than fame, fortune, fecundity, longevity, popularity, peer recognition, a distinctive auteur signature, mastership of the American biblical epic, and internationally acclaimed classics of world cinema could a passionate professional filmmaker leave behind; in addition to being a seminal cofounder and saviour of both Paramount and Hollywood? DeMille’s death in 1959 “was truly the end of an epoch in the Hollywood he helped to create” (56) just as his directorial debut had signposted its auspicious beginnings. As his adversarial niece Agnes de Mille summed up his life: “Cecil B. DeMille had been largely instrumental in building a world industry and founding a city; he had taken crucial steps in the shaping of a new art. He was a dramatist more widely known to his contemporaries than any other in history, and he was a religious propagandist with an appeal that, although superficial, was possibly the most popular of our time in terms of numbers reached within a short space of time.” (57) However, upon closer inspection, DeMille was not superficial, but rather, multilayered. There was only one C.B. and chances are that we will never see his likes again, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas notwithstanding.


  1. Many scholars have spelled Cecil’s surname as “De Mille” or “de Mille” or “deMille,” however, the correct professional spelling is “DeMille” (see DeMille and Hayne, p. 6), which will be employed herein unless quoting others.
  2. Anger, Kenneth. Hollywood Babylon. New York: Bell Publishing, 1981; Anger, Kenneth. Hollywood Babylon II. London: Arrow Books, 1990.
  3. DeMille, Cecil B., and Donald Hayne, ed. The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. London: W.H. Allen, 1960, p. 195.
  4. Leonard J. Leff and Jerold L. Simmons. The Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship, and the Production Code, 2nd ed. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2001, p. 167.
  5. Wilcoxon, Henry. “The Biggest Man I’ve Ever Known” in DeMille: The Man and His Pictures, edited by Gabe Essoe and Raymond Lee, 263-276. New York: Castle Books, 1970, p. 275.
  6. Malone,Aubrey. Sacred Profanity: Spirituality at the Movies. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010, p. 1.
  7. Smith, Ron. “Mistaken Images in Serge: Cecil B. DeMille’s Northwest Mounted Police (1940).” 49th Parallel: An Interdisciplinary Journal of North American Studies 24, Spring (2010): 1-25, p. 15.
  8. Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. “Iconography,” in The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film, edited by John Lyden, 440-464. London: Routledge, 2010, p. 450.
  9. Louvish, Simon. Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2008, p. xvii.
  10. Smoodin, Eric. “Cecil B. De Mille,” in International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers – 2. Directors, 4th ed., edited by Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast, 248-251. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000, p. 251.
  11. D’Arc, James V. “Two Articles: “Darryl F. Zanuck’s Brigham Young: A Film in Context and “‘So Let it be Written…’ — The Creation of Cecil B. DeMille’s Autobiography.” PhD dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1986, p. 74.
  12. Arthur, Art. “DeMille: Man and Myth,” in DeMille: The Man and His Pictures, edited by Gabe Essoe and Raymond Lee, 283-288. New York: Castle Books, 1970, p. 283.
  13. Birchard, Robert S. Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004, p. 29.
  14. Babington, Bruce, and Peter W. Evans. Biblical Epics: Sacred Narrative in the Hollywood Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993, p. 1.
  15. Kobal, John. “The Squaw Man,” in The DeMille Legacy, edited by Paolo Cherchi Usai and Lorenzo Codelli, 194-222. Pordenone: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto/Edizioni Biblioteca dell’Immagine, 1991.
  16. Higashi, Sumiko. “Touring the Orient with Lafcadio Hearn and Cecil B. DeMille: Highbrow vs Lowbrow in a Consumer Culture,” in The Birth of Whiteness: Race and the Emergence of U.S. Cinema, edited by Daniel Bernardi, 329-353. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996, p. 331.
  17. Bodeen, Dewitt. “The Cheat,” in Magill’s Survey of Cinema. Silent Films. Volume 1, edited by Frank N. Magill, 295-297. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1982, p. 295.
  18. Gomery, Douglas. Movie History: A Survey. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991, p. 80.
  19. Lockwood, Charles. Dream Palaces: Hollywood at Home. New York: The Viking Press, 1981, p. 50.
  20. Bowers, Ronald. “Women in Silent Films,” in Magill’s Survey of Cinema. Silent Films. Volume 1, edited by Frank N. Magill, 125-132. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1982, p. 129.
  21. Toll, Robert C. The Entertainment Machine: American Show Business in the Twentieth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 188.
  22. Structurally speaking, this film is an uneven triptych (OT, modern-day, NT), but it is presented in the onscreen cast list and within the literature as only a two-part production (OT, modern-day). Jesus is seen in a back view and this actor is not listed in the cast list although the leprous woman is mentioned.
  23. Yallop, David A. The Day the Laughter Stopped: The True Story of Fatty Arbuckle. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976, p. 242.
  24. Boorman, John, Tom Luddy, David Thomson, and Walter Donohue, eds. Projections 4: Film-makers on Film-making. London: Faber and Faber, 1995, pp. 23-24.
  25. DeMille, Cecil B., and Donald Hayne, ed. The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. London: W.H. Allen, 1960, 306.
  26. Goldburg, Peta. “Selling Jesus: Judas the Betrayer in Film.” Religious Education Journal of Australia 20, No. 2 (2004): 12-16, p. 13.
  27. Grace, Pamela. “Gospel Truth?: From Cecil B. DeMille to Nicholas Ray,” in A Companion to Literature and Film, edited by Robert Stam and Alessandra Raengo, 46-57. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004, p. 48.
  28. Babington, Bruce, and Peter W. Evans. Biblical Epics: Sacred Narrative in the Hollywood Cinema. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993, p. 177.
  29. Birchard, Robert S. Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004, p. 267.
  30. Wilcoxon, Henry, and Katherine Orrison. Lionheart in Hollywood: The Autobiography of Henry Wilcoxon. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1991, pp. 274-275.
  31. Jensen, Larry. The Movie Railroads. Burbank, CA: Darwin Publications, 1981, p. 138.
  32. Schatz, Thomas. History of the American Cinema. 6. Boom and Bust: The American Cinema in the 1940s. New York: Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1997, p. 394.
  33. Gussow, Mel. Darryl F. Zanuck: Don’t Say Yes Until I Finish Talking. New York, NY: Da Capo, 1971, p. 81.
  34. Wurtzel, Elizabeth. Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women. New York: Doubleday, 1998, p. 38.
  35. McCann, J. C. Judges. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2002, p. 92.
  36. Beck, Bernard. “Has Anybody Here Seen my Old Friend Jesus? Christian Movies in a Christian Country.” Multicultural Perspectives 7, No. 1 (2005): 26-29, p. 27.
  37. Forshey, Gerald. E. American Religious and Biblical Spectaculars. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992, p. 123.
  38. Hirsch, Foster. The Hollywood Epic. New Jersey: A. S. Barnes, 1978, p. 74.
  39. Bassoff, Lawrence. Mighty Movies: Movie Poster Art from Hollywood’s Greatest Adventure Epics and Spectaculars. Beverly Hills, CA: Lawrence Bassoff Collection, 2000, p. 82.
  40. Solomon, Jon. The Ancient World in the Cinema, rev. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001, p. 158.
  41. Ibid, p. 175.
  42. Technically speaking, this is not a remake of his 1923 The Ten Commandments since it only focused upon the Moses prologue and not the modern-day story or the Jesus end piece; rather, it was an expanded re-visioning of that classic OT tale.
  43. Kozlovic, Anton K. “The Construction of a Christ-figure within the 1956 and 1923 Versions of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.” The Journal of Religion and Film 10, No. 1 (2006): http://www.unomaha.edu/jrf/vol10no1/KozlovicMoses.htm, accessed 20 November 2010.
  44. Scorsese, Martin. “Martin Scorsese’s Guilty Pleasures.” Film Comment 34, No. 3 (1998): 46-48, p. 46.
  45. Orrison, Katherine. Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments. Lanham: Vestal Press, 1999, p. 108.
  46. Malone,Aubrey. Sacred Profanity: Spirituality at the Movies. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010, p. 17.
  47. Seville, John. “The Laser’s Edge: The Greatest Show on Earth.” Classic Images 220 (1993): 48-50, p. 49.
  48. Stephenson, William. “De Mille, Cecil B,” in American National Biography, Volume 6, edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, 411-414. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 414.
  49. Mitchell, Lisa. “Encounter with an Icon: My Magic Summer Working for Cecil B. De Mille.” DGA News 18, No. 3 (1993): 14-17, p. 17.
  50. DeMille, Cecil B., and Donald Hayne, ed. The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. London: W.H. Allen, 1960, p. 379.
  51. Price, Victoria. “The Ten Commandments,” in St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Volume 4: P-T, edited by in Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast, 634-635. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000, p. 635.
  52. Higashi, Sumiko. Cecil B. DeMille: A Guide to References and Resources. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co, 1985, p. 37.
  53. Adolph Zukor quoted in Whitfield, Eileen. Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1997, p. 156.
  54. Lopez, Daniel. Films by Genre: 775 Categories, Styles, Trends and Movements Defined, with a Filmography for Each. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1993, p. 87.
  55. Long, Robert E., ed. George Cukor Interviews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001, p. 27.
  56. Maltin, Leonard, ed. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Dutton, 1994, p. 218.
  57. de Mille, Agnes. Portrait Gallery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990, p. 160.


Silent films:

The Squaw Man (1914 with Oscar C. Apfel) also actor & writer
The Call of the North (1914) also writer
The Virginian (1914) also writer, producer & editor
What’s-His-Name (1914) also writer, producer & editor
The Man from Home (1914) also writer, producer & editor
The Rose of the Rancho (1914) also writer, producer & editor
The Girl of the Golden West (1915) also writer, producer & editor
The Warrens of Virginia (1915) also producer & editor
The Unafraid (1915) also writer, producer & editor
The Captive (1915) also writer, producer & editor
The Wild Goose Chase (1915) also producer & editor
The Arab (1915) also writer, producer & editor
Chimmie Fadden (1915) also writer, producer & editor
Kindling (1915) also writer, producer & editor
Carmen (1915) also producer & editor
Chimmie Fadden Out West (1915) also writer, producer & editor
The Cheat (1915) also producer & editor
Maria Rosa (1916) also producer & editor
Temptation (1916) also writer, producer & editor
The Golden Chance (1916) also writer, producer & editor
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1916) also writer, producer & editor
The Heart of Nora Flynn (1916) also producer & editor
The Dream Girl (1916) also producer & editor
Joan the Woman (1917) also producer & editor
A Romance of the Redwoods (1917) also writer, producer & editor
The Little American (1917) also producer & editor
The Woman God Forgot (1917) also producer & editor
The Devil Stone (1917) also producer & editor
The Whispering Chorus (1918) also producer & editor
Old Wives for New (1918) also producer & editor
We Can’t Have Everything (1918) also producer & editor
Till I Come Back to You (1918) also producer
The Squaw Man (1918) also producer
Don’t Change Your Husband (1919) also producer
For Better, For Worse (1919) also producer
Male and Female (1919) also producer
Why Change Your Wife? (1920) also producer
Something to Think About (1920) also producer
Forbidden Fruit (1921) also writer & producer
The Affairs of Anatol (1921) also producer
Fool’s Paradise (1921) also producer
Saturday Night (1922) also producer
Manslaughter (1922) also producer
Adam’s Rib (1923) also producer
The Ten Commandments (1923) also producer
Triumph(1924) also producer
Feet of Clay (1924) also producer
The Golden Bed (1925) also producer
The Road to Yesterday (1925) also producer
The Volga Boatman (1926) also producer
The King of Kings (1927) also producer
The Godless Girl (1928) also producer

Sound films:

Dynamite (1929) also producer
Madam Satan (1930) also producer
The Squaw Man (1931) also producer
The Sign of the Cross (1932) also producer
This Day and Age (1933) also producer
Four Frightened People (1934) also producer
Cleopatra (1934) also producer
The Crusades (1935) also producer
The Plainsman (1937) also producer
The Buccaneer (1938) also producer
Union Pacific (1939) also producer
North West Mounted Police (1940) also producer
Reap the Wild Wind (1942) also producer
The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944) also producer
Unconquered (1947) also producer
Samson and Delilah (1949) also producer
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) also producer
The Ten Commandments (1956) also producer

Appearing as himself:

A Trip to Paramount Town(1921)
Felix in Hollywood (1923) (caricature)
Hollywood (1923)
Arch-Conspirators on Cecil B. DeMille’s Next Production (1925)
Free and Easy (1930)
Hollywood on Parade No. 9 (1933)
This Day and Age — Special Trailer (1933)
The Hollywood You Never See (1934)
DeMille — Penn Sunday Trailer (1935)
Hollywood Extra Girl (1935)
DeMille Homecoming(1937)
Gretchen Comes Across (1938)
Glamour Boy (1941)
Star Spangled Rhythm (1942)
The Story of a Great Motion Picture (1942)
DeMille War Appeal(1943)
The Story of Dr. Wassell — Trailer (1944)
Background of a Great Adventure (1947)
Variety Girl (1947)
My Favorite Brunette (1947)
Right to Work (1948)
Screen Snapshots — 50th Anniversary of Movies (1949)
History Brought to Life (1950)
Sunset Blvd.(1950)
Screen Snapshots: The Great Director (1951)
The House on Any Street (1951)
Son of Paleface (1952)
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Night Life(1952)
The Greatest Show on Earth — Trailer (1952)
The Great Director(1956)
The Ten Commandments — Special Trailer (1956)
The Ten Commandments — Curtain Speech (1956)
The Buster Keaton Story (1957)
The Buccaneer — Special Trailer (1958)

Select Bibliography


Alonso Barahona, Fernando. Cecil B. De Mille. Barcelonia: Centro de Investigaciones Literarias Espanolas e Hispanoamericanos, 1991 [Spanish].

Anonymous. The De Mille Dynasty Exhibition: A Century of Theatre, Film and Dance. Los Angeles: The Americana Museum, 1985.

Basquette, Lina. Lina: DeMille’s Godless Girl. Fairfax, VA: Denlinger’s Publishers, 1990.

Billips, Connie, and Arthur Pierce. Lux Presents Hollywood: A Show-by-Show History of the Lux Radio Theatre and the Lux Video Theatre, 1934-1957. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1995.

Birchard, Robert S. Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004.

Cherchi Usai, Paolo, and Lorenzo Codelli, eds. The DeMille Legacy. Pordenone: Le Giornate del Cinema Muto/Edizioni Biblioteca dell’Immagine, 1991.

D’Arc, James V., ed. The Register of the Cecil B. DeMille archives MSS 1400. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library, 1991.

de Mille, Agnes. Portrait Gallery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

DeMille, Cecil B., and Donald Hayne, ed. The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille. London: W.H. Allen, 1960.

de Mille, Richard. My Secret Mother: Lorna Moon. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.

deMille, William C. Hollywood Saga. New York, E.P. Dutton, 1939.

Edwards, Anne. The DeMilles: An American Family. London: Collins, 1988.

Essoe, Gabe, and Raymond Lee, eds. DeMille: The Man and His Pictures. New York: Castle Books, 1970.

Eyman, Scott. Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Higashi, Sumiko. Cecil B. DeMille: A Guide to References and Resources. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co, 1985.

—–. Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture: The Silent Era. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

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

Koury, Phil A. Yes, Mr. DeMille. New York: Putnam, 1959.

Louvish, Simon. Cecil B. DeMille and the Golden Calf. London: Faber and Faber, 2007 [UK edition].

—–. Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2008 [US edition].

Mourlet, Michel. Cecil B. DeMille. Paris: Editions Seghers, 1968 [French].

—–. Cecil B. DeMille: Le Foundateur de Hollywood. Courbevoie: Durante, 1997 [French].

Myers, Hortense, Ruth Burnett, and Nathan Goldstein. Cecil B. DeMille, Young Dramatist. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, circa 1963.

Noerdlinger, Henry S. Moses and Egypt: The Documentation to the Motion Picture The Ten Commandments. Los Angeles: University of Southern California Press, 1956.

Orrison, Katherine. Written in Stone: Making Cecil B. DeMille’s Epic, The Ten Commandments. Lanham: Vestal Press, 1999.

Parker, John. Preliminary Archeological Mapping and Investigation of the “Ten Commandments” site. Prepared at the request of: Hollywood Heritage, Inc., and Peter Brosnan. Morro Bay, CA: Parker & Associates, 1990.

Ringgold, Gene, and DeWitt Bodeen. The Complete Films of Cecil B. DeMille. Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press, 1969.

Wilcoxon, Henry, and Katherine Orrison. Lionheart in Hollywood: The Autobiography of Henry Wilcoxon. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1991.

Woessner, Charles. Cecil B. DeMille: Screen-Prophet and Cinema-Apostle. Tulare, CA: Tulare Times, circa 1935.

Book chapters, articles, interviews etc:

Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. “Iconography,” in The Routledge Companion to Religion and Film, edited by John Lyden, 440-464. London: Routledge, 2010.

Arthur, Art. “C. B. DeMille’s Human Side is as Little Known as the Depth of His Religious Belief.” Films in Review 18, no. 4 (1967): 221-25.

Blaetz, Robin. “Cecil B. DeMille’s Joan the Woman”. Studies in Medievalism 8 (1994): 109-122.

Bowen, Thomas. “Cecil B. DeMille and the Tiburón Island Adventure”. Journal of the Southwest 46, no. 3 (2004): 559-592.

Bregent-Heald, Dominique. “The Redcoat and the Ranger: Screening Bilateral Friendship in Cecil B. DeMille’s North West Mounted Police (1940).” American Review of Canadian Studies 38, no. 1 (2008): 43-61.

Costa de Beauregard, Raphaelle. “Authority, Protestantism and Cecil B DeMille’s Early Silent Films (1913-1923).” Anglophonia: French Journal of English Studies 17 (2005): 399-407.

D’Arc, James V. “Cecil B. DeMille Goes to Hollywood,” in Projections 8: Film-makers on Film-making, edited by John Boorman and Walter Donohue, 384-396. London: Faber and Faber, 1998.

de Mille. Agnes. “Goodnight C. B.” Esquire 61, no. 1 (1964): 119-131.

DeMille, Cecil B. “After 70 Pictures. A Pioneer, Honored by his Fellow Producers, Bespeaks his Credo.” Films in Review 7, no. 3 (1956): 97-102.

—–. Why I Made The Ten Commandments: An Address by Cecil B. DeMille at a Luncheon at the Plaza Hotel Just Prior to the Opening of his Motion Picture Production at the Criterion Theatre in New York City. USA: n.p., 1956.

—–. “The Public is Always Right,” in Hollywood Directors 1914-1940, edited by Richard Koszarski, 161-170. London: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Feldman, Joseph, and Harry Feldman. “Cecil B. DeMille’s Virtues.” Films in Review 1, no. 9 (1950): 1-6.

Grace, Pamela. “Gospel Truth?: From Cecil B. DeMille to Nicholas Ray,” in A Companion to Literature and Film, edited by Robert Stam and Alessandra Raengo, 46-57. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

Herman, Felicia. ““The Most Dangerous Anti-Semitic Photoplay in Filmdom”: American Jews and The King of Kings (DeMille, 1927).” The Velvet Light Trap 46 (2000): 12-25.

Higashi, Sumiko. “Ethnicity, Class and Gender in Film: DeMille’s The Cheat,” in Unspeakable Images: Ethnicity and the American Cinema, edited byLester D. Friedman, 112-139. Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1991.

—–. “Antimodernism as Historical Representation in a Consumer Culture: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, 1923, 1956, 1993,” in The Persistence of History: Cinema, Television, and the Modern Event, edited by Vivian Sobchack, 91-112. New York: Routledge, 1996.

—–. “Touring the Orient with Lafcadio Hearn and Cecil B. DeMille: Highbrow vs Lowbrow in a Consumer Culture,” in The Birth of Whiteness: Race and the Emergence of U.S. Cinema, edited by Daniel Bernardi, 329-353. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

—–. “The New Woman and Consumer Culture: Cecil B. DeMille’s Sex Comedies,” in A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema, edited by Jennifer M. Bean and Diane Negra, 298-332. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.

Jenkins, Steve. “DeMille, Cecil Blount,” in The Concise New Makers of Modern Culture, edited by Justin Wintle, 178-179. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2009.

Kemp, Philip. “Cecil B(lount) DeMille,” in World Film Directors. Volume I: 1890-1945, edited by John Wakeman, 207-222. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1987.

Kozlovic, Anton K. “The Whore of Babylon, Suggestibility, and the Art of Sexless Sex in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949),” in Sex, Religion, Media, edited by Dane S. Claussen, 21-31. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.

—–. “The Plainsman (1937): Cecil B. DeMille’s Greatest Authenticity Lapse?” Kinema: A Journal for Film and Audiovisual Media 19 (2003): 73-86.

—–. “From Holy Harlot to Passionate Penitent: Mary Magdalene in Cecil B. DeMille’s The King of Kings (1927).” Australian Religion Studies Review 21, no. 3 (2008): 345-365.

—–. “Hollywood, DeMille and Homage: Five Heuristic Categories.” Trames: Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 13, no. 1 (2009): 64-82.

—–. “Samson, Cecil, and Lion Imagery within DeMille’s Samson and Delilah.” Journal of Media and Religion 8, no. 3 (2009): 158-171.

—–. “The Art of Creative Scriptural Extrapolation: Bithiah, Mered and 1 Chronicles 4:18 within Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956).” Kinema: A Journal for Film and Audiovisual Media 33 (2010): 4-30.

Lardner Jr., Ring. “The Sign of the Boss: Cecil De Mille, Union Buster,” in Celluloid Power: Social Film Criticism from The Birth of a Nation to Judgment at Nuremberg, edited by David Platt, 383-394. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1992.

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. “The Fashioning of Delilah. Costume Design, Historicism and Fantasy in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949),” in The Clothed Body in the Ancient World, edited by Liza Cleland, Mary Harlow and Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, 14-29. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2005.

Maltby, Richard. “The King of Kings and the Czar of all the Rushes: The Propriety of the Christ Story.” Screen 31, no. 2 (1990): 188-213.

May, Lary. “Transforming the “White” Frontier: Cecil B. DeMille and the Origins of the Hollywood Home,” in The Human Tradition in California, edited by Clark Davis and David Igler, 119-134. Lanham: SR Books, 2004.

Mitchell, Lisa. “Encounter with an Icon: My Magic Summer Working for Cecil B. De Mille.” DGA News 18, No. 3 (1993): 14-17.

Musser, Charles. “Divorce, DeMille and the Comedy of Remarriage,” in Classical Hollywood Comedy, edited by Kristine B. Karnick and Henry Jenkins, 282-313, 392-398. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Nadel, Alan. “God’s Law and the Wide Screen: The Ten Commandments as Cold War “Epic”.” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 108, no. 3 (1993): 415-430.

Ohad-Karny, Yael. ““Anticipating” Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ: The controversy over Cecil B. De Mille’s The King of Kings.” Jewish History 19 (2005): 189-210.

Palmer, Allen W. “Cecil B. DeMille Writes America’s History for the 1939 World’s Fair.” Film History 5, no. 1 (1993): 36-48.

Pratt, George C. “Forty-five Years of Picture Making: An Interview with Cecil B. DeMille.” Film History 3, no. 2 (1989): 134-145.

Wagner, Phil. “Passing through Nightmares: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Plainsman and Epic Discourse in New Deal America.” In The Epic Film in World Culture, edited by Robert Burgoyne, 207-234. New York, NY: Routledge, 2011.

Smoodin, Eric. “Cecil B. De Mille,” in International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers – 2. Directors, 4th ed., edited by Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast, 248-251. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000.

Smith, Ron. “Mistaken Images in Serge: Cecil B. DeMille’s Northwest Mounted Police (1940).” 49th Parallel: An Interdisciplinary Journal of North American Studies 24.Spring (2010): 1-25.


(Entirely DeMille focused)

Gilbert, Kathryn Quigley. The Rhetorical Commandments: DeMille’s American Jeremiad. Brigham Young University, MA thesis, 1999.

Griggs,Karen Ann. The Cecil B. DeMille Collection (as Seen Through The Ten Commandment Research File): A Product of the Man and his Career. Brigham Young University, School of Library and Information Science, project, 1985.

Kozlovic, Anton Karl. ‘Behold His Mighty Hand!’ A Critical Examination of the Biblical Cinema of Cecil B. DeMille: A Film Studies Offering to Religious Education. Flinders University, PhD thesis, 2009.

Oler, Craig William. The Motion Picture in Cultural Context: An Analysis of Cecil B. DeMille’s Union Pacific. Brigham Young University, MA thesis, 1988.

Rivers,Jennifer Ann. Cecil B. DeMille’s Vision of the West: A Comparison of History and Film. Brigham Young University, MA thesis, 1996.

Topping,Jack Herbert. A Production Book for The Ten Commandments [1956]. University of Oklahoma, MFA dissertation, 1962.

Winters, Charlene Renberg. DeMille as Phoenix: The Rise, the Fall, and the Rise of an American Director. Brigham Young University, MA thesis, 1996.

Significant DeMille sections:

Aleiss,Angela Maria. From Adversaries to Allies: The American Indian in Hollywood Films, 1930-1950. Columbia University, PhD thesis, 1991.

Andersen,Velan Max. Arnold Friberg, Artist: His Life His Philosophy and His Work. Brigham Young University, MA dissertation, 1970.

Bartholome,Lynn Grossman. Samson: Hero, Martyr, or Fool? An Interdisciplinary Study. Florida State University, PhD thesis, 1990.

Blaetz, Robin. Strategies of Containment: Joan of Arc in Film. New York University, PhD thesis, 1989.

Brianton, Kevin. The Depiction of Communists and Communism in American Cinema Following the Second World War. La Trobe University, MA thesis, 1993.

D’Arc, James Vincent. 1986. Two Articles: “Darryl F. Zanuck’s Brigham Young: A Film in Context and “‘So Let it be Written…’ — The Creation of Cecil B. DeMille’s Autobiography”. Brigham Young University, PhD thesis, 1986.

Forshey, Gerald. American Religious and Biblical Spectacular Films: 1932-1973. University of Chicago, PhD thesis, 1978.

Hamand, Carol. The Effects of the Adoption of Sound on Narrative and Narration in the American Cinema. University of Wisconsin-Madison, PhD thesis, 1983.

Noah,Sara. Historical Figures in Film: The Celluloid Christ. San Jose State University, MA thesis, 1993.

Steidel,Debra Eve. That Her Soul May Remain Pure: Women in American Silent Film. American University, MA thesis, 1989.

Williams, Douglas. The Eagle or the Cross: Rome, the Bible, and Cold War America. University of California, San Diego, PhD thesis, 1996.

Archives and Libraries (primary and secondary material):

The Cecil B. DeMille Archives: Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University

Cecil B. DeMille Collection: UCLA Film and Television Archive

Cecil B. DeMille Collection: Library of Congress

The Cecil B. DeMille Collection: Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Cecil B. DeMille Collection: New York Public Library

Cecil B. DeMille: A Bibliography of Materials in the UC Berkeley Library

Documentary Audiovisual Resources:

The World’s Greatest Showman — The Legend of Cecil B. DeMille (1963, dir. Boris Sagal)

Hollywood and the Stars: The Great Directors (1964, prod. Jack Haley, Jr.)

Ready When You Are, Mr. DeMille (1981, au. Barry Norman)

The Bible According to Hollywood (1994, dir. Phillip Dye)

Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic (2004, dir. Kevin Brownlow)

The Passion: Films, Faith & Fury (2006, dir. Rory Wheeler)

Cecil B. DeMille: The Epic King (Kindle Edition) (2009, au. Daniel Alef)

Articles in Senses of Cinema

The Godless Girl by David Sanjek

Significant DeMille mentions:

“The Illusion of Magnitude”: Adapting the Epic from Film to Television by Djoymi Baker

“You Wouldn’t Even Believe What Your Eyes Can See”: Cinema’s Messianism and Fascist Reflection in John Schlesinger’s The Day of the Locust by Robert von Dassanowsky

America First: Naming the Nation in US Film edited by Mandy Merck by John Fidler

“What I Really Want to do is Direct”: Directors as Depicted on Film and Television by Richard Franklin

Notes on Some Limits of Technicolor: The Antonioni Case by Murray Pomerance

Interview with Charles Bitsch by Sally Shafto

Web Resources

DeMille Internet Sites & Topics:

Cecil B. DeMille

The official website dedicated to DeMille’s work, life and legacy. It contains an extensive biography, filmography, list of awards, photo-gallery and various film links

Cecil B. DeMille – NNDB: Tracking the Entire World

A biography of DeMille

Cecil B. DeMille – Classic Movie Favorites

This website devoted to DeMille contains his biography, filmography, and various links to his family, merchandise, Lux Radio Theatre programs etc

The National Film Registry, Library of Congress (1989-2009)

In 1993, The Cheat (1915), item 64, and in 1999, The Ten Commandments (1956), item 459, were selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry (Library of Congress)

Cecil B. DeMille – Significant Wikipedia Entries

The Ten Commandments (1923)

The King of Kings (1927)

Madam Satan (1930)

Union Pacific (1939)

Reap the Wild Wind (1942)

Samson and Delilah (1949)

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

The Ten Commandments (1956)

The Hollywood Heritage Museum (The DeMille Barn; The Lasky-DeMille Barn)

The very first major movie studio from the Golden Age of Hollywood that eventually evolved into Paramount studio and DeMille’s professional home

The Cecil B. DeMille Award – Hollywood Foreign Press Association

The Cecil B. DeMille Award is given for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment during the Annual Golden Globe Awards organised by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in Los Angeles, California, USA

Cecil Awards – Chapman University

Named after Cecil B. DeMille, these annual awards honours student achievement in Film Production, Television & Broadcast Journalism, and Public Relations & Advertising at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, Chapman University

DeMille’s Lost City – Peter Brosnan

A website dedicated to the archaeological excavation and restoration of the “The City of the Pharaoh” built by DeMille for the silent 1923 version of The Ten Commandments and then buried in the sand dunes of Guadalupe, California after filming was completed

Selected DeMille-related Online Publications:

DeMille on Rights, Liberty, and the Right to Work – The American Culture
S. T. Karnick’s article and reader feedback concerning DeMille as a serious socio-political thinker of his day

Cecil DeMille Also Speaks – Peter Milne
A 1922 analysis of DeMille’s directorial style

The Screen as a Religious Teacher – Cecil B. DeMille
C.B. discussing The King of Kings (1927)

The Religious Affiliation of Director Cecil B. DeMille
Pertinent extracts primarily from Charles Higham’s Cecil B. DeMille

Motion Picture Directing – Cecil B. DeMille
DeMille’s 1927 views about filmmaking

Costs and Grosses for the Early Films of Cecil B. DeMille – David Pierce
Article extracted from Paolo Cherchi Usai and Lorenzo Codelli’s The DeMille Legacy

Cecil B. DeMille vs. The Critics – Robert S. Birchard
A defence of DeMille

Cecil B. DeMille’s Influences on Spielberg: Raiders of the Lost Ark as example
An analysis of DeMille references within Spielberg’s cinema

Cecil B. DeMille: The Visionary Years 1915-1927
A review of six of his salient silent films

The Godless Girl (1928) – Cinema Styles
A review of the restored film

Madam Satan (1930)
An all taking!, all singing!, all dancing! movie blog focusing upon this MGM DeMille film

How to Enjoy Art, and Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments
The Encyclopedia Britannica blog about DeMille

Cecil De Mille, 77, Pioneer of Movies, Dead in Hollywood
DeMille’s 1959 obituary in The New York Times

Hollywood: Epic-Maker
DeMille’s 1959 obituary in Time

Lux Radio Theatre
DeMille hosted this classic radio programme from 1 June 1936 to 22 January 1945 and made his introductory sound bite “Greetings from Hollywood” an iconic sound signature worldwide

DeMille trivia

DeMille quotes

Selected DeMille Filmic Offerings:

(C.B. Trailers and Film Excerpts)

The Squaw Man (1914 excerpt)
Carmen (1915 excerpt)
The Cheat (1915 excerpt)
Joan the Woman (1917 excerpt)
Romance of the Redwoods(1917 excerpt)
Male and Female (1919 excerpt)
The Affairs of Anatol (1921 excerpt)
Manslaughter (1922 excerpt)
The Ten Commandments (1923 excerpt)
The King of Kings (1927 trailer)
Madam Satan (1930 extract)
The Sign of the Cross (1932 excerpt)
Cleopatra (1934 extract)
The Crusades(1935 excerpt)
The Plainsman (1936 trailer)
Union Pacific (1939 trailer)
North West Mounted Police (1940 excerpt)
Samson and Delilah (1949 excerpt)
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952 trailer)
The Ten Commandments (1956 trailer #1)
The Ten Commandments (1956 trailer #2)
The Ten Commandments (1956 trailer #3)

(C.B. on YouTube)

Cecile B. DeMille 1956 (biography excerpt) [incorrect first name]
DeMille and the March of Dimes (polo vaccine promotional advertisement)
DeMille’s Lost Set Rough (1923 The Ten Commandments)
DeMille’s Lost City of the Pharaoh (1923 The Ten Commandments)
Cecil B. DeMille’s Hussy (1927 The King of Kings – colour)
Hollywood Stories: DeMille Commands (1956 The Ten Commandments)
Leonard Maltin on The Ten Commandments (1956 version)
10 Things I Hate About Commandments (parody trailer: 1956 The Ten Commandments)
Supermoses (parody trailer: 1956 The Ten Commandments)
Star Trek 2009 Trailer – The Ten Commandments Version (parody trailer: 1956 version)
Love God, Love People (Cecil B. DeMille Edition) (Rolling Hills Community Church advertisement)
Gloria Swanson – “All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” (Sunset Blvd. 1950 excerpt)
Home for the Holidays (comedy short: DeMille as a zombie)
Ayn Rand meets Cecil B. DeMille, Part 1 (lecture: Dr. Michael S. Berliner)
Ayn Rand meets Cecil B. DeMille, Part 2 (lecture: Dr. Michael S. Berliner)

About The Author

Anton Karl Kozlovic is a graduate of the Australian Film, Television & Radio School (AFTRS) and has a PhD about celluloid religion and the biblical cinema of Cecil B. DeMille from Flinders University, Australia. He publishes predominantly in the religion-and-film field and has guest edited the “Exploring Religion and Popular Film” special issue of the Australian Religion Studies Review (2008, vol. 21, no. 3) and has multiple film entries within the Encyclopedia of Religion and Film and the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception.

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