Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Cecil B. DeMille
1881 - 1959

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Legendary director and Hollywood pioneer Cecil B. DeMille directed nearly 100 films, the vast majority of them silent films made before 1930.

DeMille's parents both wrote plays. After his father died, his mother supported the family by running a school for girls and a theatrical company, which DeMille helped operate for 12 years, often appearing in the productions himself. In 1913, DeMille joined with Jesse Lasky and Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn) to form with the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company in Los Angeles. DeMille urged the group to consider switching from the short, two-reel films that were popular at the time, to a full-length, six-reel feature. The company's first production was "The Squaw Man" (1914), a feature-length Western, shot in a rented horse barn and on the hills around Hollywood. "The Squaw Man," written and directed by DeMille and Oscar Apfel -- DeMille even appeared in the film as an extra -- was an enormous financial and critical success, and helped transform Los Angeles into a film center. ("The Squaw Man" was also the only film to be made three times by the same director. DeMille made another silent version of the film in 1918, and a sound version in 1931.)

In 1916, the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company company merged with Adolph Zukor's Famous Players to form the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. Over the years, with additional mergers and corporate realignments, that corporation became Paramount Pictures, and DeMille was the creative force at the studio for decades.

In addition to directing, DeMille often worked as writer, editor, producer and sometimes even as actor. More than anything else, DeMille was known for his massive Biblical and historical epics, including "The Ten Commandments" (1923 and 1956), "The King of Kings" (1927), "The Sign of the Cross" (1932), "Cleopatra" (1934) and "Samson and Delilah" (1949). DeMille also directed "The Plainsman" (1936), "Union Pacific" (1939) and "Unconquered" (1947).

DeMille, one of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Director only once, for "The Greatest Show On Earth" (1952), but he did not win, although he did take home an Academy Award for his role as producer when the film won the Best Picture award. He also won the Academy Award for Best Picture for "The Ten Commandments" (1956). In 1950, DeMille was awarded an honorary Academy Award, "for 37 years of brilliant showmanship," and he won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1953.

As an actor, DeMille appeared as himself in several films, including "Star Spangled Rhythm" (1942), "Variety Girl" (1947), "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) and "The Buster Keaton Story" (1957). He also supplied the voice of God in "The Ten Commandments" (1956).

DeMille is buried next to his wife of 56 years, Constance Adams DeMille (1874 - 1960).

DeMille was born Cecil Blount DeMille on Aug. 12, 1881, in Ashfield, MA. He died on Jan. 21, 1959, in Los Angeles, CA.

Back to biographies page