Cecil B. DeMille, unknown date.
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Cecil B. DeMille
Ceremony held on Thursday, August 7, 1941
(at the Paramount Studios)
Born: Cecil Blount DeMille, August 12, 1881, in Ashfield, Massachusetts
Age at the time of the ceremony: 59
Died: January 21, 1959, in Hollywood, California, age 77
Cecil B. DeMille. The very words mean "Hollywood Director." Grounded in the stage, DeMille came out to Hollywood to become one of its pioneers, working with Adolph Zukor and Jesse Lasky to build Paramount Pictures. His films were known for their epic scope, sure-footed dramatics, and box-office appeal.

Born into a theatrical family, young Cecil spent his first three years in Washington North Carolina. His father Henry, moved the family to New York City in 1884, where he became a big wheel at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Henry was also a lay reader in the Episcopal Church, so Cecil had Bible stories and the Scriptures read to him from infancy.

When Henry died in 1893, wife Beatrice opened an acting school and became a play broker while sending Cecil to military school in Chester Pennsylvania. Graduating in 1900, DeMille immediately got a job with Charles Frohman, acting in and directing plays. His first breakthrough came with 1913's Reckless Age, allowing a relationship with David Belasco, but DeMille's melodramatic sensibility failed to ignite the stage world, and before long was barely eking out a living; he now had a wife, Constance, and daughter, Cecilia, to suppoort.

Chosen to direct a western film by the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company (Lasky, a Broadway producer, was interested in making films with partner Samuel Goldfish — later Goldwyn), DeMille led a unit out to Hollywood to make a 60-minute version of The Squaw Man — widely considered the first feature to be shot in Hollywood (released in February 1914).

DeMille was a quick study, adapting stage technique with the rapidly developing language of the movies. DeMille fit into the plans of Adolph Zukor, who was a proponent of feature film spectacles. His Famous Players company merged with Lasky, and before long, Paramount Pictures became the studio DeMille was working for. Several of DeMille-directed films made pots of money: Male and Female (released in November 1919), Manslaughter (released in September 1921), and The Ten Commandments (released in November 1923).

DeMille had a falling out with Paramount, and by 1925, had set up his own production company, becoming one of the first "independent" producers — calling all his own shots. By this time, Cecil B. DeMille was the star of all of his films, with his name prominently "above the title." DeMille directed some of the output, but was waiting for his magnum opus: a telling of the story of Jesus Christ.

King of Kings
had its World Premiere as the opening attraction at Sid Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Wednesday, May 18, 1927. The picture played twice a day, reserved seats, for 24 weeks, and grossed more than a half million dollars.

As the sound era opened, DeMille shed no tears over silent films. Quickly fusing sound technology to his own notions of what films could do, DeMille was back at Paramount, where he enjoyed his first sound film success, The Sign of the Cross with Fredric March (released in February 1932). After this, DeMille's pattern was set: big, historical (if not Biblical), epics with lots of stars, lavish sets and costumes, sex, money, death, faith, violence — the works. They gushed out in a torrid stream: Cleopatra with Claudette Colbert (released in October 1934), The Crusades with Loretta Young (released in October 1935), The Plainsman with Gary Cooper (released in November 1936), The Buccaneer with Fredric March (released in February 1938), Union Pacific with Barbara Stanwyck (released in May 1939), and North West Mounted Police with Gary Cooper (released in October 1940).

In fact, DeMille was so busy that when Sid Grauman suggested that DeMille add his footprints to the Chinese Theatre Forecourt, DeMille had a typically grandstanding reply: "Bring the cement to me here at the studio." So that is what they did. They took a break from shooting Reap the Wild Wind (released in June 1942), and made the imprints at the studio, which were then placed in the Forecourt with a gold frame around them. DeMille turned tables on Sid by having Grauman make his footprints on the Paramount lot on October 20, 1943, but they seem to have vanished.

After World War II, DeMille began to slow down, taking more time to devise films which would bring people back into theatre by offering them something which they couldn't get on television: more spectacle: Unconquered with Gary Cooper (released in October 1947), Samson and Delilah with Hedy Lamarr (released in January 1950), The Greatest Show on Earth with Charlton Heston (released in May 1952, and which won the Best Picture Oscar for DeMille as producer), and of course, DeMille's swan song, The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston (released in October 1956).

The Ten Commandments
remake broke DeMille's health. He produced, but did not direct the remake of The Buccaneer with Charlton Heston (released in December 1958). In early 1959, DeMille's heart gave out. He was 77. His Forecourt block was re-dedicated at a ceremony marking the 50th Anniversary of the release of King of Kings on Tuesday, May 24, 1977.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Cecil B. DeMille Forecourt block. Executed by Jean Klossner at Paramount Studios, Thursday, August 7, 1941. 49 x 41 inches.
Paramount Pictures, Hollywood, California. Cecil B. DeMille imprint ceremony, Thursday, August 7, 1941. Sid Grauman observes as Cecil B. DeMille signs his autograph whil Martha O'Driscoll and Susan Hayward look on.
Paramount Pictures, Hollywood, California. Sid Grauman imprint ceremony, Wednesday, October 20, 1943. Cecil B. DeMille observes as Sid Grauman places his hand in the cement while an unknown woman and Gary Cooper look on.
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