Cecil B. DeMille


Cecil Blount DeMille (August 12, 1881 – January 21, 1959) was an American filmmaker. Between 1914 and 1958, he made a total of 70 features, both silent and sound films. He is acknowledged as a founding father of the American cinema and the most commercially successful producer-director in film history. His films were distinguished by their epic scale and by his cinematic showmanship. His silent films included social dramas, comedies, Westerns, farces, morality plays, and historical pageants.

DeMille began his career as a stage actor in 1900. He later moved to writing and directing stage productions, some with Jesse Lasky, who was then a vaudeville producer. DeMille’s first film, The Squaw Man (1914), was also the first feature film shot in Hollywood. Its interracial love story made it commercially successful and it first publicized Hollywood as the home of the U.S. film industry. The continued success of his productions led to the founding of Paramount Pictures with Lasky and Adolph Zukor. His first biblical epic, The Ten Commandments (1923), was both a critical and commercial success; it held the Paramount revenue record for twenty-five years.

DeMille directed The King of Kings (1927), with H.B. Warner, Dorothy Cumming, Ernest Torrence, Joseph Schildkraut, James Neill; a biography of Jesus, which gained approval for its sensitivity and reached more than 800 million viewers. The Sign of the Cross (1932), with Fredric March, Elissa Landi, Claudette Colbert, Charles Laughton, Ian Keith, and Arthur Hohl; is said to be the first sound film to integrate all aspects of cinematic technique. Cleopatra (1934), with Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon; was his first film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. After more than thirty years in film production, DeMille reached a pinnacle in his career with Samson and Delilah (1949), with Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature, George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, Henry Wilcoxon; a biblical epic which became the highest-grossing film of 1950. Along with biblical and historical narratives, he also directed films oriented toward “neo-naturalism”, which tried to portray the laws of man fighting the forces of nature.

He received his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director for his circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), with Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, James Stewart, Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahame, and Lyle Bettger; which won both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama. His last and best known film, The Ten Commandments (1956), with an all star cast including Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, John Derek, Woody Strode, and Vincent Price; also a Best Picture Academy Award nominee, is currently the eighth-highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation. In addition to his Best Picture Awards, he received an Academy Honorary Award for his film contributions, the Palme d’Or (posthumously) for Union Pacific (1939), a DGA Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. He was the first recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, which was named in his honor. DeMille’s reputation as a filmmaker has grown over time and his work has influenced many other films and directors.

Other notable films include The Plainsman (1936), with Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, James Ellison, Charles Bickford; The Buccaneer (1938), with Fredric Marcc, Franciska Gaal, Akim Tamiroff, Margot Grahame, Walter Brennan, Keith, Spring Byington, Douglass Dumbrille, Beulah Bondi, and Anthony Quinn; Union Pacific (1939), with Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Tamiroff, Robert Preston, Lynne Overman, and Brian Donlevy; North West Mounted Police (1940), with Cooper, Madeleine Carroll, Paulette Goddard, Preston Foster, Robert Preston, Tamiroff, Lon Chaney Jr., and George Bancroft; Reap the Wild Wind (1942), with John Wayne, Goddard, Raymond Massey, Robert Preston, and Susan Hayward; The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944), with Cooper, Laraine Day, Signe Hasso, Dennis O’Keefe, Carol Thurston; and Unconquered (1947), with Cooper, Goddard, Boris Karloff, Cecil Kellaway, Ward Bond, Howard Da Silva, Katherine DeMille, C. Aubrey Smith, and Mike Mazurki.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

Silent films

  • The Squaw Man (1914) – co-director
  • Brewster’s Millions (1914) – uncredited co-director, lost
  • The Master Mind (1914) – uncredited co-director, lost
  • The Only Son (1914) – co-director, lost
  • The Man on the Box (1914) – uncredited co-directed
  • The Call of the North (1914)
  • The Virginian (1914)
  • What’s His Name (1914)
  • The Man from Home (1914)
  • Rose of the Rancho (1914)
  • The Ghost Breaker (1914) – co-director, lost
  • The Girl of the Golden West (1915)
  • After Five (1915) – co-director
  • The Warrens of Virginia (1915)
  • The Unafraid (1915)
  • The Captive (1915)
  • The Wild Goose Chase (1915) – lost
  • The Arab (1915) – lost
  • Chimmie Fadden (1915)
  • Kindling (1915)
  • Carmen (1915)
  • Chimmie Fadden Out West (1915)
  • The Cheat (1915)
  • Temptation (1915) – lost
  • The Golden Chance (1915)
  • The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1916)
  • The Heart of Nora Flynn (1916)
  • Maria Rosa (1916)
  • The Dream Girl (1916) – lost
  • Joan the Woman (1917)
  • A Romance of the Redwoods (1917)
  • The Little American (1917)
  • The Woman God Forgot (1917)
  • Nan of Music Mountain (1917) – uncredited co-director
  • The Devil-Stone (1917)
  • The Whispering Chorus (1918)
  • Old Wives for New (1918)
  • We Can’t Have Everything (1918) – lost
  • Till I Come Back to You (1918)
  • The Squaw Man (1918) – lost
  • Don’t Change Your Husband (1919)
  • For Better, for Worse (1919)
  • Male and Female (1919)
  • Why Change Your Wife? (1920)
  • Something to Think About (1920)
  • Forbidden Fruit (1921)
  • The Affairs of Anatol (1921)
  • Fool’s Paradise (1921)
  • Saturday Night (1922)
  • Manslaughter (1922)
  • Adam’s Rib (1923)
  • The Ten Commandments (1923)
  • Triumph (1924)
  • Feet of Clay (1924) – lost
  • The Golden Bed (1925)
  • The Road to Yesterday (1925)
  • The Volga Boatman (1926)
  • The King of Kings (1927)
  • The Godless Girl (1929)

Sound films

  • Dynamite (1929)
  • Madam Satan (1930)
  • The Squaw Man (1931)
  • The Sign of the Cross (1932)
  • This Day and Age (1933)
  • Four Frightened People (1934)
  • Cleopatra (1934)
  • The Crusades (1935)
  • The Plainsman (1936)
  • The Buccaneer (1938)
  • Union Pacific (1939)
  • North West Mounted Police (1940)
  • Reap the Wild Wind (1942)
  • The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944)
  • Unconquered (1947)
  • Samson and Delilah (1949)
  • The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
  • The Ten Commandments (1956)