Cecil B. DeMille
A Life in ArtBook - 2008
Cecil B. DeMille is Hollywood's most enduring legend, remembered, and often reviled, for his grandiose biblical sagas, such as Samson and Delilah and his 1956 version of The Ten Commandments, with its cast of tens of thousands before computer graphics made the modern epic mundane. Many judged DeMille a dinosaur both for his movies and his ultraconservative politics. But in his vision of the Bible as an American frontier narrative he recast this old trend in American culture as a cinematic precursor of the "neoconservatism" of our own times.
The paradox of DeMille goes deeper, as despite his fame, most of his seventy ?lms, of which ?fty were silent pictures, remain unknown even to avid ?lm fans, though his ?rst 1923 version of The Ten Commandments and his 1927 tale of Jesus Christ, King of Kings, linger in the imagination. A founder-pioneer of Hollywood as an industry, DeMille was an unsung auteur, a master of increasingly bizarre narratives, with tales of adultery and divorce, hedonism and sin, in an age in which modernity, the consumer society, and the pursuit of money made America a battle'eld of clashing values and temptations.
Simon Louvish tells the tale of Cecil B. DeMille through his work: a major reexamination of Hollywood's most monumental founder. Savant or sinner, artist or hack, defender of freedom or a hypocritical opportunist who embraced the golden calf of sheer commercialism, DeMille is a pervasive puzzle---a mirror of the larger puzzle and contradictions of America itself.