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Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) was one of the motion picture industry's most prominent and successful pioneers. He began his career as an actor and playwright, often working with his brother William and producer David Belasco. In 1913 he formed a partnership with Jesse Lasky and Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn) called the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. The partners traveled to California to film the first feature-length motion picture produced in Hollywood, "The Squaw Man" (1914). The film, co-directed by DeMille, was a critical and financial success. The Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company soon merged with Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company and ultimately became Paramount Pictures, where DeMille became a leading producer.
By the 1920s DeMille became known for a series of successful, sophisticated sex comedies, many starring Gloria Swanson. In the 1930s and 1940s DeMille produced and directed memorable epic action-adventure films such as "The Sign of the Cross" (1932), "Cleopatra" (1934), "The Crusades" (1935) and "Samson and Delilah" (1949). In the 1950s DeMille made two of his best remembered films: "The Greatest Show on Earth" (winner of the 1952 Best Picture Academy Award) and "The Ten Commandments" (a 1956 Best Picture nominee).
The Cecil B. DeMille photographs span the years 1881-1959 (bulk 1914-1956) and encompass approximately 64 linear feet. The photographs are grouped into motion picture production photographs and subject photographs. The motion picture production photographs span the years 1914-1956 and contain files on 70 productions. The files are arranged alphabetically by film title. There are often hundreds of photographs per film, as in all three versions of "The Squaw Man" (1914, 1918 and 1931), and sometimes thousands, as in the case of "The Godless Girl" (1929), "Joan the Woman" (1916), "The Little American" (1917), "A Romance of the Redwoods" (1917), "Samson and Delilah" (1949), both versions of "The Ten Commandments" (1923 and 1956), and "Union Pacific" (1939). Within each production the files are grouped, as applicable, in the following categories: scenes, off-camera, off-camera depicting Cecil B. DeMille, research, premiere, marquee, frame enlargements, contact proofs, oversize, original negatives, copy negatives and color transparencies. Films directed by DeMille are covered extensively, with scenes and off-camera photographs showing various aspects of productions in progress. Non-performing personnel, such as crew members, technicians and visitors to the set, who are depicted in the off-camera photographs also have been identified. For example, Marlene Dietrich can be seen visiting the set for "The Ten Commandments" (1956). Studios represented include Artcraft, Lasky, MGM, Paramount and Pathé.
The subject photographs span the years 1881-1959 and contain general publicity and other photographs documenting DeMille’s social activities and personal life. They are arranged in seven subseries: awards, testimonials and honorary degrees; biography; birthdays; family; general; portraits; and pre-cinema. Files within each subseries are arranged alphabetically, with the exception of birthdays and portraits, which are arranged chronologically. The awards files contain photographs documenting honors bestowed upon DeMille by various organizations and universities. The biography files contain pictures of DeMille with various individuals or small groups. Y. Frank Freeman, Jesse Lasky, Jeanie Macpherson, Henry Wilcoxon and Adolph Zukor are well represented among the approximately 200 files. The birthday files document celebrations of DeMille’s 60th and 74th to 77th birthdays. The family files depict members of the DeMille clan, including Agnes, Cecilia, Diane, John, Katherine, William, Mrs. Cecil DeMille, and extended family, such as the Harpers. The general files contain publicity and personal photographs documenting events; recreational activities, including hunting and fishing; and travel. Items of interest include DeMille’s studio offices at Lasky, MGM and Paramount. His participation in radio broadcasts, including Lux Radio Theatre, is also depicted. The portraits are organized by decade from the 1910s through 1950s. The pre-cinema files contain photographs encompassing DeMille's life before his association with motion pictures, roughly from 1881 to 1912.
Gift of Cecilia DeMille Harper, 1977, with additions from the Cecil B. DeMille Trust, 1982-1991.
Cecil B. DeMille