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 ultra-conservative 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 'neo-conservatism' of our own times.
The paradox of DeMille goes deeper, as despite his fame, most of his 70 films, of which 50 were silent pictures, remain unknown even to avid film fans, though his first 1923 version of The Ten Commandments and his 1927 tale of the 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 battlefield of clashing values and temptations.
Simon Louvish tells the tale of Cecil B. DeMille through his work: a major re-examination 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.