His parents Henry C. DeMille and Beatrice DeMille were playwrights. His father died when he was 12, and his mother supported the family by opening a school for girls and a theatrical company. Too young to enlist in the Spanish-American War, Cecil followed his brother William C. de Mille to the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, making his stage debut in 1900. For twelve years he was actor/manager of his mother’s theatrical company. In 1913, Jesse L. Lasky, Samuel Goldwyn and DeMille formed the Lasky Film Company (which years later evolved into Paramount Pictures), and the next year went west to California and produced the successful six reeler, The Squaw Man (1914), of historical significance as the first feature length film produced in Hollywood. He championed the switch from short to feature-length films and is often credited with making Hollywood the motion picture capital of the world. Rather than putting his money into known stars, he emphasized production values. He also developed stars, notably Gloria Swanson. He produced and directed 70 films and was involved in many more. Many of his films were romantic sexual comedies (he is supposed to have believed that Americans were curious only about money and sex). His best-known were biblical epics: The King of Kings (1927), The Ten Commandments (1923), and The Crusades (1935). From 1936 to 1945 he hosted and directed the hour-long “Lux Radio Theatre”, which brought the actors and stories of many movies to the airwaves and further established him as the symbol of Hollywood. He appeared as himself in the classic Sunset Blvd. (1950) with his former star Gloria Swanson as the fictitious disturbed former silent film actress Norma Desmond. His niece Agnes de Mille was the acclaimed choreographer of both the original Broadway production and film version of Oklahoma! (1955).
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