Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"I'm ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille"

Today's the birthday of Cecil B. DeMille, born in 1881, in the Berkshires where his parents were vacationing. He was 31 when he directed a film called The Squaw Man. It was the first feature produced by the Paramount film studio and one of the very first to come out of an obscure little town in southern California called Hollywood.

DeMille became the most famous film director in the world, his name associated with glamor and spectacle. He instructed famous actors how to act. He parted the Red Sea twice, or directed Moses to do so, in 1923 and again in 1956 when Charlton Heston played Moses.

DeMille played himself at the end of Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, helping to lure the mad former film star Norma Desmond out of her mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Gloria Swanson ends the picture with the famous line "I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille." Cecil B. DeMille appears three times in A Book of Ages.

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