by Cecilia de Mille Presley and Mark A. Vieira, introduction by Martin Scorsese
(Running Press, $60)
Reviewed by Larry Cox
One hundred years ago, Cecil B. DeMille made the first feature film ever shot in Hollywood. “The Squad Man,” which was based on a 1905 stage play, featured Dustin Farnum and was about 75 minutes in length. Beulah Marie Dix, who wrote the play, also was responsible for the movie scenario. Although fairly primitive when viewed today, it nevertheless is a seminal work that redefined film-making in Hollywood and helped establish DeMille as a major director.
More than any other filmmaker in history, Cecil B. DeMille mastered the art of the epic through his legendary motion pictures. Although he won only one Oscar (best picture for “The Greatest Show on Earth”), he captured a worldwide audience with his “cast of thousands” and powerful images, including the parting of the Red Sea in his blockbuster “The Ten Commandments.”
In a fascinating new book co-written by his granddaughter, Cecilia de Mille Presley, the man and his work are fully documented, supplemented with concept paintings, rare stills, props, costume designs and even DeMille’s thoughts on his various films. The book draws heavily from the filmmaker’s archives.
Cecilia de Mille Presley, a leading activist for the preservation of cinematic history and a producer of documentaries, shares many personal memories of her grandfather, including the Egyptian expedition she experienced with the director during on-location filming of “The Ten Commandments.”
This is an extraordinary book about an extraordinary man. The images throughout the book are, as might be expected, both impressive and informative. This is a fitting tribute that celebrates a legendary filmmaker and his craft.