Family Tree Tuesday – Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille was an American film director and Academy Award-winning film producer in both silent and sound films. His best-known films are Cleopatra; Samson and Delilah; The Greatest Show on Earth, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture; and The Ten Commandments, which was his last and most successful film.
Cecil Blount DeMille was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts on August 12, 1881 to Henry Churchill and Matilda Beatrice de Mille. DeMille, but grew up in Washington, North Carolina. His parents were both of German Jewish heritage. His mother emigrated from England with her parents in 1871 when she was 18, where they settled in Brooklyn, New York. He altered the punctuation of his last name when he went to Hollywood, claiming that it fit better on marquees. DeMille had a reputation for tyrannical behavior on the set, and he despised actors who were unwilling to take physical risks. He was one of the first directors in Hollywood to become a celebrity in his own right. In 1954, DeMille was sought out by Harold E. Talbott , the Secretary of the Air Force to help design the cadet uniforms at the newly established United States Air Force Academy which were ultimately adopted, and worn by cadets today.
Henry Churchill de Mille was an American playwright who began in amateur theater and later as an actor with A. M. Palmer’s organization before returning to teaching at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He received his B.A and A.M. degrees from Columbia College in 1875 and 1879 and studied for the ministry before choosing instead to teach and eventually serve as vice-principle at the Lockwood Academy in Brooklyn and later teach for some semesters at the Columbia Grammar School in Manhattan.
Cecil’s older brother, William C. deMille, was a successful Broadway playwright and was one of the silent film era’s most respected directors. He was an early member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He co-hosted the 1st Academy Awards in 1929 with Douglas Fairbanks and solely hosted the 2nd Academy Awards the following year. DeMille helped found the USC Film School in 1929, he was active on the faculty there until his death after his East Coast theatrical career failed to revive in the early 1930s. He continued to be known as “deMille”, while his daughter Agnes chose “de Mille”. He married Anna Angela George in 1903, the daughter of notable economist Henry George. They had two children, choreographer Agnes de Mille and actress Peggy George.
Cecil married actress Constance Adams, she was the daughter of Judge Frederic Adams, New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, and Ella Adams. They adopted a daughter, Katherine Lester in the early 1920s, she later married actor Anthony Quinn in 1937. They also adopted two sons, John and Richard. Richard became a notable filmmaker, author and psychologist. He wrote a memoir of author and screenwriter Lorna Moon in 1998 revealing that William C. deMille was his father and Moon was his biological mother; and he had been adopted by Cecil B. and Constance DeMille to avoid a family scandal.
Check out Cecil B. DeMille’s family tree and see how you may be related!