Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille

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Overview

The authoritative biography of the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille: “if this were a movie, it would get four stars, two thumbs up, and an A” ( The Dallas Morning News ).

• Hollywood history: Cecil B. DeMille was among the earliest filmmakers who discovered some of the biggest stars in film, including Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert, and later, Charlton Heston. DeMille’s greatest successes came with biblical spectacles, notably The Ten Commandments and King of Kings . When ...

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Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille

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Overview

The authoritative biography of the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille: “if this were a movie, it would get four stars, two thumbs up, and an A” ( The Dallas Morning News ).

• Hollywood history: Cecil B. DeMille was among the earliest filmmakers who discovered some of the biggest stars in film, including Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert, and later, Charlton Heston. DeMille’s greatest successes came with biblical spectacles, notably The Ten Commandments and King of Kings . When he finally won an Academy Award for best picture with The Greatest Show on Earth, he had been making films for forty years.

• A fully realized portrait : DeMille has often been reduced to a caricature: a hack who made empty epic spectacles, a right-winger and McCarthy supporter during the blacklist, and a tyrannical director who abused his actors. Eyman instead presents a balanced account of a remarkably rich life.

• An authoritative biography : Scott Eyman is the first biographer to have access to DeMille’s letters and other personal papers for publication. Eyman settles for nothing less than the real man, as he did in his biographies of John Ford and Louis B. Mayer. The result is a unique history of Hollywood’s earliest years and the rediscovery of a major filmmaker.

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Editorial Reviews

Adam Bernstein
Empire of Dreams, Scott Eyman's biography of DeMille and the first written with complete access to the filmmaker's archives, provides a compelling window into the rise of Hollywood as a movie capital. Through revealing anecdotes and fresh research, Eyman adroitly navigates DeMille's contradictions.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
Parodied for decades as a jodhpur-wearing, megalomaniacal tyrant of the old-school Hollywood type, Cecil B. DeMille wielded a prominent influence on film history that can no longer be denied. More than 50 years after his death and almost a century after he directed his first film in Hollywood, his life and work is being reevaluated. This is the second full-length biography of DeMille to be published in the last two years and the first to employ DeMille's letters and personal papers. Eyman (Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer) has written a vivid, well-researched biography of a man he describes as "primarily Edwardian" but who was such a vibrant showman that he "sustained a primarily nineteenth-century vision into the middle of the twentieth."Verdict Simon Louvish's 2008 Cecil B. DeMille focuses more on DeMille's films, while Eyman's work concentrates on him as a man and a director. Both excellent biographies will appeal to film historians, film buffs, and readers interested in the representation of religion in film. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/10.]—Teri Shiel, Westfield State Coll. Lib., MA
Kirkus Reviews

Palm Beach Post books editor Eyman (Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Times of Louis B. Mayer, 2005, etc.) presents the truly epic life of director Cecil B. DeMille (1881–1959) in grand style, befitting the great man, who, in addition to helming some of the most iconic movies of all time, did as much as anyone to establish Hollywood as the world's filmmaking center.

Both an autocratic, politically conservative martinet and generous, tolerant paterfamilias, DeMille bestrode early Hollywood as a colossus, employing a genius for spectacle and an instinct for headlong narrative drive to make movies that continue to beguile and amaze. The author charts DeMille's amazing professional course with justifiable awe. The tyro apprenticed with legendary theatrical David Belasco, from whom he gleaned the mechanics of visual spectacle; began what would become the Paramount movie studio in a barn with fellow strivers Samuel Goldwyn and Jesse Lasky; mastered the art of filmmaking with stunning speed; and directed a series of mammoth productions—including The Ten Commandments (1923),The King of Kings (1927),The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)—that mesmerized audiences and remain touchstones in the history of film. Eyman's copious research, including interviews with DeMille's contemporaries and many excerpts from the director's personal correspondence, reveals a playful, witty, restless personality, fully aware of his foreboding image and willing to poke fun at it. There is much compelling material on his complicated rivalry with older brother William, a writer and sometime collaborator, and on his relationships with his wife, children and mistresses. Better still are accounts of the productions of his key films, rife with amusing anecdotes (DeMille's hatred of diffident actor Victor Mature is a hoot) and fascinating insights into the sheer physical and aesthetic mechanics that went into realizing his oversized visions for the screen. DeMille's controversial political legacy—he was no friend of unions or communists—receives a balanced and informative treatment, completing a fully dimensional portrait of a protean American artist.

Engrossing and comprehensive—an essential text for readers interested in the history of movies.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743289566
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 9/21/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 616
  • Sales rank: 309,370
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Eyman has written eleven books, including biographies of Hollywood legends such as John Wayne (a New York Times bestseller), Ernst Lubitsch, Cecil B. DeMille, and Louis B. Mayer. He also collaborated with Robert Wagner on two books. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He was formerly books editor of The Palm Beach Post. He lives with his wife, Lynn, in West Palm Beach. Visit him at ScottEyman.com.
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