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Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 7, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743289552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743289559
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.6 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* DeMille wasn’t the sole originator of the huger-than-huge Hollywood movie, but he was one of its most successful purveyors. And unlike some silent-film auteurs, DeMille made the change to talkies seamlessly in a career that spanned more than 50 years of stage and screen hits across genres. Aided by access to DeMille family papers unavailable to previous biographers, Eyman, a seasoned biographer of Hollywood heavyweights, undertakes an exhaustive and evenhanded look at DeMille and his oeuvre. Whereas Sidney Lumet thought “DeMille vulgarized everything D. W. Griffith did,” Eyman finds that “DeMille was always a populist filmmaker, like Frank Capra,” albeit one who “took serious . . . successful flyers at Art.” And such flyers he took: his The Ten Commandments (1923 and 1956) and The King of Kings (1927) are gaudy touchstones of epic filmmaking grandeur and glorifications of conventional Christian values, but he also directed The Volga Boatman (1928), “a surprisingly sympathetic account of the Russian Revolution.” In his career, DeMille directed a veritable who’s who of Hollywood stars and also found time to appear in films as an actor, his best-known role perhaps being as himself in Billy Wilder’s 1950 masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard. Eyman’s sprawling biography fully gives the master his due. --Mike Tribby

About 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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Customer Reviews

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I've always liked Cecil B. DeMille.
Grigory's Girl
Much better would have been something simpler like "Director" or "Showman."
Christopher Barat
Film buffs will find this one of the better biographies.
Dr. James Gardner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Barat on October 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The legendary director is at last ready for his OWN close-up as Eyman -- with excellent biographies of John Ford and L.B. Mayer already under his belt -- draws upon previously unavailable archival matter to craft this fascinating volume. My only real quarrel with the book is its title, which seems a little... I don't know... cotton-candyish for such an imperious figure. Much better would have been something simpler like "Director" or "Showman." C.B. was perhaps THE major figure in the development of the "cult and culture" of the Hollywood director (or, as he was originally called when preparing his first feature THE SQUAW MAN, "director-general") and, as Eyman makes clear, he was a legitimate artistic pioneer during the silent era, introducing challenging and daring subject matter (miscegenation, the challenges facing married people) in addition to technical tricks. During the sound era, DeMille broadened his canvas and made the "epic" his own while, at the same time, paying less and less attention to realism in scenario and dialogue. This went against the grain of contemporary practice and ensured that C.B.'s films would often go begging for critical acceptance, but, when all the elements were in place, his films were among the most effective, exhilarating, and memorable ever made.

Eyman makes a number of the same points that Simon Louvish did in his 2007 biography CECIL B. DEMILLE: A LIFE IN ART but is considerably easier on DeMille's politics and personality in general. The fact that Eyman was writing a bio authorized by the DeMille estate may have influenced the tone of the book somewhat, but the manuscript is certainly not sycophantic; rather, it is, as the slogan goes, "fair and balanced," which is all that one can ask when it comes to such a controversial figure.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Grigory's Girl on October 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've always liked Cecil B. DeMille. He's a fascinating man and one of old Hollywood's most popular (probably the most popular, in terms of name recognition and box office) filmmakers. But this book has managed to take my opinion of DeMille and make it even stronger. This is one of the best filmmaker biographies I've ever read, ranking it up there with Kevin Brownlow's masterful book on David Lean, Tag Gallagher's book on John Ford, and Barth David Schwartz's book on Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Not only does Eyman cover DeMille's career, he also sheds light on the man himself, his eccentricities (which are rather charming), his work ethic, the way he made films, the way he treated others (he was very kind, loyal, and quite often willing more often than not to help out old friend and colloberators), and his struggles with Paramount and the triumphs of his work. Despite being an authorised biography, it is no whitewash. Eyman goes over about DeMille's marriage and his mistresses, and DeMille's attempt to take down Joseph L. Mankewicz during the heated, legendary battle of the Director's Guild during the McCarthy era (as we know, DeMille lost, rather badly). It also shows that DeMille hired Edgar G. Robinson at a time he was blacklisted, so DeMille's politics were a little more complicated than the simple right vs. left garbage. Eyman interviews many actors and technicians who worked with DeMille, and many show deep respect for him, and admire his absolute belief in what he was doing.

DeMille started out in the silent days of cinema, and was always sorrowful that those days were gone. He excelled at silent filmmaking, and managed the transition to sound without losing his perspective or his career.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Heise on October 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Mea culpa: I am Scott Eyman's researcher here in SoCal, so I admit to a bias here. That being said, this is his best book, and since my previous fave was his book on Lubitsch, it has taken this long to find both a book and subject to top that one. That he has done that so brilliantly and with a genuine storyteller's gift goes without saying. This is a monumental biography of a man that when you think of Hollywood-not just of the past but what still exists-this should be the man that automatically springs to mind.

Cecil B. DeMille was one of the true pioneers of the film industry, after struggling in the legitimate theater with his wife and brother, he found his true calling behind the camera at a converted horse barn on a dusty street in a quiet town in the Los Angeles area. From that humble place was born both perhaps the greatest movie studio that has ever existed-Paramount, and films that ranged from astounding dramas (THE CHEAT, KINDLING), groundbreaking social comedies (WHY CHANGE YOUR WIFE) to epics that still define the word for all moviegoers around the world (THE KING OF KINGS, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH and two versions of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, the latter still showing on network TV every Passover even close to 60 years after it was made).

For years, many "cineastes" have looked down their noses at the films DeMille made, calling them "pure escapism" or "high camp." Eyman takes the films that, to a great deal of movie lovers are still so incredibly entertaining and fun to watch, and examines them with a sympathetic voice that puts them both into the context of their times and the personal connection with the man who sheperded them into our consiciousness.
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