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Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille Hardcover – 7 Sep 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (7 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743289552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743289559
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 4.1 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 785,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. W. Bainbridge on 20 July 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book takes you back to the golden age of Hollywood,Cecil B DeMille comes to life thanks to the authors writing skills.A giant in the history of Hollywood,a monster at times,always driven ,married but unfaithful and yet religous.The critics loved his early work but Cecil understood the power of popular appeal and had very few failures,His Union Pacific won the first palm door award at Cannes in 1940 and his best two movies the King of Kings and the Ten Commandments (1956) will be watched forever,DeMille knew his public,an arch conservative but not the bigot his enemies painted him to be.I recomend this book a rattling good read one to read again and again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What more can be said about the genius of Cecil B DeMille? A man who stood between two rattlesnakes, and shot both of them. Saw a man shot dead in front of his eyes. Considered joining the Mexican Revolution. Was in at the birth of a major Hollywood studio. Started his own airline. Invested in property. Had a heart attack while directing the Exodus, and hardly anyone knew. Indirectly enabled Harry Cohn to found Columbia Pictures... the list goes on and on. Oh yes, he made great motion pictures too.

This, as far as I'm concerned is the best book on DeMille yet, a real page turner. It should appeal to anyone interested in DeMille, Hollywood history or the story of an energetic man going for it all. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a can't put it down work. Tremendously well researched and well written biography of one of the giants of cinema. Definately one of the best of it's kind. If this is your interest I urge you to read it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 23 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Excellent and fair 3 Oct. 2010
By Christopher Barat - Published on Amazon.com
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. I gather than Eyman is probably a liberal, but his treatment of DeMille on political matters is eminently even-handed, just as it was in the case of L.B. Mayer. DeMille's famous decision to refuse to pay a $1 fee to the American Federation of Radio Artists to support an anti-"right to work" campaign -- which cost him the right to ever appear on radio and TV in a non-publicity-related capacity for the rest of his life -- is put in its proper perspective as a decision based on principle, though C.B.'s general anti-union sentiments are also made quite clear. DeMille's support of loyalty oaths and such during the blacklist era is qualified by his decision to give work to such "tainted" actors as Edward G. Robinson. The weirdness of DeMille's personal life -- he was a devoted family man who also kept a trio of mistresses on the side -- and the man's legendary tantrums get a full airing, but so too do C.B.'s frequent kindnesses and generous dealings with associates and acquaintances. The relationship between C.B. and his brother William and the description of DeMille's capable handling of his role in Sunset Blvd. are particular highlights of the narrative.

Anyone interested in the history of Hollywood will certainly enjoy this book.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
One of the greatest biographies of a film director I've ever read... 4 Oct. 2010
By Grigory's Girl - Published on Amazon.com
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. He was one of the few hollywood directors to go out with considerable aplomb and panache. His last 2 films were The Greatest Show on Earth (which won him an Oscar for Best Picture, his only win for Best Picture), and the legendary The Ten Commandments. Many have disliked DeMille because of his politics (he was a Republican, even though the book mentions that DeMille voted for FDR in 1932 mainly because the country was in such bad shape) and his (at times) corny yet mesmerizing films.

DeMille deserves respect for not only being his own man, but for managing to have a staying power that most directors would envy. He came from a time when Hollywood filmmakers were not afraid of being themselves and had much more forceful personalities. This is a magnificent book, one that I would recommend over and over.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great biography of a legendary film maker 19 July 2011
By Dr. James Gardner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When I pick up a book about a Hollywood personality I'm looking for 3 things: (1) some basic info about their personal history, especially any childhood experiences that helped shaped them, (2) lots of info about their films and the people they worked with, and (3) positive and negative perspectives from a wide variety of sources. Too often these books tend to give us too much personality and too little filmography (e.g., William Wellman's "A Short Time for Insanity"), or one- dimensionally drawn to portray the person is a too favorable light (e.g., Anthony Quinn's "One Man Tango").

So what a pleasant surprise it is to pick up Scott Eyman's 2010 book "Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille." Every few years Eyman puts out another Hollywood book - his previous works covered Louis B. Mayer (2005), John Ford (2001), Ernst Lubitsch (2000), and Mary Pickford (1991).

Eyman's book on DeMille has something for everyone. There's lots of detail about DeMille's childhood, plenty of material about his major films (and even some of the minor ones), and lots of source material, from comments by his collaborators to reviews to copies of his personal correspondence. As a plus, it's well written and easy to read, and Eyman seems more concerned with covering his life rather than painting it one color or the other.

Film buffs will find this one of the better biographies.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The eleventh juror 27 Jan. 2012
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I feel like the eleventh juror weighing in, after the previous ten reviewers all gave this book 5 stars, and here I go again, echoing their thumbs up. In fact I should have kept the number frozen at ten, to mirror the number of commandments on the stone tablets Moses brought down from his meeting with Our Lord. Anyhow Scott Eyman shows that, after a run of lackluster postwar pictures like UNCONQUERED, De Mille somehow got back on the saddle and saw off his career with the trifecta of SAMSON AND DELILAH, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. and the remake of his own TEN COMMANDMENTS. What a way to go out! Perhaps it was the anger and confusion brought on by the Cold War and by De Mille's increasing involvement with directorial politics (right wing variety) that had weakened his interest in his own movies, but something about the 50s, and his general awareness that Eisenhower wasn't going to be a troublesome radical, that set him free once again to pursue his epic canvas. Eyman's story of the making of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (second version) is worth the price of the book.

De Mille's sufferings on the set are like the trials God dealt to Job, and they make Francis Ford Coppola's wellknown problems during the filming of APOCALYPSE NOW seem like a walk in the park. De Mille killed himself little by little, not wanting to let Paramount down. Didn't Coppola work for Paramount too? It must be a studio that inspires intense loyalty among its directors. Eyman shows us how, over decades, Paramount built up its reputation as being a directors studio, nurturing talents disparate as Billy Wilder, Rouben Mamoulian, Mitchell Leisen, Preston Sturges, and De Mille himself, while making stars out of such tiny talents as Alan Ladd, Betty Hutton, Dorothy Lamour, Veronica Lake--actually wait a second, I love all the stars I just mentioned, but one has to admit that at Paramount star power took a back seat to musicals, noir, Biblical epic, whatever the big directors wanted to do with them.

Eyman's account of De Mille's passion makes me wish, for the first time, that he had lived to make ON MY HONOUR, his biopic on Baden Powell and the Boy Scout Movement, and also REVELATION, whatever the hell that was going to be--a visionary, inchoate epic that seems like a 180 degree spin on everything he had done before, like Clouzot's unmade INFERNO. Of course he was not in good health when he announced his plans to make them, but Eyman tantalizes with the details I had never heard before. That's what good old fashioned access to familyheld papers can get a good biographer.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A masterpiece about cinema's master showman 15 Oct. 2010
By J. D. Heise - Published on Amazon.com
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. This is a "warts and all" story of a life, with a look at stumbles as well as triumphs: the break with Paramount over the high cost of the first TEN COMMANDMENTS, the well-intentioned but ultimately failed attempt at independence that still produced one of the best films about Christ, and the infamous days of the witchhunts and loyalty oaths that tore apart the Director's Guild in the early 50's when DeMille tried to impose his right-wing beliefs in a way that is still extremely relevant today.
The Ten Commandments (50th Anniversary Collection)The Cecil B. DeMille Collection (Cleopatra/ The Crusades/ Four Frightened People/ Sign of the Cross/ Union Pacific)King of Kings [VHS]The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930
Yet, DeMille comes off not as an autocrat, although he had those tendencies, but as a man full of contradictions and humanity, which is not easy for a biographer to pull off, and Eyman has done that magnificently. It makes you want to go and watch as many of the man's films as you can get ahold of, and isn't that a true sign of a great biography?
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