cover image Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art

Cecil B. DeMille: A Life in Art

Simon Louvish. St. Martin?s/Dunne, $27.95 (507pp) ISBN 978-0-312-37733-5

London-based novelist Louvish (The Cosmic Follies ) is a former documentary filmmaker who has written biographies of W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and Mae West. Shifting from comedy to drama, he surveys the career of pioneering director DeMille in this well-researched, unauthorized biography. When the DeMille estate offered no assistance, Louvish was forced “to relate DeMille’s saga largely through his films,” so the reader gets only occasional brief glimpses of the director’s “harem” of mistresses and similar intimate items of his private life. DeMille is mainly remembered today as the creator of lavish Hollywood epics such as Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Ten Commandments (1956), but the flamboyant biblical spectacles were only a fraction of DeMille’s 80 films. His 1930s films focused on frontier America, and during that same period he became a familiar voice in American households, reaching 40 million weekly listeners as the host of the popular Lux Radio Theater. Louvish highlights the hokum and hype, but he also offers his insightful analyses of the films, capturing the “pictorial beauty” and apocalyptic aspects along with DeMille’s working methods and industry innovations. 58 b&w illus. (Mar. 4)