Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1993.5.U65 W29 2001
In the chapter “Mr. Movies—Cecil B. Demille and Filmmaking in Hollywood’s Golden Age,” the author chronicles Cecil B. Demille’s professional and personal life in Hollywood from 1913 until his death in 1959. DeMille came to Hollywood in 1913 when he could no longer make money working for stage productions. Early on, DeMille revealed he was a stickler for detail. This proved successful, as the majority of the films he turned out were popular. As his career progressed, DeMille had a clear progression of styles, from sex comedies in the 1920s to overblown epics with seven figure budgets in the 1940s. Following his financial success (he made more in a week than most people made in a year), DeMille stayed true to stereotype—he bought a fancy car, a fancy house as well as a weekend home with a pool and the iron gates from the set of The King of Kongs.
The immediate connection to the film The Day of the Locust in this chapter is the mention of the film The Buccaneer starring Anthony Quinn. This is the film whose premiere immediately preceded the riot at the end of the film. However, as the chapter goes on to describe the productions and life of Cecil B. DeMille, more similarities to The Day of the Locust appear. The big budget epics that DeMille was known for directly coincide with the production that appears in the film. It seems almost arbitrary when Tod is asked, “What do you know about Waterloo?” and this fascination with epic historical recreations coincides with those that brought DeMille success. Even the autocratic style with which the director in the film shouts at the cast of the film matches the reported personality of DeMille. Further, DeMille’s excesses–a large, elaborate house with a pool as well as fancy cars and dress—directly tie to those of Claude Estee in the film. However, the chapter conveys a depth to DeMille’s life that clearly differentiates him from Estee. While Estee is a caricature designed to illustrate the alleged emptiness that pervades even the lives of the successful in Hollywood, DeMille lived a rich life that included interests and successes distinct from the film world.
This article by a LA Times correspondent, written on May 9, 1941, documents the west coast premiere of Orson Welles’s famous film Citizen Kane. Kendall reports that the premiere of Citizen Kane is held at the famous El Capitan Theater, a Hollywood landmark stage theater. The author describes a nostalgic feeling of “the old days” of Hollywood amid spot lights which pierced the sky in front of thousands of fans gathered – much in today’s fashion – to see their favorite stars. The glitz and glamour seems to add to Welles’s ego as he walks down the red carpet, his entrance timed. The crowds make even more noise for Barrymore as he walks into the theater. When stopped for questioning on the red carpet, Welles makes only one remark – about his gratefulness to George Schaefer, the president of RIO-Radio Pictures. “If it had not been for George J. Schaefer there would not be a Citizen Kane.” Outside the theater, the star-struck crowd for the premiere is so large that RKO had to erect temporary bleachers. The article then extensively lists the famous attendees, including Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan and Bob Hope. Kendall also includes a photograph of the “stellar foursome” including John Barrymore, Dolores Del Rio, Orson Welles, and Dorothy Comingore.
This article is a fantastic first hand account of the media and popular frenzy surrounding the grand release of RKO’s Citizen Kane. The movie premiered at the famous El Capitan Theater and was the first movie to be shown at that location. The theater remains a landmark to this day on the Hollywood strip. This article clearly shows that despite Hearst’s best efforts to suppress the film’s release, these attempts only furthered to publicize the movie and create even more attention for the premiere. Hearst did succeed in limiting the films success and it wasn’t for many years that interest in the film was revived. This article also, interestingly enough, reveals that as early as 1941, Hollywood felt a sense of nostalgia for the good-old-days of past. It is interesting to see these feelings manifest at such an early date, especially because today we consider Hollywood’s Golden Age to encompass the 1920s through the late 1950s.