"SO LET IT BE WRITTEN . . . .": The Creation of Cecil B. DeMille's Autobiography

By James V D'Arc | Literature/Film Quarterly, January 1, 1986 | Go to article overview

"SO LET IT BE WRITTEN . . . .": The Creation of Cecil B. DeMille's Autobiography


James V D'Arc, Literature/Film Quarterly


Cecil B . DeMille was a producer-director who was geared to larger production budgets, clearly structured production schedules, meticulously researched sets and larger-than-life story content. His concern for his films often took him to the editing table until the final cut was spliced on all of his movie epics. DeMille's mark was not only emblazoned on the credits of his films, but was in the very look and feel of the seventy motion pictures that bore the credit, "Produced and Directed by Cecil B. DeMille." The writing of The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille, according to its editor, Donald Hayne, resembled the preparation of one of DeMille's motion picture blockbusters. In reality, the experience challenged nearly every moviemaking instinct that DeMiIIe held dear. In terms of time spent, it was overbudgeted and behind schedule. Its progress was often charted in fits and starts, but hovering over the entire project was the immense responsibility felt by Hayne to write the life story of one of the most complex and multi-faceted men in America. The distance in time and effort between the two parts of DeMille's oft quoted line, "So let it be written," and "So let it be done," uttered by Sethi in The Ten Commandments, was often filled with the writer's frustrations in trying to comer the precious time of his subject, his failure to record the master storyteller on tape, and at one time the near abandonment of the project.

In preface, Hayne wrote that work on the autobiography began long before his association with DeMiIIe in 1945, ' but according to the papers in DeMille's files serious work on the book did not begin until November 1952. Also, negotiations with the publisher, Prentice-Hall, had been going on during the entire year. The "seemingly interminable negotiations,"2 as editor-in-chief at Prentice-Hall, Howard L. Goodkind, phrased them, were the result of DeMille's insistence on contracting for a publisher to share in his profits on the book, and not the other way around. In an unmistakably clear letter to DeMille's literary agent, Ned Brown of MCA Management, Neil McCarthy, DeMille's longtime attorney, wrote, "Mr. DeMiIIe will write his autobiography and he is desirous of arranging with someone to publish that autobiography for a percentage to the publisher of the proceeds of its sale. The document should proceed upon that principle."3

DeMille's original concept for the book was a combination biography/autobiography with DeMille's recollections in one typeface and Donald Hayne's running commentary in another. He also planned to hire additional writers, consistent with another DeMiIIe practice of working with more than one screenwriter on a film. According to memos exchanged between Hayne and DeMiIIe, Neil McCarthy was to write a chapter on DeMille's aviation days in the late 1910s, stressing, among other things, that "the danger of flying is not in the machine but in the individual. "^Finally, DeMiIIe wanted several other persons to write chapters for the book, "some who might even hate the sight of him."5

In January 1953, Hayne wrote a suggested foreword and passed it on to DeMille that clarified the concept of the book, divided into two sections. The first section, autobiographical under the title To See Himself, was to be written by Hayne under DeMille's supervision. According to the plan, the second section, entitled As Others See Him, was to include chapters by DeMille's brother William, his daughter Cecilia DeMille Harper; and business associates from the early days, Sam Goldwyn and Adolph Zukor, who were to write on DeMille's activity in motion pictures "considered as an industry (rather than as an entertainment medium or art form."6 The only film critic considered for the negative look at DeMille's films was the highly respected New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, whom DeMille told Hayne, "gave me two favorable notices in thirty years." A "friendly" critic was also to contribute to the second part of the book "to balance Mr. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"SO LET IT BE WRITTEN . . . .": The Creation of Cecil B. DeMille's Autobiography
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.