Sunday, August 12, 2007
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CECIL B. DEMILLE
Today would have been the birthday of one of the greatest directors of all time: the amazing Cecil B. De Mille. Although he is best known for "The Ten Commandments" in 1956, he also brought the world "The Greatest Show On Earth" --which won the BEST PICTURE Oscar and "Samson & Delilah" He was 79 when he died in 1959. Speaking of "The Ten Commandments" I recently met the actor/director who played "Baby Moses" in that film: Mr. Frasier Heston-- son of Charlton Heston. He tells me his dad is not doing too well at age eighty three. I told him a story that he did not know. Back in the 90's Paramount decided to re-release "The Ten Commandments" just prior to their DVD release of the picture's amazing restoration. Jimmy Chapel and i went to go see it at the Cinerama Dome theatre in Hollywood. Charlton Heston was set to appear there. After the movie ended everyone was gathered around him. I shook his hand and so did Jimmy. Suddenly a woman approached him and in an idolization voice proclaimed loudly: "Moses! Moses" She pressed near him to have him sign her book. The dear man politely told her that he most certainly was not "Moses" -- simply an actor portraying a great and holy man. But the woman would not have her drama lessened and got him to sign her book. I think Mr. Heston should have looked where he was placing his signature because the moment the autograph was inscribed the woman walked away yelling out "Moses signed my bible! "he signed the "Holy Book". Heston shook his head and replied "That could only happen in Hollywood" De Mille was a very tough director and had little patience for actors who would not take chances. Victor Mature was called a "yellow bastard" for refusing to wrestle with a toothless and claw less lion in "Samson and Delilah" and speaking of that picture-- here's a flashback to early 1949. Mature was a real heart throb and a big muscle man. He looked like a gladiator and then some! Big throbbing pecs were his trademark. So here is a great De Mille story that involves the stars of that picture and Demille's idol --the one and only Groucho Marx. The "Samson & Delliah" picture was five months away from release. As always, an adoring De Mille invites Groucho Marx for a private screening of the film. De Mille brings in Groucho's favorite Cuban cigars, a incredibly comfortable arm chair, his favorite kosher food and an air-conditioned screening room at Paramount --which was no easy feat in 1949. Groucho arrives and is treated like pure royalty. The movie is screened and at its conclusion, De Mille goes down the aisle like a kid approaching a candy store to fervishly address the great Groucho. "Well, Groucho, did you like it. Did you like it" Groucho raised an eyebrow. "Can I be honest, C.B.? Demille was really taken aback. "Well, of course you can!' Groucho without missing a beat says "I'm sorry to say this, CB, but you're gonna lose a lot of money on that picture!" DeMille was crestfallen. This was awful. The great Groucho Marx hated his newest movie. "What's wrong with it? De Mille wanted to know. Again the great Groucho never missed a beat. He took the cigar out of his mouth and said "You got the parts all wrong" De Mille was devastated "The parts are all wrong?" Grouch blew a puff of smoke in De Mille's face and said "Sure, they are: Victor Mature has bigger knockers than Heddy Lamar! (well he did) The great DeMille was on the floor, laughing so hard he could barely stop! A great director was floored by the great Groucho Marx! De Mille's niece was the great Broadway choreographer Agnes DeMille.