Film producer and director and founder of the Hollywood film industry.
Son of the popular dramatist Henry C. de Mille and brother of the film producer, director, and writer William de Mille (1878–1955), Cecil was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts. After training at the New York Academy of Dramatic Art he made his acting debut on Broadway in 1900. He also managed his mother's theatrical company for several years and collaborated with his brother on various plays.
His film-making career began when he joined Jesse L. Lasky and Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn) to form the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company in 1913. De Mille chose the then little-known suburb of Hollywood for their first film, The Squaw Man (1914), converting a barn into a studio. With the film's success Hollywood's life as the film capital of the world began.
Among his early films were The Girl of the Golden West (1915), The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1916), Male and Female (1919), and Forbidden Fruit (1921). De Mille is, however, best remembered for his biblical extravaganzas beginning with The Ten Commandments (1923), remade in 1956, and followed by King of Kings (1927). Outstanding, perhaps, were The Sign of the Cross (1932), with Claudette Colbert (1905–96) and Charles Laughton, and – for sheer spectacle – the destruction of the temple by Victor Mature (1915– ) in Samson and Delilah (1949).