September 27, 2011

Honoring a Legend

SCA Establishes the Cecil B. DeMille Chair

When it comes to Hollywood history, no names stand taller than that of Cecil B. DeMille and, on September 26th, the USC School of Cinematic Arts honored his legacy with the establishment of the Cecil B. DeMille Chair for the Study of Silent Film, one of the highest honors in academia. Leaders of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, guests including CeCe Demille-Presley and Gretchen Wayne and students from the Critical Studies Division gathered in the Mary Pickford Lobby to share memories of his amazing work and life. Before the reception, an honorary screening of DeMille’s silent masterpiece The Cheat was held at Norris Theatre, followed by a Q and A with DeMille-Presley.

Dean Elizabeth M. Daley, Provost Elizabeth Garrett, CeCe Demille-Presley and Chair
of the Critical Studies Division Dr. Akira Lippit

“It goes without saying that Cecil B. DeMille was a true titan of cinema, who helped lay the foundation both for the industry and for the art,” said Dean Elizabeth M. Daley. “While he is of course well-known for his extraordinary spectacle-laden productions like The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Show on Earth, he was equally adept at creating compelling and entertaining stories as a silent filmmaker. “

DeMille was born in 1881 and had a long career in Vaudeville before moving to film. His most renowned titles include The Ten Commandments, Cleopatra, The Squaw Man and The Greatest Show on Earth, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Among other things, DeMille is credited with moving the movie industry from New York to Los Angeles.

The Cecil B. DeMille Chair was funded by a gift from Cecil B. DeMille’s granddaughter CeCe DeMille-Presley.

“I think the only person that would be happier about [the Chair] than me is my Grandfather,” said DeMille-Presley. “I’ve always felt like I’ve been a part of this School but now I feel it in a more substantial way.”

On display in the Hugh M. Hefner Exhibition Hall is a large collection of DeMille memorabilia including Moses’ robe and tablets from The Ten Commandments, Joan of Arc’s headdress from Joan the Woman and the typewriter used to type The Squaw Man.

“DeMille was a pioneer in the art of filmmaking,” said USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett. “He was a

CeCe Demille Presley and Dr. Akira Lippit look at the DeMille collection

director, producer, writer and consultant on some of the most celebrated films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. He was keen to experiment with techniques in lighting, location and editing during a period when filmmaking was seen as more of a hobby or a gimmick than as a legitimate medium requiring original thought.”

To view the DeMille collection, please visit the Mary Pickford Lobby on the first floor of the George Lucas Building in the SCA Complex.