“We bring you…a tinsel and spun-candy world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter and whirling thrills”*

by chuckofish

Today is the birthday of Cecil B. DeMille (August 12, 1881 – January 21, 1959)–American film director and film producer in both silent and sound movies, Academy Award winner and Episcopalian.


Only a fourth of his movies were talkies, but they include some mighty good ones.

I recently watched The Plainsman (1936) with Gary Cooper as Wild Bill Hickok and Jean Arthur as Calamity Jane. (I blogged about Calamity Jane back on May 1 and it took three months to get the DVD from Netflix–harumph.)

It is a very enjoyable movie, mostly because of its two stars. However, James Ellison, who plays the important role of Buffalo Bill, is kind of weak–good looking but no spark.

01b_1936 Plainsman, The (Ellison)

Gary Cooper, Helen Burgess and James Ellison

The difference between him and Gary Cooper is an object lesson in why some people become movie stars and others don’t.

DeMille doesn’t fool around with political correctness in this film: the Indians are the bad guys and they are scary. There is a lot of tension in the fast-paced, but historically incorrect plot. And the cinema technology is impressive. Although mostly shot on a sound stage, the impression of depth and three-dimensional action is suggested by the use of a screen, where previously filmed activity is projected, behind the primary shot. It is very clever and effective. Indeed, I was impressed by this 1936 film–so much more engaging than our computer-generated “action” pictures of today.

Anyway…join me, won’t you, in toasting old Cecil B. tonight! And if you can get your hands on a copy of The Plainsman, take a look.

I’ll also lift a glass to Robin Williams who died on Monday. I’ll blog about him later. Rest in peace.

Into paradise may the angels lead thee; and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.
–BCP, Burial of the Dead, Rite I

*The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)