Hollywood Flashback: Cecil B. DeMille Accepted the Golden Globe Named for Him in 1952

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Cecil B. DeMille with French actress Corinne Calvet at the Golden Globes in 1952, held at Ciro’s, a Sunset Strip nightclub.

"He was the first celebrity director and clearly knew what the public wanted," says TCM's Ben Mankiewicz of the helmer, who was honored by the HFPA despite many of his films being over-the-top awful.

In 1952, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made an interesting choice in selecting Cecil B. DeMille, then 70, for the life achievement award that would thereafter bear his name.

There's no arguing that DeMille was a seminal figure in the movie industry. He made 70 feature films in 43 years. His 1914 silent Western The Squaw Man was a huge hit, and the proceeds allowed him to make 30 films over the next three years. He helped establish Paramount Pictures and for 25 years his 1923 silent version of The Ten Commandments held the record as the studio's most profitable film. His name became identified with such lavish productions as 1934's Cleopatra, 1949's Samson and Delilah and his own 1956 Technicolor remake of The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston as Moses.

The HFPA chose a good time to honor the director, seven years before his death. He'd just released the circus film The Greatest Show on Earth and it would go on to win the best picture Oscar. The only problem with naming an award for DeMille was that many of his films, especially his epics, were just over-the-top awful. Still, his name had become synonymous with spectacular, moneymaking movies.

"He was the first celebrity director and clearly knew what the public wanted," says TCM's Ben Mankiewicz. "He represents exactly what's right and what's wrong with Hollywood." 

This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.