Cecil B. DeMille's Greatest Authenticity Lapse?

  • Anton Karl Kozlovic


THE PLAINSMAN (1937): CECIL B. DeMILLE'S GREATEST AUTHENTICITY LAPSE? Cecil B. Demille was a seminal founder of Hollywood whose films were frequently denigrated by critics for lacking historical verisimilitude. For example, Pauline Kael claimed that DeMille had "falsified history more than anybody else" (Reed 1971: 367). Others argued that he never let "historical fact stand in the way of a good yarn" (Hogg 1998: 39) and that "historical authenticity usually took second place to delirious spectacle" (Andrew 1989: 74). Indeed, most "film historians regard De Mille with disdain" (Bowers 1982: 689) and tended to turn away in embarrassment because "De Mille had pretensions of being a historian" (Thomas 1975: 266). Even Cecil's niece Agnes de Mille (1990: 185) diplomatically referred to his approach as "liberal." Dates, sequences, geography, and character bent to his needs." Likewise, James Card (1994: 215) claimed that: "DeMille was famous for using historical fact only...