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Celebrating The Man Without Whom Easter Just Wouldn't Be Easter

13/04/2017 12:13

He was put on this Earth to inspire, influence, spread happiness and bring joy to the masses.

People flocked to witness the miracles he created. Often they couldn't quite believe what they were seeing. "How did he do that?", they asked themselves.

However, forget the turning of water into wine, the feeding of 5,000 with only five loaves and two fishes (I'm sure that was from Season 10, Episode 13 of Masterchef when the remaining contestants had to cater for a field of starving army cadets), raising Lazarus to life and making Jeremy Corbyn electable (as if), here was the man who made it possible for Moses to part the Red Sea.

Strictly speaking wasn't that God? Maybe. To many though he was God or at least the embodiment of God.

To others, he was a master storyteller; a visionary and a revolutionary. He showed humanity a different way to look at itself, a way which was bigger, more dramatic and epic in scale.

Audiences hung on every word uttered, every action undertaken. In effect, he was the greatest showman there's ever been as he strode around the Holy Land, not in a robe and sandals, but in his leather puttees and jodhpurs. He additionally had the style affectation of carrying around a riding crop and screaming into a megaphone. Now that was how to get your message across back then.

Today, you'd perhaps call him a modern marketing genius. After all, he knew exactly what the public wanted and in the darkness of a thousand auditoriums, he gave lesser mortals hope and something to cling onto when in times of great hardship their lives frequently appeared worthless and beyond redemption.

Without him, the bible would be no more than a dusty book of half remembered fables found in the bedside drawers of any identikit hotel around the world that's frequented by travelling salesmen who might casually flick through it when they can't get porn on the in-house TV channel or the wi-fi won't work.

Instead, it remains an invaluable source of material for all those who dream of following in the legendary footsteps of Cecil B. DeMille, the celebrated producer, screenwriter and director who practically invented Hollywood and the multi-billion dollar industry that sprung from its desert landscape.

Recognised as being the founding father of cinema in the US, even his name seems filmic. The B standing for Blount. Surely it's no coincidence that it rhymes with Mount as in Mount Sinai, the very mountain at which the Ten Commandments were given to the previously mentioned Moses, perhaps better known as Charlton Heston.

The Ten Commandments is one of the most, if not, the most famous film DeMille brought to the silver screen. In fact, he made it twice. Once in 1923 and again 33 years later. For its original outing, it featured a biblical prologue along with a modern day story which demonstrated the consequences of breaking the Ten Commandments.

By the time 1956 came around, he'd obviously learnt the eleventh commandment - Never mess around with what shouldn't be messed around with - and the modern bit was gone. There is, of course, a twelfth commandment. That is: The star of the movie should never sleep with the wife or husband of its main financial backer. Something DeMille would doubtless have never tolerated.

With this newer version, he truly cemented his reputation as the auteur of the religious extravaganza. A reputation that has never been equaled, let alone surpassed. Featuring sets of gigantic proportions, it was nominated for a total of seven Academy Awards and despite its eye watering, butt-clenching $13 million budget, it became the highest grossing movie of that year. When box office receipts are adjusted to take into account inflation, it remains, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the seventh most successful film ever.

It was a fitting end to DeMille's career as the picture turned out to be the last he'd make. Just thank the Lord, he was never around to witness or have been offered the opportunity to direct the party political broadcast for Ed Miliband's infamous EdStone; itself a take on the Ten Commandments. Mind you, Labour with their trademark incompetence could only muster six pledges.

In his lifetime, he made 70 features, including The King of Kings (1927), The Sign of the Cross (1932), Cleopatra (1934), Union Pacific (1939) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), which personally is one of my favourite films ever, but one should also namecheck Sunset Boulevard (1950), the Billy Wilder masterpiece in which DeMille memorably played himself.

Whatever else you find yourself watching this long bank holiday weekend, I encourage you to seek out a Cecil B. DeMille classic. In doing so, you'll be paying tribute to an individual without whom Easter wouldn't be Easter. And more importantly, the movies most definitely wouldn't be the movies.

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