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New Cecil B. DeMille book filled with photos, entertaining anecdotes
The cover of the new book "Cecil B. DeMille: The Art of the Hollywood Epic." - photo by Chris Hicks
For more than 40 years, Cecil B. DeMilles The Ten Commandments has been shown by ABC television each Easter weekend, which is also during Passover. (You can watch it locally this Sunday at 6 p.m. on Ch. 4.)

And thats about as concrete a testament as one can ask for to the continued popularity of DeMilles beloved epic blockbuster.

Another is the films stability on the adjusted-for-inflation list of all-time box-office hits, where The Ten Commandments currently ranks at No. 6, behind Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, The Sound of Music, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Titanic (according to the Box Office Mojo website).

The Ten Commandments is DeMilles biggest hit, his most popular picture and his best-remembered work, but its only part of his cinematic story, which is bookended by that 1956 classic and his 1914 silent film The Squaw Man, acknowledged as Hollywoods first feature-length motion picture.

Its no overstatement to say that DeMille helped create the industry as we know it or that he was integral to the expansion of film as a storytelling medium and to the establishment of Hollywood as a moviemaking mecca.

Coming out of the silent era, DeMille understood that movies are first and foremost visual and that meticulous attention to detail is essential in creating a work of art that not only tells a story but also moves the audience with both emotion and a sense of awe. (He was the first filmmaker to hire an art director.)

Certainly the biblical epics for which DeMille is best remembered by the general moviegoing public demonstrate all of that, but so do his many other films, dating back to the very early days, when film was still being developed as a populist form of entertainment.

All of which is in gorgeous evidence in the expensive-but-worth-it photo-filled coffee-table book that was published last December, Cecil B. DeMille: The Art of the Hollywood Epic, which I could no longer resist and finally purchased last week.

The fun, story-filled narrative is written by DeMilles granddaughter Cecilia DeMille Presley, a longtime activist for the preservation of cinema history, and Mark A. Vieira, a photographer, writer and movie historian. (Local film expert James V. DArc also gets a credit as curator of the DeMille archives housed at Brigham Young University.)

Those fabulous photos (some of which are publicity shots that DeMille personally staged) are the first things that catch your eye as you skim through the pages, but the text is no less mesmerizing. This is not a biography of DeMille; for that, go elsewhere (the best is Scott Eymans Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille).

This is the story of his movies, and its filled with fascinating anecdotes, including breakout observations by Presley, who grew up in her grandfathers home and was privy to his most intimate views on his own work.

Its a great gotta-have for film buffs, but a wider audience will also enjoy its quick-read style and especially those lavish pictures.

If nothing else, the photos might motivate you to add some of DeMilles films to your viewing queue.

Hard to go wrong with The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Samson and Delilah (1949), Reap the Wild Wind (1942), "Union Pacific (1939), The Buccaneer (1938), Cleopatra (1934) or The Sign of the Cross (1932).

And some of his silent movies also provide great enjoyment in the 21st century, especially his 1923 version of The Ten Commandments and his 1927 film The King of Kings," along with two singled out by Martin Scorsese in an introduction he wrote for Presley and Vieiras book, The Whispering Chorus (1918) and The Cheat (1915).

DeMille was a founding father of film, a pioneer whose work is a still-standing testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of the artistic visionaries of the early 20th century. Fifty-plus years after his death, DeMille is still inextricably entwined with The Movies.

Read the book and see some of his films and youll understand why.