From the Archives: Cecil B. DeMille celebrates his 77th birthday

Aug. 12, 1958: Movie pioneer Cecil B. De Mille uses saber to cut 77th birthday cake at Paramount studio party.
Aug. 12, 1958: Movie pioneer Cecil B. De Mille uses saber to cut 77th birthday cake at Paramount studio party.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

To honor Cecil B. DeMille’s birthday, Hollywood celebrities gathered at Paramount. Looking on in the above image are, from left, Danny Kay, Y. Frank Freeman, head of studio, Mary Pickford, Bob Hope and Samuel Goldwyn, a former partner.

The next morning, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Cecil B. DeMille, giant of the motion-picture industry, marked his 77th birthday yesterday with a party for 100 old and new friends.

The city of Los Angeles marked it by proclaiming it Cecil B. DeMille Day. ...

Paramount studio's luncheon room was well appointed as to decorations. But 45 years of memories swept the room and no one paid much attention to the flowers or the food.

All eyes were on the head table, with tangent glances at other tables. Famous stars of yesterday joined stars of today in singing "Happy Birthday" to the renowned filmmaker.

Samuel Goldwyn, DeMille's partner 45 years ago when the made "The Squaw Man" in a Hollywood barn, was there. The late Jesse Lasky was another partner in this movie that made history.

When DeMille, spare and erect, came into the room, Mary Pickford ("America's Sweetheart") embraced her old friend.

There were few dry eyes at that point.

Among members of the honoree's family were a daughter, Mrs. Joseph Harper; a granddaughter, Mrs. Cecilia Boughdadly, and two sons-in-law, Harper and Anthony Quinn.

Through DeMille's 77 years have been marked by monumental accomplishments, the emphasis for the septuagenarian is on the present and the future.

Y. Frank Freeman, head of the studio and a vice president of Paramount, presented a handsome album of 70 stills from 70 DeMille pictures.

The book has 20 blank pages for 20 more pictures.

Many people talked. Some with wit, some with nostalgia.

Among them, Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Mary Pickford, Joel McCrea and Sam Goldwyn.

But when DeMille rose, there was instant silence. He said many things – all of them pertinent. But the guests will remember that he said:

"This day puts me on a mountaintop 77 years high in which the view of the world is much clearer than it was 45 years ago. I have lived to see the movies become a world theater. In my way, I have helped." …

Six months later, on Jan. 21, 1959, DeMille passed away.

This post was originally published on Sept. 19, 2014.

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