A LOVE LETTER FROM CECIL B. DeMILLE

            One of the greatest producer\directors in history – indeed, a founder of the motion picture industry – Cecil B. DeMille had a soft spot in his heart for the cinematographers who delivered his vision.  His following testimonial is inscribed on a plaque at the ASC Clubhouse and dates to sometime in the early 1930’s.  If you can get by the florid language and reference to cinematographers as being only men, it’s a fun read.  I’d like to believe that DeMille’s sweet sentiment still holds true, but you’ll have to judge for yourself!

He Is A True Artist

            Amid the strange ingredients of Hollywood – a world typified by the human swarm and the artistic abstraction – there is a figure unknown to the chants of promoters and glorifiers.  His hand has rarely held the scepter of public acclaim, his brow is not crowned with the envied olive leaf which so often settles upon the lordly producer and queens of beauty.  This figure, a giant in his industry, is the cameraman – the sine qua non of a profession which often boasts that no one in its ranks is indispensable.  No one, I say, save the cameraman.

           I believe this is why:

            He is the custodian of the heart of filmmaking as the writers are of its soul…

            His tool is a box with a glass window, lifeless until he breathes into it his creative spirit and injects into its steel veins the plasma of his imagination…

            The product of his camera, and therefore of his magic, means many things to many persons – fulfillment of an idea, an ambition…realization of dreams…

            He is the judge who applies the laws of dramatic effect in complete coordination and fellowship with the director who interprets those laws…

            Light, composition, treatment are his instruments of power, which he wields with intelligence and sensitiveness to bring to full bloom the meaning of his art…

            His versatile management of an intricate mechanism yields astonishing results in mood, emotion, dramatic effect…

            A slanting shadow becomes a shattering portent of doom…

            A lifeless chair instills the feeling of infinite sorrow…

            A dead wall awakens a foreboding of plunging terror…

            A flash of a man’s face rises to the grandeur of drama, inspiring and ennobling…

            Before his wizardry, wrinkles fade from the faces of Hollywood’s ageless, imperishable beauties…chins take on lovely contours…years melt away…

            Yes, the technique of the cameraman is the technique of artistic vivisection that lays bare the inner workings of our profession.  If art can be said to be the expression of beauty in form, color, sound, shape or movement, then it must be said that same art is the art of the cameraman – expressed in the boundless reaches of his imagination.

            For his patience and singleness of purpose in a most arduous work, he is eminently deserving of that which is justly said of few men: “He is a true artist.”

12.8.2020

2 thoughts on “A LOVE LETTER FROM CECIL B. DeMILLE”

  1. Yes, florid language, but a great tribute and recognition of the artistry of a cinematographer at the early stages of filmmaking. Also , a nice read to start the day in these difficult times

  2. I hear DeMille’s voice when I read it, just as he sounded on the narration for “The Ten Commandments”…

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