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David O. McKay Diaries – “Cecil B. DeMille”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Cecil B. DeMille.” You can view other subjects here.

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Sun., 11 July, 1954:

“This morning Mr. Arnold Friberg, Utah artist and member of the Church, (present address 5451 Marathan Street, Hollywood, 78 California) called at the office and explained very unaffectedly his position with Cecil B. deMille who has employed him to paint pictures of characters and costumes, the sword of Pharoah, etc. for the forthcoming motion picture masterpiece, ‘The Ten Commandments’ which is being produced by Mr. deMille of the Paramount Studios.

He said that next year they are going to Palestine to take scenes of the crossing of the Red Sea.  They will also make scenes on Mt. Sinai.

Brother Friberg also said that Mr. deMille confers with him from time to time about different phases of the Old Testament.  For example, the conferring of the Priesthood upon Joshua.  Mr. deMille said that this was the first instance of the conferring of the Priesthood.  Brother Friberg told him No; that Adam conferred the Priesthood upon his sons Seth, Noah, and others.  Upon hearing this, Mr. deMille changed the scenes pertaining to this in his picture accordingly.

Furthermore, Mr. deMille is reading the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Mormon, etc.

During one of their conversations, on a certain subject, Mr. deMille said, ‘If I knew your President, I would telephone him upon this matter.’  Said he had met President Grant, and President Smith, but that he had never met President McKay.’  Brother Friberg told him that he was sure it would be perfectly all right to call me, but Mr. deMille was reticent about doing so.  He said, however, that he would very much like to make my acquaintance.  I told Brother Friberg that I would be in Los Angeles the first week in August, and at that time arrangements can be made for me to meet Mr. deMille.

Brother Friberg then talked about his Book of Mormon paintings which he is doing for the Primary Association.  Suggested that he would like to have a room in which to place them after they are completed.  He has not yet finished all of them.  It was because of these Book of Mormon paintings that Brother Friberg was chosen to do the ‘Ten Commandment’ drawings.

Cecil B. deMille is putting forth his greatest effort in producing The Ten Commandments.  It seems that he had made inquiry of an international artist for a recommendation as to the best man he could get to make drawings for this picture.  This international artist had seen Friberg’s Book of Mormon pictures and he wrote to Mr. deMille mentioning Brother Friberg.  deMille wrote to Friberg who took the Book of Mormon pictures to him and he was employed to paint all of the costumes, characters, and pictures for The Ten Commandments story.  Brother Friberg has become very successful in his work.”

Thurs., 5 Aug., 1954:

‘Sister McKay and I returned to Los Angeles to fill an appointment with Mr. Cecil B. deMille in his office at the Paramount Studios at 5551 Marathon Street, Hollywood 38, California.

When we arrived there we were ushered into his office without delay where we met Mr. deMille, his co-producer, Mr. Henry Wilcoxon, Mr. Y. Frank Freeman, President of the Paramount Pictures Corporation, Mr. Arnold Friberg, member of the Church who is doing the art work for the picture, ‘The Ten Commandments’.

Mr. deMille received us graciously and had nothing but high praise for Brother Friberg’s work.  (Brother Friberg, a Mormon artist, has painted the Book of Mormon pictures for the ‘Children’s Friend’, and it was through this art work that Mr. deMille’s attention was drawn to him, resulting in his employment to do the art work for the ‘Ten Commandments’).

We were entertained most graciously and interestingly during our visit, at the conclusion of which Mr. deMille presented me with an inscribed copy of the ‘Handbook for the Cecil B. deMille Production ‘Samson and Delilah’, containing research work for that great picture.  Mr. deMille’s inscription in this book is as follows:  ‘To President McKay, with respect – admiration, and now affection. – signed Cecil B. deMille.’

The only regret that I had when we said good-bye was that we had stayed too long, and following our return to the Hotel, I sat down and wrote the following letter to him apologizing for our intrusion:

‘My dear Mr. deMille:  Your graciousness to Mrs. McKay and me this afternoon we shall ever cherish as one of the most interesting and informative experiences of our lives.

‘But the more I realize how thoughtlessly we encroached upon your valuable time, the more keenly becomes my embarrassment.  Indeed, we became so absorbed in your presentation of the magnitude and possibilities of your art, as well as the responsibilities, that we failed to realize how grossly we encroached upon your valuable time.  The more I think of it, the more keenly becomes my embarrassment.

‘I not only apologize but beg your forgiveness.

‘In the generosity of your heart kindly remember our overwhelming interest and forget our intrusion.  Most sincerely and admiringly, (signed) David O. McKay’

In his reply to this letter Mr. deMille said in his letter of August 11, 1954:  ‘Thank you for your letter of August 5.  It was a great pleasure to see you and Mrs. McKay.  I am the one who should ask forgiveness, if my absorption in my work – which is heavy right now – made you feel in the slightest degree uncomfortable.  Far from being an encroachment, your visit was for me a privilege as well as a pleasure — and one which I hope will be repeated if you should come to Los Angeles while I am filming THE TEN COMMANDMENTS here next year.’  He then gave me the figures of the attendance at the pictures that have been made by him.  There has been a total world attendance of 3,214,000,000, and these figures do not include the attendance of his two most recent pictures — ‘Samson and Delilah’ and ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’

During our conversation with Mr. deMille, he picked up a manual and held it up for Mr. Freeman, and Mr. Wilcoxon to see, saying:  ‘Have you seen this?  It is a course of study on the Ten Commandments for the young people of the Mormon Church.  President McKay will probably send you an inscribed copy if you so wish,’ and turning to me, ‘Won’t you, President McKay?’  I promised that I would do that upon my return to the office.

Later, on August 20, 1954, I sent inscribed copies of the M Men-Gleaner Manual ‘Ten Commandments Today’ and leather-bound copies of ‘The Articles of Faith’ to Mr. Henry Wilcoxon, co-producer to Mr. Cecil B. deMille, and Mr. Y. Frank Freeman, President of the Paramount Pictures Corporation.

I also sent to Mr. deMille a leather-bound copy of my book ‘Gospel Ideals’, the inscription is as follows:  ‘With appreciation of a Memorable visit (August 5) and admiration of a true nobleman.  Affectionately, David O. McKay.’

We left Mr. deMille’s office at 12 noon.  As I said good-bye, Mr. deMille extended an invitation for us to visit his studios again when they are making the ‘Ten Commandments’ so that we could see the actual filming of the scenes.  I told him that I hoped to accept his gracious invitation.  (see also report given to Council on August 19, 1954 which follows)”

Thurs., 19 Aug., 1954:

Visit to Cecil B. deMille – report to Council

While in Los Angeles I had a meeting with Cecil B. deMille on Thursday, August 5, which was arranged through Brother Arnold Friberg, who is the artist for the great Ten Commandments Cinema that Cecil B. deMille is going to produce.  It is reported that it will cost about seven million dollars, and our own artist, Brother Fribert, paints the pictures of the characters, including their costumes, their chariots, daggers, and everything connected with it.  In the conference with Mr. deMille, met with Mr. Y. Frank Freeman, President of the Paramount Studios and Mr. Henry Wilcoxon, a prominent actor, who is a co-producer.  Mr. deMille was profuse in his praises of the work that is being done by Brother Friberg.  Brother Friberg will accompany him and others to Mt. Sinai, where they are going to film the Mount and the Red Sea, gather the people therein Egypt, and depict the chariots, soldiers, the sea driven back, etc., which will be reproduced on the screen.  Mr. deMille expects it will be his masterpiece.  I was very favorably impressed with Mr. deMille; he is really a great man.  He has read the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Mormon, and everything that we have on Moses; also the Book of Jashar.  He wants to depict the story in the proper way, showing Moses as a great Prophet, and God as one who can appear as a person.  I gained the impression from Mr. deMille that he looks upon God as a force, but he will picture him as a personal being, speaking to Moses without trying to picture Deity.”

Fri., 20 Aug., 1954:

“I called Mr. Arnold Friberg at the Paramount Pictures Corporation,  Hollywood, California, and asked him to let Mr. Henry Wilcoxon, Co-producer to Mr. Cecil B. deMille, and Mr. Frank Freeman, President of the Paramount Picture Corporation, that I have not forgotten my promise to send them an inscribed copy of ‘Ten Commandments Today’, textbook used by the M Men and Gleaners of the M.I.A.

I also repeated to Brother Friberg my enjoyment of our visit August 5, 1954 with Mr. deMille and the gentlemen named above on that occasion.  Said that I had written a letter of apology to Mr. deMille for taking so much of his time, and that I have a lovely letter from him in reply.  Mr. Friberg said that Mr. deMille has expressed himself several times about his enjoyment of our visit; that he would like us to come back to the studios when they are taking the pictures for ‘The Ten Commandments’.

I then told Brother Friberg that my secretary had called my attention to the fact that he (Brother Friberg) had called the office some months ago to say that you would like to do my portrait, and that we have never given you an answer.  Brother Friberg spoke up immediately and said, ‘Yes, I should like to do it as a gift, but not from photographs as they are doing these days, but that he would like me to sit for him.  I said that if we could arrange a mutually convenient time I should be happy to have him do this.

I then asked Brother Friberg when he is going to Egypt for the filming of some of the scenes of ‘The Ten Commandments’ and he said about the middle of next month; however, that he would be in Salt Lake about three weeks before leaving.  I told him to call at the office, and Brother Friberg said he would be glad to do that.

Thurs., 23 Sept., 1954:

From 3 to 4 p.m.  Signed letters and dictated a letter to Mr. Cecil B. deMille of the Paramount Motion Picture Studios in Hollywood, California.  See copies of the letter from Mr. deMille and my reply thereto which are self-explanatory.

September 23, 1954


West Coast Studios

5451 Marathon Street Hollywood 38, Calif.

18 September 1954

President David O. McKay

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

47 East South Temple Street

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear President McKay:

When you were last in Los Angeles you may remember our touching on the problem of portraying the Voice of God in my forthcoming motion picture of The Ten Commandments.  I believe I mentioned that we were developing an entirely new type of recording which we are confident will lend itself wonderfully to creating an acceptable effect for the Voice of God.  Tests are now being made at the studio to produce a ‘universal’ voice made up of many voices perfectly synchronized.  Later we plan to record a kind of ‘halo’ of background music – not using a conventional musical composition, but rather following the Voice with a musical intonation.

At the studio we have a brilliant electronics technician who has been developing the new recording devices mentioned above.  He has been associated with me since 1933.  His name is John N. Cope – a grandson of John Nicholson, whose early association with the Deseret News you may recall, and whose other grandfather, Francis Cope, was connected with the Utah Central Railroad’s early history.

Mr. Cope remembers the unique quality of the Tabernacle organ and believes that the Vox Humana stop on this magnificent instrument will be the closest thing in the world to a musical representation of the Voice of God.

If you can give us permission to have Mr. Cope record the Tabernacle organ it would be a great contribution to a proper and reverent portrayal of the Voice of God and to the spiritual value which you, and we, hope that THE TEN COMMANDMENTS will carry through the world.

As a matter of further interest, regarding Mr. Cope – he built a radio station that is well known to you, KSL, and also installed the first public address system in the Tabernacle.

I continue to find your gift copy of ‘Gospel Ideals’ a source of new inspiration.

Please give my very best greetings to your charming lady – and of course to yourself.


/s/  Cecil B. deMille

September 23, 1954

September 23, 1954

Mr. dear Mr. deMille:

I was greatly pleased to receive your letter of September 18, 1954 in which you refer again to the problem of portraying the Voice of God in your forthcoming motion picture ‘The Ten Commandments.’  As I read your comments I thought — this is another illustration of the masterful, painstaking research that Mr. deMille makes when he produces a great picture.  Truly, I admire your greatness and especially your sincerity.

This morning I read your letter in the regular meeting of the First Presidency.  My counselors were also deeply impressed.  We are one in assuring you that it will be a joy for us to do anything within our power to contribute to the success of the great picture you are producing.  If the Vox Humana on the Tabernacle Organ will add to the musical representation of the Voice of God, this is your permission and authority to make any use of it that you wish.

Please let us know how we may cooperate with you in getting this reproduction.

I have also read your letter to Mrs. McKay who joins in sending greetings and kind personal regards.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ David O. McKay



Mr. Cecil B. deMille

Paramount Pictures Corporation

5451 Marathon Street

Hollywood 38, California”

20 to 25 July, 1955:

“July 20 to July 25, 1955

Return Trip to Los Angeles, California

Wednesday, July 20, 1955

At 7:50 p.m. Sister McKay and I boarded the Union Pacific bound for California.

Thursday, July 21, 1955:

We were met this morning at Riverside, California, by Brother Ferrin Christensen who drove us to Emerald Bay, Laguna Beach, California.  We changed clothes, and left immediately for Hollywood to meet the artist, Arnold Friberg.  When we arrived at his home, I could see that he was not prepared to have me sit for a portrait painting he is to do of me.  He suggested that he would rather wait until I come back from Europe, at which time he would come up to Salt Lake.  So I agreed to that arrangement.  I met his mother who was visiting with him.  She is a very lovely woman.

From there we went over to the Paramount Motion Picture Studios where directors were taking films of the great new motion picture The Ten Commandments.  This visit to the studios was in accordance with a previous invitation by the producer, Cecil B. deMille, when we met him personally last year.  As we approached the set we saw that they were taking shots of the scene just following the building of the golden calf, Moses’ descent from the mountain, the breaking of the tablets, and then the wrath of Heaven descending with fire right in the midst of it.

There were four hundred and sixty-five people in this scene.

As we were looking with admiration at what was going on, suddenly we heard over the loud-speaking system a voice saying:  ‘I understand President McKay is in the audience; will you please come up here, President McKay.’  Right then and there the whole proceedings were stopped and Mr. deMille introduced me to the entire group.  Later, he announced that Sister McKay was in the audience, and he invited her to join us.  He then presented Edward G. Robinson to us, a prominent actor, who is taking one of the leading parts.

We spent three hours on the set and were intensely interested and amazed at the magnitude of the whole project — what a stupendous thing it is to produce such a play as The Ten Commandments!  I am impressed more than ever with Cecil B. deMille’s ability — he is a great director!  (see letter following to Mr. deMille)  (see also newspaper clippings regarding the filming of ‘The Ten Commandments’)

Sister McKay and I stayed that night at the Alexandria Hotel.

Friday, July 22, 1955

Drove to Emerald Bay and I spent the day studying and planning for the dedication of the Swiss Temple.  As I dictate this memorandum, I think this morning the first step is to choose a President of that Temple.  Instructed Clare to call Elder Richard L. Evans, Spencer Cornwall, and Jack Thomas and ask them to meet me at 8:30 in the morning to consider the hymns and songs to be used at the dedication.

July 20 to July 25, 1955

Visit to Paramount Studios – Hollywood, California

July 28, 1955

My dear Mr. deMille:

As Mrs. McKay and I recall our visits and appointments in the Los Angeles area last week, we hold as the outstanding event our experience at your studio set Thursday afternoon, July 21st.

To see the ‘shooting’ of one magnificent scene in the great picture ‘The Ten Commandments’ was something to remember always.

Your courtesy and graciousness in recognizing our presence, and paying us tribute (however unmerited) added greatly to the thrill of the occasion.

Mrs. McKay and I have always held you in high esteem and admiration as the greatest director of this modern age:  but after glimpsing the stupendousness of your task, in staging the scene following the destruction of the Tablets by Moses so deeply grieved at the people’s worshipping the golden calf, and after noting your masterful attention to every detail of scenes in which over four hundred people participated, our admiration of your leadership rose to greater heights!

So also did our appreciation of your nobility of character.

Mrs. McKay joins me in this note of appreciation for a most impressive and memorable visit.

Cordially and sincerely yours,



Mr. Cecil B. deMille

Paramount Pictures Corporation

5451 Marathon Street

Hollywood 38, California

Thurs., 5 Jan., 1956:

“Also called Brother Edward O. Anderson, architect at the Los Angeles Temple, regarding employees for garden work at the Temple, and also regarding appointment for Cecil B. deMille to visit the Temple.

Thurs., 5 Jan., 1956:

Telephone Conversation with Brother Edward O. Anderson, Los Angeles Temple.

I also discussed with Brother Anderson the fact that as yet we had not taken Mr. Cecil B. deMille through the Los Angeles Temple.  I told Brother Anderson that I should like him to accompany us through the temple with Mr. deMille and his party because he could give explanations that I could not give.  I told him that we should not go through the regular tour with other people.  Then said I would meet him and Mr. deMille and party at the Los Angeles Temple on Friday, January 13, 1956 at 1:30 p.m. at which time we would take Mr. deMille and his party through the temple.  I told Brother Anderson that I would write to Mr. deMille regarding this appointment.  If Brother Anderson does not hear anything further from me, we shall have the appointment at that time.

Fri., 6 Jan., 1956:

“Also wrote a letter to Mr. Cecil B. deMille of the Paramount Pictures Corporation, Hollywood California, and made arrangements to meet him and his party at the Bureau of Information, Los Angeles Temple site January 16, at 1:30 p.m.  In accordance with a personal request of Mr. deMille, we shall escort him and his party through the Los Angeles Temple.”

Mon., 9 Jan., 1956:

“Note:  Received a telegram from Beverly Hills, California signed by Samuel G. Engle, President of the Screen Producers Guild, inviting me to a dinner to be given in honor of Cecil B. deMille at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California January 22, 1956.  He further said:  ‘We should deem it a privilege were you to offer the prayer’ on that occasion.

I sent the following telegram to Mr. Engle:  ‘Deeply appreciative of your cordial invitation to Mrs. McKay and me to join Screen Producers Guild in honoring Mr. deMille at a dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, January 22.  Mr. deMille is not only a peerless producer, but a true nobleman.  Deeply regret that conflicting Church duties Sunday, January 22 will deprive me of the privilege of joining you on that auspicious occasion.  Guild honors itself in honoring this great man.”

January 16, 1956

We arrived at the Los Angeles Temple at 1 o’clock.  Soon thereafter I held a meeting with Brother A. Merlin Steed and his counselors, at which time they reported that last Saturday over 16,000 people went through the Temple, and that to date (including this morning) a total of 190,770 persons had gone through the Temple, and there are 29 days yet to go!

At 1:30 p.m., according to an appointment previously made by letter, I met Mr. Cecil B. deMille and his party, whom I had promised to take through the Temple personally.  The following constituted the group who went through:

Cecil B. deMille

Joseph W. Harper – Mr. deMille’s son-in-law

Mr. deMille’s staff at the studio:

Donald Hayne

Donald MacLean

Henry Noerdlinger

Berenice Mosk

Brother Edward O. Anderson and I took this special group between two other regular groups.  The group coming back of us was held up ten minutes, but they overtook us, and waited again for us, because we took our time.  Brother Edward O. Anderson explained features regarding dimensions, building materials, and costs, which added to the interest of the tour.

Following the tour, the group expressed themselves as being very much interested.  Mr. deMille said, among other things, ‘Well, President McKay, in building this great Temple, you have made the motion picture ‘The Ten Commandments’ seem insignificant.’  He was impressed with every feature.  When we said goodbye, he said, ‘I shall never forget this experience; to have the privilege of going through with you personally was a great favor.’  In reply, I said to the group:  ‘I esteem it a privilege to take Mr. deMille and his companions through this Temple, and I want you to know that I esteem Mr. deMille as a true nobleman; a great soul.’  Sister McKay afterwards said that when I said that, Mr. deMille dropped his head and tears came to his eyes.

I was very much thrilled with this tour of the Temple, and I think much good was accomplished by this visit.”

Wednesday, April 18, 1956

Left Cedar City at 6 o’clock this morning.  I drove to Provo, Utah without stopping, arriving there at 11 a.m.  Called on President Ernest L. Wilkinson at the Brigham Young University, and after a short consultation with him we decided to send a letter to Mr. Cecil B. deMille, motion picture producer for Paramount Studios in Hollywood, extending to him an invitation to be the commencement speaker at the Brigham Young University June 1, at which time the school would bestow upon him an honorary doctoral degree.

Upon my arrival at the office I found a letter from Mr. deMille in which he stated:

‘I am not given to extravagant expressions of sentiment, but it is really with a heavy heart that I have to tell you that I cannot accept your kind invitation.  My work on ‘The Ten Commandments’ is at a stage, with the deadlines for preview and opening drawing closer every minute, which has made it necessary for me to decline all out of town engagements between now and the end of July at the earliest, but I have declined none wtih more regret than I do this one – because it comes from you, whom I respect so much; because the University represents your Church, to which I would like to pay another public tribute; and because a commencement address is a wonderful opportunity to speak to Youth on one of the greatest days of their lives.  Only the sheer physical impossibility of being away from Hollywood at the time could cause me to lose that opportunity.  Will you please express to the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University my deep appreciation of the honor they did me in thinking of me and my very great regret that I cannot accept their generous invitation?’

Wed., 18 Apr., 1956:

“Arrived at Provo, Utah at 11 a.m.  Called on President Ernest L. Wilkinson at the Brigham Young University, and after a short consultation with him we decided to send a letter to Mr. Cecil B. deMille, motion picture producer for Paramount Studios in Hollywood, extending to him an invitation to be commencement speaker at the Brigham Young University June 1.  Mr. deMille was unable to accept the appointment (see California trip report for excerpts from his letter).  He will be invited next year.”

Thurs., 7 June, 1956:

Telephone Calls

1.  Brother Cleon Skousen of the B.Y.U.called in connection with the underwriting of the souvenir brochure for the Ten Commandments motion picture which Arnold Friberg is doing for Paramount Studios.

He said that when he was in your office a few days ago you indicated that you would look into the matter and refer it to someone else for attention.  The contracts are now signed and everything in order.

Brother Skousen would appreciate knowing whether or not he should report further to you, or if he should see someone else.

He will be in the office tomorrow for an answer.  (not to President McKay by Clare)”

Wed., 13 June, 1956:

Telephone Calls.

“3.  Brother W. Cleon Skousen who has just been appointed Chief of Police of Salt Lake City called this morning.  I congratulated him upon his appointment, and he answered that the position seems more interesting and worthwhile than he had anticipated.

He then brought up the matter of underwriting a souvenir brochure of the Ten Commandments Motion Picture just being released by Paramounts Pictures Inc. which is being done by Arnold Friberg.  Brother Skousen reported that he has finished setting up everything for the bonding, financing, and everything is ready but the underwriting of the first 500,000 copies, which it is suggested might be done through the Church.  If the Church undertakes to do so, there will be no outlay of money on their part.  I told Brother Skousen to see Brother Snyder of our Legal Department.

(Later, President McKay let Arnold Friberg know that the Church could in no way undertake to take any responsibility for the publication of his brochure.)

Wed., 27 June, 1956:

Telephone Calls

1.  W. Cleon Skousen called and stated that the Arnold Friberg matter has become critical.  Bro. Friberg has been painting the pictures for the motion picture The Ten Commandments.  These he is publishing in brochure form, and the matter is practically at a standstill.  The printers threaten to cancel his contract.  They will be unable to get paper if the matter is not settled soon.  Bro. Skousen and Bro. Snyder would like to meet with Pres. McKay for a few minutes on this problem.  Bro. Skousen may be reached at EM 4-6581, Police Dept. (cm)

Thurs., 28 June, 1956:

“8:30 a.m. – W. Cleon Skousen and Vernon Snyder, Church Attorney, called at the office by appointment at their request, and brought up the matter of Arnold Friberg’s plan to publish a souvenir program for the motion picture ‘The Ten Commandments’.  Mr. Friberg has been doing the designing of costumes and sets, and otherwise giving artistic advice on the motion picture under commission from Mr. Cecil B. deMille, Director.  Mr. Friberg will do ten original oil paintings depicting different Biblical scenes, and they will be reproduced in full color with one on each page of the elaborate booklet.

I learned from these brethren this morning that Brother Friberg expects the Church to guarantee $120,000 for his brochure.  He has spoken to me about this matter, but I have merely listened to him, and have not in any way given him the understanding that the Church would ‘back’ him in this project.  I told Brother Skousen and Brother Snyder that I think it will be best for him to get an insurance company to guarantee the money.  They will look into this possibility.  I suppose I shall have to have a consultation with Brother Friberg about this matter.  (See July 2, 1956)”

Mon., 2 July, 1956:

10:30 a.m. – Drove out to Arnold Friberg’s home in Cottonwood where I had another sitting for the portrait he is doing of me.

While there I talked to him about his plan to publish a brochure containing pictures of Biblical scenes in connection with the motion picture ‘The Ten Commandments’.

I told him that the Church could not guarantee the money necessary for the publication of the brochure.

The Bond Company wants $2500 and then they would like the Church’s guarantee also.  I told Bro. Friberg that he would probably have to get five men to guarantee $20,000 each, or 10 men to guarantee $10,000 each.  He said they could get the men to do this.

Fri., 13 July, 1956:

Telephone Calls

“2.  Arnold Friberg (Cr -7-3334)  Said that producer Cecil B. deMille had called him by long distance regarding a confidential matter.

Later, President McKay called Brother Friberg who told him that Mr. deMille would like to extend an invitation to President and Sister McKay to attend a special showing of the motion picture ‘The Ten Commandments’ to be held in Salt Lake.  Important people from all over the United States will be invited to this showing.”

Thurs., 26 July, 1956: 

“8:45 a.m. – Met with Bishop Thorpe B. Isaacson, W. Cleon Skousen and Vernon Snyder, Church lawyer, regarding the publishing of the Friberg brochure containing pictures of Friberg’s drawings of the Ten Commandments.  After discussing ways and means of carrying this project through, it was decided that the brethren named above would meet with the Deseret Book Company Board of Directors to see what could be done.

Bishop Isaacson later reported the following:  ‘Meeting was held in Bishop Thorpe B. Isaacson’s office July 26, 1956 at 10:15 a.m.  Those in attendance were as follows:

‘Bishop Isaacson; Cleone Skousen; Vernon snyder, Attorney; Supt. George R. Hill, President of the Deseret Book Company Board; Harold H. Bennett, Vice President; and Directors Elbert R. Curtis; A. Hamer Reiser; Murray Steward; and Manager of the Store, Brother Alva Parry.

‘Discussions were held with reference to paintings of Arnold Friberg in cooperation with Cecil B. deMille and the printing and painting of a brochure in connection with the picture of the Ten Commandments.

‘Bishop Isaacson presented to the Deseret Book Company Board the necessity of immediate action.  A discussion ensued and questions were asked, and Bishop Isaacson referred the presentation to Brother Skousen, and attempts were made to answer the questions.

‘After a lengthy meeting, Bishop Isaacson suggested that the officers and directors of the Deseret Book Company Board meeting in executive session and check over their articles of Incorporation to see if they are permitted to accept this responsibility, and Bishop Isaacson urged immediate action.

‘Therefore, the meeting adjourned, and the Deseret Book Company Board went into their own executive session with their attorney and will report back to Bishop Isaacson, Brother Skousen, and Brother Snyder.

‘It was the apparent feeling of those present that their chance was not too great.  All felt the brochure would be sold in large numbers, and Bishop Isaacson felt that the Deseret Book Company would not put themselves in financial embarrassment or take an unusual chance in giving a letter of guarantee of credit for the printing of these brochures.  Others expressed themselves likewise.

Later, Brother Skousen telephoned to the printers in California and they were not satisfied with the offer of the Deseret Book Company Board that they (the Deseret Book Company) retain 3 cents a copy.

Thurs., 2 Aug., 1956:

Telephone Calls

2.  Brother W. Cleon Skousen called regarding the arrival of Cecil B. deMille at the airport this evening at 4:50 p.m.  He also gave the following information regarding the premiere showing of the film ‘The Ten Commandments’:  Said that he had talked to Mr. Harry Wilcoxon who is next in line to Mr. deMille, and learned that the premiere showing of ‘The Ten Commandments’ is being held in Salt Lake as a tribute to President McKay, and a gesture on the part of Mr. deMille to show his high regard and respect for President McKay.  Every one in Hollywood is excited about this picture which is considered to be one of the world’s greatest pictures.

The premiere showing will be held in the Center Theatre tomorrow evening at 7:30 o’clock.  It would be well for President McKay and party to arrive at 7:15 in order to avoid a large crowd.  Tickets have been set aside for president McKay’s party.  Tickets have gone on sale for general admission, and the house has been sold out.

Mr. deMille will go directly to the Hotel Utah.  He will hold a press conference at 6 p.m., so there will be announcements in the paper about this film showing.

Brother Skousen felt that inasmuch as this premiere is being shown here mainly because of Mr. deMille’s high regard for President McKay, that he might wish to call him at the Hotel and invite him to the organ recital, or make any other gesture he might like to make.  Usually at a premiere, Mr. deMille has to devote every moment from the time he arrives until he leaves to the details of such an important affair, but a call or invitation from President McKay will be highly acceptable to Mr. deMille.

Brother Skousen called again at 5:25 p.m.  – reported that he had met Mr. deMille and party, and that Mr. deMille is resting at the hotel.  Mr. Wilcoxon suggests that a good time to call Mr. deMille will be sometime after 8 o’clock.”

Fri., 3 Aug., 1956:

“11:30 a.m.  Telephone conversation with Mr. Cecil B. deMille – see following

7:30 p.m.  Premiere Showing of the Ten Commandments, produced by Mr. Cecil B. deMille

At the invitation of Mr. Cecil B. deMille, movie producer, Sister McKay, Dr. and Mrs. Edward R. McKay, Mr. and Mrs. Conway Ashton, Mildred McKay and her daughter Joyce, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. and his daughter, Mrs. Louise Bennion, President and Sister Joseph Fielding Smith, Mrs. Alexander Schreiner, and her daughter, and I attended the first public preview of Mr. deMille’s greatest motion picture – ‘The Ten Commandments’ held in the Center Theatre at 7:30 p.m.

As Sister McKay and I entered the theatre, we were met by one of Mr. deMille’s staff who said:  ‘President McKay, Mr. deMille is waiting to see you in his office.  There we met, in addition to Mr. deMille, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wilcoxon, actor, and assistant producer, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Harper, (daughter and son-in-law of Mr. deMille), and others.  As we walked into the office, Mr. deMille arose to greet us and said:  ‘Well, I told you that I would give you a Preview, and I have kept my promise!’  I answered: ‘We are grateful for the tribute you have paid to our State.’

Promptly at 7:30 p.m. this great producer made a short curtain speech.  In doing so, he honored the Church and State by commencing his remarks by saying ‘President McKay and citizens of Utah.’  He then described his film ‘The Ten Commandments’ as a record of the ‘beginning of the struggle for human liberty.’  He said that ‘the clash of Rameses II and Moses, marks the beginning of the struggle as to whether people belong to the State or if they are free souls unto God.  The two concepts are still being fought today.  We haven’t decided the struggle yet, but it will be settled to the advantage of the individual.  He then related incidents during the making of the film, stating that they followed in the footsteps of Moses with the cameras – from the land of Goshen, Memphis and across what is now the Suez Canal, and in his footsteps to the top of Mt. Sinai.’

Mr. deMille was given a rousing reception by the audience.

Then for the next three hours and forty-three minutes we sat completely enthralled and at times spellbound through the scenes of ‘The Ten Commandments’.  It exceeded my expectations, and is truly a great picture show — there is in it a spiritual element which is most commendable.

Following the showing of this great film, Mr. deMille and his staff, and a large group of people gathered around us.  Newspaper photographers were present and took many pictures while we were discussing the film.  Mr deMille was very interested in our comments and views concerning cuts to be made in the picture, etc.  Sister McKay and I were interviewed by local radio representatives, microphones having been set up in the foyer of the theatre.  I told the radio audience that I was so enthusiastic about the excellence of the motion picture that I feared I should be extreme in my comments, but that I think it is the greatest film ever produced by a peerless producer in the picture show realm.  I further stated that we are highly complimented to have Mr. deMille personally attend this showing.

For an hour Sister McKay and I conversed with those who gathered around us, and finally we were able to leave the theatre.  It was 1 a.m. before we reached our home.

I was weary as I retired for the night, but satisfied with the accomplishments of the day.

Note:  On August 6, 1956, President McKay sent a letter to Mr. deMille giving him a written summary of comments on the preview of the ‘Ten Commandments’ — copy of letter follows.

Telephone Conversation with Mr. Cecil B. deMille, movie producer, while staying at the Hotel Utah.

Mr. Cecil B. deMille called me this morning following his arrival in the city to attend a special showing of ‘The Ten Commandments’ which he has directed and filmed.  He asked if Sister McKay is well, to which I replied that she is in good health, but worried to learn that Mr. deMille is in the city and had not been contacted as yet by our office.  I told him that we had tried many times yesterday to reach him, but our efforts had been fruitless.  Mr. deMille replied that his staff ‘try to protect me from the public and my friends, both of whom I am very fond.’

I then asked him what we might do to make his stay in the city pleasant.  He said that while he is here he will be engaged in conferences and would ‘hardly be fit company’ for any engagements other than the preview tonight.  He also said that the only thing he wanted us to do for him is to give him an honest opinion of the film.

I asked if he might find the time to join Sister McKay and me at dinner, probably tonight.  He said he would be in meetings right up until the beginning of the preview and would be happy to accept our invitation if it were at all possible, but that the business connected with launching this preview would take every moment of his time.

Mr. deMille said the picture will run for three hours and 43 minutes, with a 12-minute intermission.  He would like us in our seats at 7:15 p.m. so that the show could start right on time.  Said he has shown the film to a few private parties – his employees, the cook, housekeeper, etc. and to a few religious leaders in order to get their various reactions.  Said he would appreciate my honest opinion of the movie this evening.

I told Mr. deMille that we had received word that the preview was not to be made public, but that I had noticed by the morning’s paper that he had been interviewed.  He said that he had requested that not much ‘fanfare’ be given, but the newspapers printed what they wished.

Again I asked Mr. deMille if we could do anything for him or his party.  I suggested this time that I should like to arrange a special organ recital in the Tabernacle.  He said he would love to hear our organ, but that he would be in meetings every moment of his stay in Salt Lake; however he said that he knew the members of his family – his daughter and son-in-law, and some of his staff would be delighted with the opportunity.  I asked him to check with the group for a suitable time and then to have them let me know so I could contact an organist.  He said he would do that and have one of them call me promptly.

I explained to Mr. deMille that I have to leave town early tomorrow morning to fulfill a speaking engagement and that I should therefore not be present at the recital.

Later, Mr. Joseph Harper, son-in-law to Mr. deMille, called.

Mr. Harper said that he still remembers with pleasure his visit with Sister McKay and me when we took Mr. deMille’s group through the Los Angeles Temple before its dedication.  He also said that Mr. deMille had told the group of my offer to arrange a special organ recital for them sometime tomorrow.  Some of the staff are required to remain in meeting with local people and Mr. deMille until plane time, but there are about 6 or 8 family members and staff members who would be pleased to have the opportunity to hear the organ.  Mr. deMille himself expressed regret that he would not be able to attend.  Mr. Harper said that anytime between 9:30 and noon tomorrow would be good for the group.

I told him that I would contact one of the organists and then we would call Mr. Harper or Mr. deMille’s secretary at the Hotel Utah (707 or 709) as soon as a convenient time could be arranged.

I expressed my wish that the whole group visiting Salt Lake City would enjoy their stay here.  He was gracious with his thanks.

Later, I contacted Dr. Frank Asper who will give the special organ recital for the deMille group.”

Friday, August 3, 1956

August 6, 1956

My dear Mr. deMille:

Thinking that the following summary of comments on the preview of the ‘Ten Commandments’ given in the Centre Theatre last Friday night might be of interest to you, I take pleasure in sending this note.  They come from Church members, professors in education, doctors, show patrons, and others, all of whom are men and women of pretty sound judgment:

1.  ‘The greatest film production I have ever seen.’

2. ‘A sacred story treated masterfully and reverently.’

3. ‘The crossing of the Red Sea, the building of the Golden Calf, the

depicting of the severity of the bondage of the Israelites, the 

appearing of Moses with the tablets on which were written 

with the finger of God the immortal Ten Commandments,

marked the highest achievement ever reached in film


4. ‘The narrator in voice and substance added clarity and dignity

to the sacred theme.’

5. Often repeated–‘I want to see it again.’

6. Regarding the music:  ‘The adaptation of the music to the theme

added to the impressiveness of this great picture.’

7. ‘Professional attention to the power of detail was especially

noticeable in the little girl’s calling for her dolly when the 

Israelites began their exodus.’

To all the above and more I heartily subscribe.  All in the audience responded to

the spirit of reverence when the voice of God commanded Moses on Mount Sinai:  ‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’

Again, my dear friend, may I express my personal gratitude and, as far as I have the right, the gratitude of the membership of the Church for your having favored Salt Lake City and Utah with the first public preview of this truly great, and in many respects, marvelous production.

With kindest personal regards, I remain

Sincerely yours,



Mr. Cecil B. deMille

Paramount Pictures Corporation

5451 Marathon Street

Hollywood 38, California

Mr. deMille’s answer and birthday congratulations to Mr. deMille follows.

August 3, 1956

Copy of telegram sent to Mr. Cecil B. deMille by

President McKay on August 12, 1956 – President McKay was 

at Laguna Beach, California at the time.

‘Mr. Cecil B. deMille

Paramount Studios

Hollywood, California

Dear Friend:

On this your Seventy-fifth Anniversary Mrs. McKay and I join in heartfelt congratulations, and prayerful wishes for many successful and happy years ahead wherein you may continue to be the peerless producer in the Picture Show Realm.  Stop.  God bless you for your having directed the attention of people in many lands to God and Truth.




August 3, 1956



    West Coast Studios

                  5451 Marathon Street, Hollywood 38, Calif.

15 August    1956

President David O. McKay

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

47 East South Temple Street

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear President McKay:

Thank you for your greeting on my 75th birthday.  That is the diamond anniversary, so they say – but good wishes like yours shine brighter and last longer than any diamond, for they are made of a substance that will survive forever with us – the thoughts that come from the mind and heart of a friend.

It is so characteristic of you, in your letter of August 6th, not only to repeat the wonderful things you said to me in Salt Lake City about THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, but to take the trouble to gather up and summarize for me the comments you have heard about our production!  I thank you from my heart.

That evening, August 3rd, at the theatre in Salt Lake City, was one of the high moments of my life, representing as it did the culmination and the crown of years of work which I humbly hope that God can use for His purposes.  It was the kind of moment one wants to share with friends who can appreciate what it means – and that is why I was so especially happy that you and Mrs. McKay were there.


                          (signed) Cecil B. deMille


Mon., 22 Oct., 1956:

Telephone Calls

“1.  Chief Cleon Skousen called — Said he had received a telephone message from Cecil B. deMille asking him to find out from President McKay if Mr. deMille could have permission to publish President McKay’s letter to Mr. deMille dated August 6, 1956 which pertains to the motion picture ‘The Ten Commandments’ which had its premiere showing in Salt Lake August 4, 1956.  Upon presenting this matter to President McKay, he gave his permission for Mr. deMille to publish his letter, and asked his secretary to so inform Brother Skousen.  (cm)”

Sun., 2 Dec., 1956:

“Spent the day at the office attending to special matters.  While attending to these duties, a knock came, and I opened the door to greet Richard L. Evans who had with him Mr. James Lavenstein of 485 Madison Avenue, New York City, who is connected with the Paramount Studios and who prepared for Cecil B. deMille, producer of motion pictures, a full-page advertisement of ‘Ten Commandments’ just recently filmed by Mr. deMille.  This page contains a letter written by President McKay to Mr. deMille concerning the motion picture ‘Ten Commandments’.

The following note later came to the secretary from Richard L. Evans:

‘To Clare Middlemiss from Richard L. Evans – December 4, 1956:  Here is another of the Ten Commandments pages with President McKay’s statement in it.  Interestingly Jim Lavenstein of CBS, New York, who sent this – was here Sunday (Dec. 2) and I was just showing him the onyx room when I heard the President’s door click.  I took the liberty of knocking on it – and introducing Jim Lavenstein to him.  He had often expressed his desire to meet the President — and he was thrilled.  It would have warmed your heart to hear his comments as to the President’s graciousness and bearing and firm handshake, etc. etc.  Regards, /s/ Richard L. Evans'”

Wed., 16 Jan., 1957:

“Wednesday, January 16, 1957.

This is a copy of a letter received by President McKay from Cecil B. deMille.  In December President McKay sent him a copy of the book ‘A Look At Mormonism”.


West Coast Studios

5451 Marathon Street      Hollywood 38, California

15 January, 1957

President and Mrs. David O. McKay

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

47 East South Temple Street

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear President and Mrs. McKay:

Thank you for sending me the inscribed copy of ‘A Look At Mormonism’, a fascinating and very useful collection of glimpses at the widespread and varied activities of your church.  As I leaf through it, one thing that strikes me is the predominance of cheerful smiling faces, even in the unposed photographs – a fine illustration of the wholesome influence of your faith upon its devout adherence.

With affectionate greetings to you both,


/s/ Cecil B. deMille


Thurs., 17 Jan., 1957:

“2:30 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.  Met with Pres. Stephen L. Richards and Charlton Heston.  Charlton Heston, film star, took the part of Moses in the show, ‘The Ten Commandments’.”

Thurs., 7 Feb., 1957:

“Elder Mark Petersen called and reported that Mr. Phil Speckart had contacted him regarding the coming showing at the Uptown Theatre, Salt Lake City, of the motion picture ‘The Ten Commandments’.  He would like permission to send letters to all our Bishops in Utah inviting them to urge the members of their Wards to see this show, and also to send with the letter a statement from President McKay commending the picture.  If President McKay cannot make a new statement, then they would like permission to use the statement by President McKay published in the Deseret News at the time of the premiere showing of ‘The Ten Commandments’ at the Center Theater.  If President McKay does not care to do this, they would like permission to use the letter sent to Mr. Cecil B. deMille by President McKay in which he highly commends Mr. deMille on this outstanding motion picture.

President McKay asked Clare to call Brother Petersen and tell him to tell Mr. Speckart that since President McKay had declined to send letters to our Bishops commending the ‘Martin Luther’ motion picture to our people that it would be unfair to permit those sponsoring the film ‘The Ten Commandments’ to send letters to our Bishops.  However, since Mr. Cecil B. deMille has used an excerpt from President McKay’s letter in advertising the film ‘The Ten Commandments’, that it is now public property, and the same quotation used by Mr. deMille in his advertisements may be used by the local film people.

Brother Petersen will so advise Mr. Speckart.” 

Sun., 17 Feb., 1957:

I found on my desk a letter from Mr. John O. Denman, Manager of the Uptown Theatre inviting Sister McKay and me to attend as his guests a special showing of the motion picture ‘The Ten Commandments’ to be held at the Uptown Theatre tomorrow evening at 7:45 o’clock.  The letter requested that I send word as to whether or not we would be able to attend, so I dictated a letter to Mr. Denman informing him that we would be present on this occasion, and because of press of time had the letter delivered directly to Mr. Denman at the Theatre.”

Wed., 29 May, 1957:

“Wednesday, May 29, 1957

Telephone conversation with Mr. Donald Hayne, personal representative of Mr. Cecil B. deMille, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Hollywood, California.

Mr. Donald Hayne, personal representative to Mr. Cecil B. deMille, called by telephone from Hollywood, California.  Mr. Hayne stated that they are looking forward to seeing us soon.  I replied that we are anticipating that pleasure.  Mr. Hayne said further that Mr. Lester Whetten of the Brigham Young University had called him today and had extended an invitation from Mrs. McKay and me for Mr. deMille to attend a dinner tomorrow evening.

Mr. Hayne said that he was taking it upon himself, privately, to call and tell me that Mr. deMille is not feeling very well.  He has just returned from a long trip and seems especially fatigued, and he is rather concerned about Mr. deMille.  Mr. Hayne said that this may seem forward on his part, but he feels that Mr. deMille should be excused from this dinner engagement.  I told Mr. Hayne that we have in mind Mr. deMille’s welfare, and of course, we were selfish as we thought we could get a few moments of his time during the dinner.

Mr. Hayne said further that he did not know whether Mr. deMille would like him reporting these things, but Mr. deMille’s doctor sometime ago had a serious talk with Mr. Hayne and had asked him to try and keep his engagements to a minimum.  Mr. Hayne then stated that he assumed that Mrs. McKay and I would be at the Brigham Young University for the Commencement Exercises, I told him, ‘Yes.’  I told Mr. Hayne to give our love to Mr. deMille and tell him that we are looking forward with happy anticipation to his coming.  I then asked Mr. Hayne if he is coming.  He stated that he will arrive in the morning, and Mr. deMille will arrive late in the afternoon.  I thanked him for calling.”

Fri., 31 May, 1957:

“5 p.m.  In company with Sister McKay, and my son and daughter-in-law, (Dr. and Mrs. Edward McKay) with Edward driving the car, I left for Provo, Utah, to attend Commencement Exercises of the Brigham Young University.

At 7:10 p.m.  went directly to the Maeser Building, where I met Mr. Cecil B. deMille, movie producer from Hollywood, California, who greeted me very warmly, President Ernest L. Wilkinson, a number of the General Authorities, and the B.Y.U. Faculty members.  President Wilkinson and I headed the academic procession which proceeded to the Smith Fieldhouse for the Commencement Exercises.

7:30 p.m.  Presided at the Commencement Exercises.  Fifteen thousand persons were gathered in the Fieldhouse, making the largest audience ever to be accommodated in that building.  Included in this group were 1,053 graduating students.

The following program was carried out:


Academic Procession


Chorus:  ‘He Watching Over Israel’ (from Elijah)………………..Mendelssohn

Invocation………………………………………………………Elder Mark E. Petersen

Chorus—-‘Holy, Holy, Holy’…………………………………………………Gounod

    Brandt Curtis, Tenor Soloist

Address to Graduates………………………………………………..Cecil B. deMille

Conferring of Doctorate Degrees…………………President Ernest L. Wilkinson

      and President David O. McKay

Hymn————‘Redeemer of Israel’

(Chorus and Congregation)

Charge to Graduates and Conferring of Bachelor Degrees…President Ernest L. 


Nightingale Pledge to Nursing Candidates……….Director Bernice L. Chapman

Presentation of A.F.R.O.T.C. Commissions…………………Col. Barnett S. Allen

Conferring of Master’s Degrees………………………President Ernest L. Wilkinson

College Song

(Chorus and Congregation)

Benediction…………………………………………………………Elder George Q. Morris


Choral Music by Brigham Young University Choral Union

Conducted by Ralph Woodward

University Organist, J.J. Keeler

I had great joy in introducing Mr. Cecil B. deMille as the Commencement

speaker.  I said that one element of greatness is the ability to choose the right with invincible resolution – that our speaker this evening has demonstrated in our country, and in every state in the Union, that he stood for what he thought was right.  I said further that it is not only in his ability to choose the right that I refer to him as a great man, but because of his soul, his faith in God, and his confidence in his fellow men.  I then told of the millions he has impressed with his great film productions, especially his latest triumph – ‘The Ten Commandments’, a master-piece, in making which Mr. deMille was prompted only with the desire to impress humanity with the fact that God is real.  Already millions have been impressed, and prior to this film production, more millions were led to read the scriptures because of Mr. deMilles’ productions than perhaps from any other source in the world.

Mr. deMille then delivered a masterful address, paying tribute to the Church, to Brigham Young and to members of the Church with whom he had come in contact.  I considered Mr. deMile’s address to the graduates a gem, and feel that he meant every word that he said.  (see newspaper clippings giving an account of his address)

Following Mr. deMilles’ address, an honorary doctorate degree was conferred upon him.  Honorary degrees were also conferred upon President Ernest L. Wilkinson, Brother Merrill N. Warnick and Brother Glen E. Nielson.

Dr. William F. Edwards presented the certificates to the graduating students.  As no one was shaking hands with them, I went forward and started to shake each one’s hand.  Before I had finished I had shaken hands with nearly 1200 graduates!  And then after the conclusion of the exercises I stood for an hour or so greeting and shaking hands with the parents and relatives.

It was 12:30 p.m. before we returned to Salt Lake, and 1 a.m. before we retired.  Sister McKay and I were really exhausted, but thankful for a successful and happy day.


President Stephen L. Richards made the following report about the Commencement Exercises on June 6, 1957:

He said that Friday night he saw the telecast of the fine Commencement Address at the Brigham Young University.  Said he thought President McKay’s introduction of Mr. Cecil B. deMille was a masterpiece, and that Mr. deMille’s response was so generous that he thought it must have made a very fine impression on everyone.  He thought it a little unfortunate that the telecast only lasted for an hour and ended in the middle of the citation for Dr. Wilkinson.  A reproduction of Mr. deMille’s talk will be given over the air Sunday evening.

Note by Secretary

Tribute Paid to President David O. McKay by Mr. Cecil B. deMille, Film producer from Hollywood, California as he delivered his Commencement Address at the Brigham Young University:

‘If Brigham Young University chooses to honor me in this way, to enroll my name alongside the names of the other members of this class of 1957, it cannot be because of any academic achievement akin to theirs; it can only be in recognition of certain ideas which I have tried in one way and another to express in my lifetime and in my work – those ideas are not mine.  I am not their originator, but their servant.  It is in that spirit that I accept, humbly and gratefully, this high honor – which I shall cherish as an additional inspiration and incentive to be, as far as I am able, a good servant of the ideas and ideals represented by this university which I can now call ‘Alma Mater.’

‘I have also a very personal reason for being grateful for this honor, because it forms another link in the strong bond of the most valued friendships that I have, the friendship of a man who combines wisdom and warmth of heart, in whom four-score years have not dampened the enthusiasm of youth, a man who can truly and literally be called a latter-day saint, the President of your Church — David O. McKay.

‘I have known many members of your Church – and I have never known one who was not a good citizen and a fine, wholesome person – but David O. McKay embodies, more than anyone that I have ever known, the virtues and the drawing-power of your Church.

‘David McKay – almost thou persuadest me to be a Mormon!

‘And, knowing what family life means to the Latter-day Saints, I cannot speak or think of President McKay without thinking too of that gracious and spirited young lady who is his wife.  Only he knows – but the rest of us who know her can guess – what Mrs. McKay has meant to the President and to his work in the years since their lives were joined together ‘for time and eternity.’

Mon., 3 June, 1957:

Telephone Calls

“Chief of Police Cleon Skousen who is in close touch with Mr. Cecil B. deMille through his private secretary — Mr. Hayne – called President McKay’s secretary by telephone this morning to give the following facts:

Said that Mr. deMille had said that he had never had a more sincere complimentary introduction than that which President McKay had given when he presented Mr. deMille as the speaker at the Brigham Young University Commencement Exercises last Friday evening, May 31, 1957.  Said he:  ‘I have been introduced at important functions many, many times, but never have I had such an introduction — it was sincere and from the heart.  In fact, I felt as though I were being introduced by a King.’

Chief Skousen then went on to say that the reason why Mr. deMille had not accepted the invitation of President and Sister McKay for dinner Thursday evening is because he is under strict orders from his doctor not to accept any dinner engagements, or to have consultations or meetings with any person who is stimulating to him such as persons whom he highly regards.  He must eat alone and have frequent rests.  All this is necessitated because of a very severe heart attack suffered by Mr. deMille when he was in Egypt directing the filming of the Ten Commandments, and subsequent less serious attacks quite recently.  The doctor has restricted his activity and said that if Mr. deMille will adhere to his orders there is no reason why he should not be able to carry out his important work.  (cm)

December 28, 1957

Los Angeles, California December 21, 1957

President and Mrs. David O. McKay

1037 East South Temple St.

Salt Lake City, Utah

The Star of Bethlehem still outshines all the satellites.  May it light our paths through the year ahead.  Greetings.

Cecil B. deMille

December 27, 1957

Mr. Cecil B. deMille

2010 deMille Drive

Los Angeles, California

Your telegram was delivered Christmas Day in the midst of family festivities.  All children and grandchildren join in appreciation and hearty reciprocation of your Christmas Greetings.

May the New Year bring you renewed health, happiness and continued success in your beneficial service for the betterment of mankind.

Cordially and sincerely,

Mr. and Mrs. David O. McKay

165 Emerald Bay

Laguna Beach, California”

Tues., 12 Aug., 1958:

“Note:  Telegram to Cecil B. deMille.

Sent a telegram to Cecil B. deMille congratulating him on his 77th birthday.  A copy follows:

‘Mr. Cecil B. deMille

Paramount Pictures Corporation

5451 Marathon Street

Hollywood 38, California

Mrs. McKay joins in sending heartfelt congratulations on your 77th birthday anniversary.  Truly you have made the world better and mankind happier by your years of unselfish devotion to God, to Truth, and to your fellow men.  Grateful to hear of your recovery from your recent illness.’  /s/ David O. McKay

On August 18, 1958   Mr. Cecil B. deMille sent a letter of thanks for the above telegram – copy follows (original letter in scrap book):

‘President & Mrs. David O. McKay

1037 E. So. Temple Street

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear President and Mrs. McKay:

Thank you for your thoughtful and heart-warming message on my birthday, which helps me begin my 78th year with renewed vigor–and with a prayer that God’s blessing will return upon those whose friendship had blessed me through so many years.


/s/ Cecil B. deMille”

Fri., 31 Oct., 1958:

Later, Clare reported that Mr. Donald McLayne of the Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California had telephoned in Cecil B. deMille’s behalf for a statement from me on the Right to Work issue.  This call had come through Chief Cleon Skousen who was informed that I was recuperating from eye surgery and would, therefore, be unable to prepare the statement.  When Mr. McLayne was informed of this fact, he left the following message for me:

‘Give the President Mr. deMille’s very best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.  And although he won’t remember me, (I met him once), please add mine.’

Wed., 21 Jan., 1959:

“7:30 a.m.  Passing of Cecil B. deMille, Movie Producer

Received word of the passing of Cecil B. deMille of the Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California.  Mr. deMille, the producer of ‘The Ten Commandments’, and other great master pieces, had been a friend for many years, and I held him in the highest esteem.

Soon after I arrived at the office the reporter from the Deseret News called and asked me to make a statement regarding Mr. deMille’s death.  (see newspaper clipping following for this statement)

I also sent a telegram to the deMille family, a copy of which follows:

‘Mrs. Cecil B. deMille and Family

Paramount Pictures Corporation

5451 Marathon Street

Hollywood, 38, California

Mrs. McKay and I greatly shocked this morning to learn of Mr. deMille’s sudden demise.  Peerless Picture show producer – world benefactor, a loyal friend, a truly great soul.  He merits the welcome ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the rest prepared for the just.  Heart-felt condolence to his bereaved Loved Ones.  Sincerely, David O. McKay.’

(See diaries of former years for comments on Mr. deMille) *(see note following)

*Death of Mr. Cecil B. deMille, Movie Producer (continued)

Later, Pres. McKay received a beautifully bound book containing the script of the screen play ‘The Ten Commandments’ used by Mr. Cecil B. deMille, from the Paramount Studios in Hollywood — see Feb. 6, 1959 for copies of letters from Paramount Studios and Pres. McKay’s reply.


(see copy of letter following from Joseph W. Harper giving appreciation for Pres. McKay’s message of sympathy upon the passing of Cecil B. deMille.)”

Fri., 6 Feb., 1959:

Bound Volume of the manuscript of the film ‘The Ten Commandments’ received by President McKay from Cecil B. deMille.

A leather-bound volume of the manuscript of the film, ‘The Ten Commandments’ prepared by Mr. Cecil B. deMille before his death was received by me.  Today I sent a letter to Ann del Valle, secretary to Mr. deMille, acknowledging the receipt of this volume.  (see copy of letter following).

Friday, February 6, 1959


54521 Marathon Street 

  Hollywood 38, Calif.

      26 January 1959

President David O. McKay

47 East South Temple Street

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear President McKay:

Going to you today under separate cover is an especially bound copy of the screenplay for THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.  It was being held for a personal letter from Mr. deMille.  There are just 25 of these books in existence.  Only 19 had been imprinted with the names for whom Mr. deMille intended them, and yours was among that 19.

Mr. deMille had great admiration and affection for you, and for everything for which you stand.


/s/ Ann del Valle

Ann del Valle

(Original letter is filed with the book.)

February 6, 1959

Dear Miss del Valle:

I have delayed acknowledging the receipt of your letter of January 26, 1959 pending the delivery of a bound copy of the screen play ‘The Ten Commandments’ to which you make reference in your letter.

The beautiful book with my name imprinted in gold came yesterday.  There is no volume in my library to which I shall give more value.  Your letter will be filed with it containing this treasured phrase:  ‘Only nineteen had been imprinted with the names for whom Mr. deMille intended them, and yours was among that nineteen.’

So genuine is my affection for this great man that I feel honored to have my posterity know that, in part at least, he reciprocated my friendship.

Sincerely yours,

David O. McKay


(copy in scrap book)

Miss Ann del Valle

Paramount Pictures Corporation

5451 Marathon Street

Hollywood 38, California”

Fri., 13 Nov. 1959:


Autobiography of Cecil B. deMille, containing Tribute to President McKay. (cm)

Today sent a letter to Mrs. Cecilia deMille Harper, daughter of the great movie producer, Cecil B. deMillle, thanking her for sending to me the autobiography for her father, accompanied by a letter, a copy of which follows.

See also newspaper article about the book, which tells of Mr. deMille’s impressions of President McKay.  (cm)

Friday, November 13, 1959

October 27, 1959

Dear President and Mrs. McKay,

Because of father’s friendship for you and his admiration of the principles for which you stand, I am sending you this autobiography.

Father would not have sent this to you with any thought that he was of such great importance that you should have a book about him.  He would hope it might entertain you and that you will find interest in some of his experiences as one of the pioneer-builders of all industry.

Perhaps I am biased, but I believe in the pages of this book you will find the man who you, President McKay, so graciously called ‘a world benefactor’ and ‘a man of high ideals’ and who, may I add, would feel very honored to have you say you were ‘proud to be counted among his friends.’

With regards

/s/ Cecelia deMille Harper

Friday, November 13, 1959

November 13, 1959

Dear Mrs. Harper:

It thrills Sister McKay and me to be recipients of an autobiography of your distinguished father, sent through your hands.  Your letter accompanying the book will now become a part of my Memoirs, and the book itself treasured as one of the choicest in my personal library.

One of the most memorable experiences of our lives was a visit that Mrs. McKay and I made to the making of a scene in ‘The Ten Commandments’.  We were standing on the side lines intensely interested in Mr. deMille’s directing a most thrilling spectacle.  Suddenly I was startled to hear your father’s voice:

‘I’m informed that President and Mrs. McKay are in the audience.  Will they please come forward and sit near me.’

He then introduced us to the hundreds of actors on the set, who greeted his introduction with a round of applause.  Mr. deMille then resumed his masterful directing.

He was a perfectionist — not a person, not a detail escaped his scrutiny.  He impressed me as a master mind preparing a message for the world.  This he was, and this he did.

He was nobility personified, and his message influenced millions.

God bless his memory!

With kind personal regards and best wishes, in which Mrs. McKay joins, I remain

Cordially and sincerely,

David O. McKay


Mrs. Cecelia deMille Harper

2010 deMille Drive

Los Angeles, California”

Thurs., 19 July 1962:

DeMille, Cecil B. (Blount)  -Temple Work done for Him and his Wife

A letter from Mrs. Issa M. Aldrich of Mt. Pleasant recited that Friday, July 13, she and her husband, O.M. Aldrich, her brother, and Brother and sister Arnold Friberg, with the daughter of Arnold Stevens, Parcia, at the Manti Temple did ordinance work for Cecil Blount DeMille and his wife, Constance Adams DeMille.

Cecil B. DeMille, with whom I was personally acquainted, was the great Movie Producer.  I met him at his studios during the production of ‘The Ten Commandments.’

Mrs. Aldrich explained also that Cecil B. DeMille’s brother William died March 5, 1955, and asked if she may have authorization to have the temple work done for him.  She said she is a seventh cousin, and the rules of the Genealogical Society do not permit anyone more remotely than second cousins to do the work.  President Brown explained that this ruling has recently been changed, and there is no reason why the work could not be done.

I asked that the matter be referred to the officers of the Genealogical Society, and that they be informed that permission to do the work is given.