William C. de Mille was a playwright, motion-picture producer and director and founder of the drama department at the University of Southern California. He was the brother of Cecil B. DeMille, the screen director and producer.
De Mille, who joined USC in 1941 after an illustrious career in the theatrical world, resigned in 1953, planning to return to writing.
De Mille began writing plays in 1900. Among his plays were “Strongheart,” “The Warrens of Virginia,” “The Land of the Free,” and “The Woman.” His books included “The Forest Ring” and “Hollywood Saga.” He was also the author of numerous one-act plays, including “In 1999,” “The Man Higher Up,” “Poor Old Jim” and “The Deceivers.”
De Mille was the son of Henry C. de Mille. By his first marriage he was the father of Agnes, the choreographer, and Margaret, the fashion director of a New York department store. His first wife was Anna A. George, to whom he was married in 1902. In 1926, he married Clara Beranger, also famed as a writer and lecturer.
His daughter Agnes said in her book, “Dance to the Piper,” that “language is his delight and tool” and she related that in his 70s he could “still wallop the daylights out of men years his junior on the tennis courts.”
The celebrated author came to Hollywood in 1914 at the request of his brother. Originally, when his brother asked him to come out west, he refused, quipping that he should save the money to pay for his brother’s train fare back to New York. When he finally came west, he expected to stay only about six months, but he became a confirmed Californian.
He directed such films as “Peg o’ My Heart,” “What Every Woman Knows,” “Craig’s Wife,” “The Doctor’s Secret,” “Grumpy,” “Ragamuffin,” “Icebound” and “The Clown.” Stars who enacted roles under his direction included Clara Bow, Mary Pickford, Thomas Meighan, Blanche Sweet, Basil Rathbone, Wallace Reid and Victor Moore.