Henry K. Miller
Friday 3 February
Cecil B. DeMille arrives in New York on the Aquitania after two months in Europe.
DeMille was Famous Players-Lasky’s main director; he had been in at the foundation of the Lasky company almost ten years earlier, and his cycle of racy comedies, beginning with Old Wives for New in 1918, had made him the world’s most famous filmmaker after Griffith, as well as turning Gloria Swanson into a star.
Before his departure he claimed that it was his ‘first vacation in more than eight years’, and that he had no intention to work. London was the last item on his itinerary, which took in Italy, North Africa, France, and Germany. ‘On the last lap of the trip’, he told the American trade paper Moving Picture World, ‘I expect to visit the Paramount working units in England and on the Continent. But my inspection of these will be the only touch of business in the entire trip.’ Is it possible that his visit was connected with Al Kaufman’s announcement that FP-L was closed for the winter?
There was a regular turnover of American personnel at Poole Street, and regular visits from senior figures in the company. Jeanie Macpherson, DeMille’s screenwriter – they had done Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton together, as Male and Female – had paid a visit in early 1921.
Also in Europe at the turn of 1921–2 was Myron Selznick, 23-year-old elder son of the movie mogul Lewis J. Selznick. The Selznick family business was no longer in the same league as the major American studios, but had staved off bankruptcy – that came later. Myron’s duties included securing British distribution for the Selznick company’s output, in the course of which he gained an impression of the production situation ‘over there’.
On his return to New York, at the end of January 1922, Selznick told Moving Picture World that he ‘wouldn’t try to make pictures in England under any circumstances’, not only because of the climate – he alluded to FP-L’s decision to send its production units to the Mediterranean – but because ‘there are no locations or scenes which lend themselves particularly to the making of pictures’. Moreover, ‘there is a very antagonistic feeling against everything in America and, particularly, on the part of the English producers, against American films’, he found.
Ten years later Myron Selznick became Hitchcock’s US agent, and six years after that, in 1938, put together Hitchcock’s first Hollywood deal, with his brother, David O. Selznick.