Beatrice deMille

Buck, Julie

Beatrice deMille was born Matilda Beatrice Samuel in Liverpool, England. She immigrated with her family to New York in 1871. Though her family and friends called her Tillie growing up, when she met Henry deMille, he immediately started calling her Beatrice, after Dante’s Beatrice. According to her son, the director-producer Cecil B. DeMille, when Beatrice told her family that she intended to marry Henry, a Christian, they said they would disown her for converting from her Jewish faith (12). Never one to obey the rules, Beatrice married Henry deMille in Brooklyn, New York, in 1876. Henry had always wanted to be an actor. To make money when they were first married, they both taught—he composition and she elocution—at a preparatory school. When school was out for the summer, they would work as traveling actors, Beatrice always using the stage name Agnes Graham. Programs from a number of the theatrical productions in which they performed are found in the DeMille collection at Brigham Young University. To secure his success as an actor, Henry began writing plays in which he would play the lead role. Soon he formed a partnership with future theatre impresario David Belasco, and the two wrote and produced a number of theatre productions, most of which starred Henry, that were enormously successful. Henry was able to buy a large house in Pompton, New Jersey, for the three children he had with Beatrice—William, Cecil, and Agnes, who would die at age four of spinal meningitis. Then, at the height of his success, according to his obituary, Henry deMille contracted typhoid fever and suddenly died (5).


More About This Work

Academic Units
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019