by John C. Odean / Director of Media and Communications

I count one of my blessings in Hollywood in the 1970s was to get to know Katherine DeMille Quinn and be involved in several ministries with her. I have always admired her father Cecil B. DeMille because he demonstrated his respect for the Bible in several films he produced and knew the influence films can have on its audience whether good or bad. He stated, “It is a sobering thought that the decisions we make at our desks in Hollywood can affect the lives of human beings, men woman and children throughout the world.” 

I came across this article in a newspaper years ago. 

MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS EVE by Cecil B. DeMille

Not long ago I was asked to recall my most unusual experience in motion pictures. I did not have to search my memory.

It was Christmas eve (1926) on the set of “The King of Kings.” We had just finished the scenes depicting the crucifixion and the earthquake which followed. It was late and we were just about to quit for the day.

Everyone was tired and hungry. Some had been rolled in the dirt. It had been a long and trying scene. They had seen the three men on the cross – the good thief and the bad thief, and in all its agony, the crucifixion. They had been taxed emotionally and they had been worn physically. They were anxious to get home.

Among the two thousand people on the stage, every class and faith and type of human being could be found. There were atheists, those who believed in nothing. There were rough, tough, burly individuals who had been portraying Roman soldiers. It was truly a mixed multitude.

The stage was made of glass and the light was beginning to fade as I turned to them. I called their attention to the fact that we were standing beneath the cross on Christmas Eve.

“So let’s take five minutes out to think,” I said. “It will be five minutes of silence. Those who want to can pray. Those of you who don’t believe and are just waiting, think of your mothers, or whatever it is that you find it inspiring to think about.”

You could see the different expressions. Some of them were annoyed and anxious to get away.

The light continued to fade and soon the only light was on the cross. An organ on the set had been playing to create “atmosphere” while we were shooting. The organist started to play again, very quietly. I still don’t know whether it was a hymn.

One by one people dropped to their knees. Others began to sing. Some crossed themselves. Soon almost a third of the company was on its knees at the foot of the cross. Some of the others bowed their heads. And then, those who were left standing dropped to their knees. The light was almost gone. The cross could be seen against the sky. Even today I cannot recall that scene without emotion. I saw tears on the faces of hard-boiled extras, some of them the Roman soldiers who, only a few minutes before, had been rolling dice at the foot of the occupied cross. And I heard women sob.

In five minutes that huge Hollywood stage had mysteriously become converted to a cathedral. It was as though the presence itself had come to the stage. By then everyone’s face was stained with tears.

I have never seen anything more moving. It was the most memorable Christmas Eve of my life.