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"B" AS IN BARNUM 313 one of his pictures but that DeMille had never read a single one of his poems. DeMille regretfully agreed. Robert Benchley de- voted column after column of inspired invective to DeMille and his pictures, then visited the producer at the studio and watched him trumpet like a chained elephant as he directed a mob scene. Afterwards DeMille received the eminent humorist with open- armed affection, thanked him for keeping his name before the public. Benchley went away a staunch DeMille supporter. On the day the million-dollar theater opened its doors in downtown Los Angeles, featuring the debut of a DeMille pic- ture, the spectators gasped at sight of an airplane circling the flagpole atop the theater dome. The pilot was DeMille. He re- ceived more publicity than either the opening or the picture. His forays into exploitation were foolproof. He shunned the infantile and made sure that there was enough sense in an ex- ploit to gain it public acceptance. A lapse in this custom oc- curred in the 'Twenties, when the studios faced an odd racial problem. Every movie gangster was detectably of Italian ex- traction. The Italians objected, whereupon the villains began looking like Germans, and the Germans complained. Showman DeMille's instincts were astir. He set out in his yacht, Seaward, and upon his return a few days later announced that he was negotiating for the purchase of the Cedros islands off the California coast. Henceforth all the villains in his pic- tures would be Cedrans. He told friends that he was going to put the entire island population of several hundred people under contract with a yearly retainer of $10 per capita. There would be enough villains for every studio, at the usual guild rates. Nothing came of the idea other than a gleeful reception by the press. The Dutch Government decorated DeMille with the Order of Orange-Nassau for bringing to the screen the story of Cory- don WasselTs almost singlehanded evacuation of wounded Navy men from Java to Australia during World War II. The world first learned of the Arkansas doctor s heroism through one of