Henry DeMille lived in New York with his wife Beatrice and two children. He was a bald, slender man, professorial in nature, and mild-mannered. He was also an eminent playwright, though he viewed the stage with strong misgivings. In 1893, before his 40th birthday, he contracted Typhoid fever. On his deathbed he begged his wife: "Let the boys be lawyers, grocers, bank clerks or deep sea divers, but whatever you do -- keep them from the theatre." The plea had little affect on the boys, William and Cecil. They never gave law, banking or any other profession more than a fleeting glance. William, the family intellectual, switched from engineering to writing for the stage at Columbia University. Cecil, after studying at the Academy of Dramatic Arts, made his debut as an actor seven years after his father's death.