When the Hollywood Foreign Press Association decided to establish a special, prestigious award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment, the members wanted it to bear an internationally recognized and respected name. So they turned to a born showman, Cecil B. DeMille, who accepted the idea graciously, and the first Cecil B. DeMille award went to him in 1952, the year his penultimate film, The Greatest Show on Earth, premiered.
The following year, 1953, at the Tenth Annual Golden Globe Awards gala, Walt Disney received the DeMille award; the winning pictures were The Greatest Show on Earth and With a Song in My Heart while Gary Cooper, Shirley Booth, Donald O'Connor and Susan Hayward took the top acting awards (and Richard Burton was pronounced Most Promising Newcomer).
Such notables (including several future DeMille awardees) as Joan Crawford, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Stanley Kramer, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Doris Day, Samuel Fuller, Alan Ladd and others wrote warm congratulatory letters to the association on this anniversary. So did Cecil B. DeMille, to wit:
During the last ten years the members of your Association have endeared themselves to us in Hollywood for two main reasons. You have made friends with us and you have made friends for us. It's difficult to say which of these two things makes us happier. Perhaps the first, because of its personal contact—the warmth of which I have felt every time I have met any of you. Congratulations on your 10th Anniversary—I hope I shall be around to congratulate you on your 25th.
Cecil B. DeMille
Unfortunately, Cecil didn't make it. The last Golden Globe Awards gala he attended was the 15th.
The Cecil B. DeMille award winners are chosen by the HFPA board of directors and presented each year (except for 1976). The first woman to receive the award was Judy Garland in 1962 (following Fred Astaire which delighted her no end), the next was Joan Crawford in 1970. The list of winners provides a spectrum of talented human beings who have had a definite impact on the world of entertainment, be it Alfred Hitchcock, Lucille Ball, Sidney Poitier, Sophia Loren, Sean Connery, Barbra Streisand or any one of those thoughtfully selected for the honor.