Vienna-born actor, writer, and director Erich Von Stroheim worked mainly in the silent film genre (only one of his films was a "talkie"), but he seemed nevertheless to make a lot of noise. As an actor in Hollywood during World War... [more]
Vienna-born actor, writer, and director Erich Von Stroheim worked mainly in the silent film genre (only one of his films was a "talkie"), but he seemed nevertheless to make a lot of noise. As an actor in Hollywood during World War I, he was often typecast as the leering, be-monocled Prussian villain. In his most famous role, he played Max Von Mayerling to Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond in the 1950s classic "Sunset Boulevard."
As a director, Von Stroheim was ahead of his time, making extravagant, over-budget films. The original cut of his epic, "Greed" (1924), ran over nine hours, but the film was later lopped to 140 minutes by the studio. Though he directed nine films between 1919 and 1932, he frequently encountered mid or post-production interventions from his financial backers. Only "The Merry Widow" (1925) was a redemptive success, focusing as did most of his movies on a story of decadent perversion in high society.
After numerous directing jobs ended as smashing failures, he returned to Europe and devoted himself solely to acting. Von Stroheim was stridently anti-establishment as an artist, his films obsessed with adultery and betrayal in an era of public probity. His "Greed" is a masterpiece of the silent cinema. Based on Frank Norris's novel, "McTeague," it captures the destitution of the American dream on a perfect black, white, and noiseless plain. [show less]