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Creator: Erich von Stroheim
Erich Von Stroheim was promoted as "The Man You Love to Hate" this referred to his many performances and type casting as a villain or evil seducers in his silent films, many of them Germans. He was famous for playing monocled Junkers with a riding crop and a stereotypical German aristocrat. The joke of the matter is that Stroheim wasn't a "Von", that is he wasn't, despite his name and bearing, a member of the German aristocracy. Big Name Fan Orson Welles noted that he checked his name on the Almanac von Gotha, the registry of German aristocrats and found him missing, noting that the director was in fact a "poor Jewish boy". Likewise, another Big Name Fan Jean Renoir noted that Stroheim spoke German with lower-class accents and had to struggle to play the aristocratic German officer in The Grand Illusion.

Stroheim worked with D. W. Griffith and others, before becoming a film-maker in his own right. He was the epitome of the Prima Donna Director as The Perfectionist. He was noted for being fastidious to levels not seen till Michael Cimino made Heaven's Gate, insisting on strict period detail in films like Blind Husbands, Foolish Wives and The Merry Widow. Stroheim's bold commitment to his art and his uncompromising demeanor made him opposed to the rising Hollywood Studio System and his films suffered extensive Executive Meddling, indeed probably the first director whose films being Re Cut was known to the public. The most spectacular instance of this was Greed, his epic adaptation of the novel McTeague which according to rumour was 9 hours in its original cut and later shortened by Stroheim to 6 hours and intended to be released in two parts. The producer Irving G. Thalberg took control of the film, cut it to two hours and the remaing footage was later burnt to save vault storage with the nitrate silver sold for salvage. Stroheim unsurprisingly regarded this as a travesty though the industry and the press backed Thalberg at the time and Stroheim was vilified for being uncommercial and demanding. He suffered the same fate on his subsequent films too, with The Wedding March released in two parts(ironically the very arrangement denied to Greed) with the second part going missing in a vault fire at the Paris Cinematheque years later.

A bigger meltdown was Queen Kelly which starred Gloria Swanson and was produced by Joseph Kennedy(father of President John F. Kennedy) which had a severe clash of egos on all three parts and resulted in a film that was seriously botched and a major disaster. This coincided with the arrival of sound and Stroheim was seen as Persona Non Grata and never directed a movie again. He still found work as an actor however and appeared later in films like Renoir's The Grand Illusion where his performance was highly touted. His most famous performance is in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard where he and Gloria Swanson are reunited with him playing her butler Max Von Mayerling, a thinly disguised Expy of himself.

Stroheim's films were amazing and shocking at the time for the bold sexual content, the pessimistic portrayal of relationships and lack of Narm Charm and unsentimental approach in silent cinema at a time of expressionistic, over-the-top acting. His Greed pioneered location shooting and deep focus years before Citizen Kane. His films are perhaps immediate and direct to audiences today than other silent masters like D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, since it isn't piled with Victorian melodrama and sentimentality.

Filmography (Director only)

  • Blind Husbands
  • Foolish Wives
  • Greed
  • The Merry Widow
  • The Wedding March
  • Queen Kelly.

Whit StillmanDirectorsOliver Stone
Jon VoightActorsMax von Sydow

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