Erich von Stroheim was an Austrian-American filmmaker who made a significant impact on the development of cinema in the early 20th century.
He is known for his elaborate, meticulously detailed films that often explore themes of social class, decadence, and human frailty. His career spanned from the silent era to the early years of sound cinema, and he is considered one of the most influential filmmakers of his time.
Von Stroheim began his career as an actor, working with directors such as D.W. Griffith and Jean Renoir. He then moved into directing, and his first major film was “Blind Husbands” (1919), a story of infidelity and betrayal set against the picturesque landscape of the Austrian Alps.
The film was a critical and commercial success, establishing von Stroheim as a major figure in the film industry.
Von Stroheim’s films are known for their attention to detail, their exploration of complex psychological themes, and their willingness to confront the darker aspects of human nature.
Best Erich Von Stroheim Movies
His influence can be seen in the work of many other filmmakers who followed him, and his legacy continues to be felt in the world of cinema today.
1. Greed (1924)
“Greed” is a silent film directed by Erich von Stroheim and released in 1924. It is based on the novel “McTeague” by Frank Norris and tells the story of McTeague, a dentist who marries his best friend’s fiancée and becomes obsessed with money.
The film is notable for its realistic depiction of working-class life in San Francisco, as well as its exploration of the corrupting power of greed.
One of the most striking features of “Greed” is its cinematography. Von Stroheim used a combination of natural lighting, location shooting, and carefully staged scenes to create a sense of realism that was rare in Hollywood at the time.
The film’s use of close-ups, montage, and deep focus also helped to create a sense of intimacy and psychological depth.
Despite its artistic and critical success, “Greed” was not a commercial success, and the studio drastically cut the film’s running time from over eight hours to just under two hours.
This decision is considered by many to be one of the greatest tragedies in the history of cinema, as much of Von Stroheim’s original vision was lost. However, even in its truncated form, “Greed” remains a powerful and influential work that continues to captivate audiences to this day.
2. Blind Husbands (1919)
“Blind Husbands” is a 1919 film directed by Erich von Stroheim. It was one of the first feature films to be made by the young Hollywood movie industry, and is notable for its innovative cinematography and complex characters. Here are some key points about the film:
Story: “Blind Husbands” is a melodrama that follows the story of an Austrian military officer named Lieutenant Erich von Steuben (played by von Stroheim himself) who, along with his wife and her friend, spends a vacation in a small Tyrolean village.
There, he seduces the wife of a local physician, who has been left alone while her husband tends to a sick patient.
Themes: The film explores themes of infidelity, betrayal, and morality. It also examines the contrast between the opulence and sophistication of the urban characters and the simplicity and authenticity of the rural village they are visiting.
Overall, “Blind Husbands” is a powerful and visually striking film that helped pave the way for the development of American cinema in the early 20th century.
It remains an important and influential work that continues to be studied and admired by filmmakers and film scholars alike.
3. Foolish Wives (1922)
“Foolish Wives” is a silent film directed by Erich von Stroheim and released in 1922. It is considered to be one of the most significant films of the silent era, and is notable for its complex plot, intricate character development, and impressive production values.
The film tells the story of three con artists who pose as Russian nobility in order to swindle wealthy American tourists in Monte Carlo.
The trio’s plans are complicated by the arrival of a new neighbor, an American diplomat named Andrew J. Hughes, and his wife.
One of the con artists, a woman named “Countess” Olga Petchnikoff, sets her sights on seducing Hughes, but her plan ultimately backfires.
“Foolish Wives” was highly controversial upon its release, as it depicted sex and debauchery in a way that was considered scandalous at the time.
The film was heavily censored in many countries, and several scenes were cut before it could be released in the United States.
Despite its controversial subject matter, “Foolish Wives” was a critical and commercial success, and is now considered a classic of the silent era.
It is often cited as one of the earliest examples of cinematic artistry, and is revered for its stunning visuals and innovative storytelling techniques.
5. The Merry Widow (1925)
“The Merry Widow” is a silent romantic comedy film released in 1925, directed by Erich von Stroheim and based on the operetta of the same name by Franz Lehár. The film starred John Gilbert and Mae Murray in the lead roles.
The story takes place in the fictional European kingdom of Marshovia, where the wealthy widow Sonia (Mae Murray) returns to her homeland to inherit her late husband’s fortune.
The king of Marshovia hopes to keep her money within the country and arranges for Sonia to marry his own nephew, Prince Danilo (John Gilbert).
However, Danilo and Sonia have a complicated past, and Danilo is still in love with her. Despite their initial antagonism, they eventually rekindle their romance and plan to run away together.
The film was a critical and commercial success, praised for its lavish sets and costumes as well as the performances of Murray and Gilbert.
However, it was also controversial due to von Stroheim’s extravagant spending and clashes with the studio, which led to the film being heavily edited and shortened from its original length.
“The Merry Widow” is considered a classic of the silent film era and was later remade several times as a musical film, most notably in 1934 with Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier in the lead roles.
4. The Honeymoon (1929)
“The Honeymoon” is a silent comedy film released in 1929, directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Nick Stuart and Lupino Lane.
The film tells the story of a newlywed couple, Jack and Mary, who embark on their honeymoon in a luxurious hotel.
However, their honeymoon turns into a series of mishaps and misadventures, as they encounter a variety of eccentric characters and get caught up in a number of comedic situations.
Some of the highlights of the film include a chase scene involving a runaway horse-drawn carriage, a scene in which the couple mistakenly enters the wrong hotel room, and a sequence in which Jack tries to impress Mary by performing a daring stunt on a high diving board.
Despite receiving mixed reviews upon its release, “The Honeymoon” is now considered a classic example of silent comedy and is regarded as one of the best films of its genre.
5. The Wedding March (1928)
The Wedding March is a silent romantic drama film released in 1928, directed by Erich von Stroheim and starring Fay Wray and Zasu Pitts.
The film tells the story of a wealthy but aging Viennese prince, played by von Stroheim himself, who falls in love with a young, impoverished girl, played by Wray.
The prince is engaged to a woman from a wealthy family, but he becomes infatuated with the young woman after rescuing her from a group of street musicians.
He begins to court her and eventually proposes, but their relationship is threatened by his family’s disapproval and the fact that the girl is already engaged to a poor, idealistic artist.
The film was notable for its lavish production values and its realistic depiction of the decadence and opulence of Viennese high society.
However, it was also controversial for its frank treatment of sexuality and its depiction of the prince as a lecherous and manipulative figure.
Despite its mixed reception at the time of its release, The Wedding March has since been recognized as a significant work of early cinema and a masterpiece of silent film.
6. Queen Kelly (1932)
“Queen Kelly” is a 1932 American silent film directed by Erich von Stroheim and starring Gloria Swanson in the title role.
The film was produced by Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., the father of future President John F. Kennedy.
The film tells the story of a young convent-educated woman named Kelly, who is forced to leave her life of privilege and enter into a forced marriage with a cruel prince.
She eventually escapes his clutches and finds herself working in a brothel, where she falls in love with a young man named Albert.
The film was famously plagued with production problems, including conflicts between von Stroheim and Swanson, as well as budget overruns.
The film was eventually deemed unmarketable by the studio, and large portions of the film were never completed or were cut from the final version.
As a result, the film was never released in its intended form, and it was not until the 1980s that a restored version was released to the public.
Despite its troubled history, “Queen Kelly” has since been recognized as a cult classic, and is noted for its lavish sets and costumes, as well as its portrayal of female sexuality and power dynamics.
7. Hello, Sister! (1933)
“Hello, Sister!” is a pre-Code musical film released in 1933, directed by Alan Crosland and starring James Dunn, Boots Mallory, and Zasu Pitts.
The film follows the story of a struggling songwriter named Freddy (James Dunn), who gets involved with a group of performers led by the ambitious and manipulative Molly (Zasu Pitts).
Freddy falls in love with Molly’s innocent and talented sister, Connie (Boots Mallory), and together they try to break free from Molly’s control and make it in the music industry on their own.
The film is notable for its frank portrayal of sexuality and its exploration of the dark side of show business. It features several musical numbers, including the popular song “We’re in the Money,” which was later used in the 1933 film “Gold Diggers of 1933.”
Despite its controversial subject matter, “Hello, Sister!” was a critical and commercial success, and is considered a classic of early Hollywood musicals.
3 Characteristics of Erich Von Stroheim Films
Erich von Stroheim was a director, actor, and writer who was known for his highly stylized and meticulously detailed films. Here are three characteristics of his films:
Realism and attention to detail: Von Stroheim was known for his obsession with realism and his attention to detail. His films were often highly detailed and realistic, with carefully crafted sets and costumes, and a focus on everyday objects and routines.
He was known to be a perfectionist, and would often spend exorbitant amounts of time and money to achieve his vision.
Themes of greed and corruption: Many of Von Stroheim’s films dealt with themes of greed and corruption, often exploring the darker side of human nature.
He was known for his unsentimental and unflinching portrayal of society’s underbelly, and his films often exposed the hypocrisy and venality of the upper classes.
Long runtimes and epic scope: Von Stroheim’s films were often lengthy, with runtimes that stretched well over three hours.
He was known for his epic storytelling, and his films often had grand, sweeping narratives that spanned multiple locations and characters. His films were often structured like novels, with multiple subplots and intricate character development.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Erich Von Stroheim Films
Erich Von Stroheim was an innovative and talented filmmaker whose work left a lasting impact on cinema. Here are three reasons why you should watch his films:
His films are visually stunning: Von Stroheim was known for his meticulous attention to detail and his ability to create lavish and visually stunning sets. His films are full of intricate, elaborate sets and costumes that are a feast for the eyes.
He was a pioneer in the development of film language: Von Stroheim was a master of the silent film era, and his films were noted for their use of innovative cinematic techniques such as deep focus, long takes, and creative use of light and shadow.
These techniques have had a lasting influence on cinema, and his films are still studied by filmmakers today.
His stories are timeless: Despite being made nearly a century ago, Von Stroheim’s films still resonate with modern audiences.
His themes of love, greed, and the human condition are universal, and his films are as relevant today as they were when they were first made.
Some of Von Stroheim’s most notable films include “Greed” (1924), “The Merry Widow” (1925), and “Queen Kelly” (1929).
Watching these films is not only a treat for film buffs, but also an opportunity to experience the work of a true master of cinema.
Best Erich Von Stroheim Films – Wrapping Up
Erich von Stroheim was a talented filmmaker, actor, and screenwriter whose work had a significant impact on the film industry. Here are some of his best films:
“Greed” (1924) – This silent film is considered von Stroheim’s masterpiece. It tells the story of a couple who win a large sum of money and become consumed by greed.
The film’s intense focus on detail and the characters’ descent into moral decay make it a powerful and memorable work.
“Foolish Wives” (1922) – Von Stroheim’s first film as a director, “Foolish Wives” is a complex and highly dramatic work that explores the themes of deception, betrayal, and moral decay.
The film’s intricate plot and intricate characterizations showcase von Stroheim’s skill as a storyteller.
“The Wedding March” (1928) – This romantic drama, set in pre-World War I Vienna, tells the story of a wealthy nobleman who falls in love with a poor, working-class woman.
The film features lavish sets and costumes, and von Stroheim’s performance as the nobleman is memorable.
These films showcase von Stroheim’s talent as a filmmaker and his unique vision for storytelling, and continue to be appreciated by film lovers and scholars today.
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