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Writings on film. Shock and art. There may be blood.

Erich von Stroheim

Director Erich von Stroheim
Director, actor
Best known for:


Sunset Boulevard


Hollywood Walk of Fame


Erich von Stroheim was a great silent-era film director who was known as "the man you love to hate." He was a self-indulgent director whose films could run over eight hours in length, and he fought every attempt to shorten them. Studio president Irving Thalberg accused him of having a "footage fetish." The Merry Widow is the only film that still exists as he created it. Greed is considered to be his masterpiece, but seven of its nine hours have been cut and are presumed destroyed.

von Stroheim's works covered heavy, dark topics and used hints of perversity to represent cultural decadence. These tendencies put him in ill favor with producers as much as did his budgets. He was the first director to break the million-dollar budget mark. Following the philosophy of symbolic naturalism, von Stroheim filmed long takes with static cameras and avoided the editing which gives films economy. His approach became impractical during the 1920s, when studio operations were taken over by financiers who expected their product to use assembly-line production values. Auteur directors like von Stroheim became obsolete.

Queen Kelly was conceived as a star vehicle for Gloria Swanson, but she was outraged at von Stroheim's vision and pulled the plug on the project. He was blacklisted by Hollywood even as he suffered personal tragedy, but recovered and went on to make a good living as an actor, first in France and then in Hollywood.


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