See This: Greed

A still from Erich von Stroheim's Greed



Hollywood’s first wave of film makers were the real deal – egomaniacs, showmen and charlatans. The director of Greed was all of those. Erich Von Stroheim was born plain Erich Oswald Stroheim in Vienna but by the time he got to Hollywood in 1914 he’d become Count Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria Von Stroheim Und Nordenwall. Learning film-making on the grandest scale from D.W. Griffith, Stroheim first made his name as an actor playing “the man you love to hate”, notably throwing a baby out of a window in The Heart of Humanity. He then bought a riding crop, donned leather boots and a monocle and moved on to directing. 1924’s Greed was his meisterwerk, a silent nine-hour super-realist adaptation of Frank Norris’s novel McTeague about the uncertain rise and unpleasant fall of a drunken miner’s son. Von Stroheim shot it in all the locations mentioned in the book, at astronomical expense and allowing no written detail of its sour narrative to go unrecorded. It was MGM’s first feature-length film and they hated it, hacking and hacking again at it, but never happy. The butchered version is the one you’ll see in cinemas since the original has disappeared. It is clearly a madman’s folly, the likes of which could never be made today.

© Steve Morrissey 2007


Greed – at Amazon



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Greed (1924) Drama, Thriller, Western | 140min | 26 January 1925 (USA) 8.1
Director: Erich von StroheimWriter: June Mathis, Erich von StroheimStars: Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean HersholtSummary: John McTeague was a simple slow man who became a dentist after working at the Big Dipper Gold Mine. He is now being hunted in Death Valley by his ex-best friend Marcus and the law. His lot was cast the day that he meet his future wife Trina in his office. She was with Marcus and she bought a lottery ticket. Well Mac fell for her and Marcus stepped aside. When Mac and Trina married, she won the Lottery for $5000 and became obsessive about the money in gold. Marcus is steamed as he stepped aside and now she is rich so he has the law shut down Mac as he has no official schooling for his dentistry. Trina fearful that they will take her gold away sells everything and takes all Mac earns when he is working. She adds to her stash of gold as they both live as paupers. When Mac has no job and no money, he leaves and Trina moves. Driven to desperation at being poor and hungry he finds Trina and demands the gold. Written by Tony Fontana <>


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