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Erich von Stroheim Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (1)  | Trade Mark (13)  | Trivia (23)  | Personal Quotes (10)  | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary [now Austria]
Died in Maurepas, Seine-et-Oise [now Yvelines], France  (prostate cancer)
Birth NameErich Oswald Hans Carl Maria Von Stroheim
Nickname The Man You Love to Hate
Height 5' 6¼" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatter from Gleiwitz, Germany (now Gliwice, Poland). His family was Jewish.

After spending some time working in his father's hat factory, he emigrated to America around 1909. Working in various jobs he arrived in Hollywood in 1914 and got work in D.W. Griffiths' company as a bit player. America's entry into WW1 enabled him to play sadistic monocled German officers but these roles dried up when the war ended. He turned to writing and directing but his passion for unnecessary detail such as Austrian guards wearing correct and expensively acquired regulation underwear which was never seen in 'Foolish Wives' caused the budget to reach a reported $1 million. Although the film became a hit the final edit was given to others resulting in a third of his footage being cut. Irving Thalberg fired him from 'Merry Go Round' which was completed by Rupert Julien. He then started on 'Greed', which when completed was unreleasable being 42 reels with a running time of 7 hours. It was eventually cut down to 10 reels which still had a striking effect on audiences. 'The Wedding March' was so long that even in it's unfinished state it was released as two separate films in Europe. Gloria Swanson fired him from her production of 'Queen Kelly' when with no sign of the film nearing completion the costs had risen to twice the budget partly due to him re-shooting scenes that had already been passed by the Hays office. She then had to spend a further $200,000 putting the footage into releasable state. It was the end for him as a director, but he made a reasonable success as an actor in the talkies.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: tonyman5

Family (1)

Spouse Valerie Germonprez (16 October 1920 - 12 May 1957)  (his death)  (1 child)
Mary Agnes Jones (1916 - July 1919)  (divorced)  (1 child)
Margaret Knox (19 February 1913 - November 1915)  (divorced)

Trade Mark (13)

Ambulances are recurring themes in his films
Frequently included imbecile characters in films he wrote/directed
Frequently included shots of janitors or cleaning personel in films he directed in order to add realism and demystify the location. Examples include the janitor removing candle wax from the floor of the cathedral in The Wedding March (1928) and a cleaning crew vacuuming the grand staircase in the palace in Queen Kelly (1932).
His films as a writer/director are often set in Austro-Germanic or Graustarkian locations, such as Vienna for Merry-Go-Round (1923), The Wedding March (1928) and The Honeymoon (1930), the kingdom of Monteblanco in The Merry Widow (1925) and the kingdom of Kronberg in Queen Kelly (1932).
Frequently played high-ranking officers in the German and/or Prussian military--although, contrary to his frequent claims, he never served in the army of any country.
Short Prussian military hairstyle which sometimes gave him the appearance of being bald.
His films often explored the nature of human cruelty and greed and the loss of innocence.
Juxtapositions of scared and profane imagery in films he directed.
Often wore a monocle
Thick Austrian accent
The plots to his films often featured lecherous men preying upon young women.
Heavy use of Christian iconography.

Trivia (23)

Althugh he claimed to have broken two ribs when he fell from a roof in The Birth of a Nation (1915), there is some question as to whether he actually worked on that film at all. Joseph Henabery, one of the picture's assistant directors, says that von Stroheim didn't work for director D.W. Griffith until more than a year after this film was shot.
Immigrated to the United States at the port of New York aboard the S.S. Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm on 25 November 1909.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 1069-1079. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company (1987).
He fabricated an elaborate backstory for himself as an Austrian aristocrat and imperial officer, while in real life he was from a Jewish family, the son of a lower-middle-class hat maker, and never served in any military.
Brother-in-law of Louis Germonprez.
While appearing in French films, he met actress Denise Vernac, who became his secretary and companion for the rest of his life. He never divorced estranged third wife Valerie Germonprez. Denise also appeared in several films with him over the years.
While working at the tavern, he met his first wife, Margaret Knox, and in a daring move for 1912 moved in with her. Knox acted as a sort of mentor to him, teaching him language and literature and encouraging him to write. Under Knox's tutelage he wrote a novella entitled "In the Morning", with themes that anticipated his films: corrupt aristocracy and innocence debased. The couple married on February 19, 1913, but money woes drove him to deep depressions and terrible temper tantrums, which he took out on Knox. Not long after the marriage she left him, and in May 1914 filed for divorce.
Not very well documented is his second marriage, to seamstress and dressmaker Mae Jones. The marriage was brief but produced one son, Erich von Stroheim Jr..
In 1936, he left for France, leaving behind third wife, actress Valerie Germonprez, and sons Erich von Stroheim Jr. and Josef von Stroheim. The rest of his career was spent writing two novels, touring in a production of "Arsenic and Old Lace", and appearing in small roles in Europe and the United States.
Despite their strong professional relationship, he was never--as he often claimed--a close confidante of D.W. Griffith, never making it into Griffith's "inner circle".
His longtime business manager was Elmer Cox, father of actor Dick Sargent.
As the butler in Sunset Blvd. (1950), he is in the projection room when Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis are watching one of Norma's old films. The film is actually Queen Kelly (1932), which von Stroheim directed and which starred Gloria Swanson, who is playing Norma Desmond.
Although it is inaccurate to say he is actually a character in Peter Handke's "anti-play", "The Ride Across Lake Constance", his name is used as a designation of a character, as are the names of other celebrated actors of the German cinema, Elisabeth Bergner, Heinrich George, Emil Jannings, Henny Porten and the twins Alice Kessler and Ellen Kessler.
A $10,000 bonus was offered to him by MGM chief Louis B. Mayer once he finished The Merry Widow (1925) in less than six weeks. [May 1924]
Profiled in "From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow Transgression in Cinema's First Century" by John Cline and Robert G. [2010]
Started in the film industry as a bit player, assistant director and art director for D.W. Griffith. He had an uncanny sense for detail in decor, costume and nuances in human behavior. Often dissatisfied, he was prone to attempt perfection by extending films to absurd running times and by exceeding his allocated budgets. He was twice sacked: first by MGM production chief Irving Thalberg after disagreements over the cutting of Foolish Wives (1922) and for running behind schedule on Merry-Go-Round (1923); and the second time by producer/star Gloria Swanson halfway through filming Queen Kelly (1932). He was also replaced on another film, The Wedding March (1928), after his extravagance resulted in the cost ballooning to $1.1 million. The picture was reedited (badly) and subsequently flopped at the box office.
Under contract at Universal Pictures (as actor/director), 1918-22; to Samuel Goldwyn (as director), 1923-25; at RKO Radio Pictures (as actor) in 1931.
He was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6826 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
He briefly served in the Austro-Hungarian army.
Great-grandfather of actress Alena von Stroheim.
On Erich von Stroheim's films as a director, shooting sometimes continued for twenty hours without pauses on the locked stages. Stroheim treated the participants to squab and caviar and served real champagne in spite of Prohibition.
He has appeared in five films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Intolerance (1916), Foolish Wives (1922), Greed (1924), The Wedding March (1928) and Sunset Blvd. (1950). He has also directed three films that are in the registry: Foolish Wives, Greed and The Wedding March.
Known as 'The Man You Love to Hate' a billing he got for his role of an obnoxious German in the 1918 propaganda film 'The Heart of Humanity' In the film he not only attempted to violate the leading lady but nonchalantly tossed a baby out of a window.

Personal Quotes (10)

If you live in France and you have written one good book, or painted one good picture, or directed one outstanding film, 50 years ago, and nothing ever since, you are still recognized as an artist and honored accordingly ... In Hollywood - in Hollywood, you're as good as your last picture. If you didn't have one in production in the last three months, you're forgotten, no matter what you have achieved ere this. It is that terrific, unfortunately necessary, egotism in the makeup of the people who make the cinema, it is the continuous endeavor for recognition, that continuous struggle for survival and supremacy, among the newcomers, that relegates the old-timers to the ashcan.
The difference between me and [Ernst Lubitsch] is that he shows you the king on the throne and then he shows you the king in his bedroom. I show you the king in his bedroom first. Then when you see him on the throne you have no illusions about him.
[on seeing the two-hour version of Greed (1924), rather than the whole film] It was like viewing a corpse in a graveyard.
[on Irving Thalberg and the cutting of Greed (1924)] The man who cut my picture has nothing on his head but a hat!
[shouting at actors while shooting Foolish Wives (1922)] I'm making this picture for the theatre! Not for the actors!
[dying in bed, informing his biographer] This is not the worst. The worst is that they stole 25 years from my life...
[Sunday, May 18, 1941, article "I Am an American Day"] I feel that the many reasons why I am glad to be an American will be propounded by others more articulate and eloquent than I... therefore I shall not touch "Liberty" and all other prerogatives that are America's. One reason I dare mention. I have been traveling abroad a great deal lately and I have had ample opportunity to notice the profound respect that little red passport with that gilded spread eagle and that simple inscription, "United States of America", commands everywhere ... no matter who the bearer may be. They may not love us everywhere ... but they respect and fear us. I prefer that!
My Vienna is as different from what they call Vienna now as the quick is from the dead.
[shouting at Jean Hersholt and Gibson Gowland during a fight scene in Greed (1924)] Fight! Fight! Try to hate each other as you both hate me!
[introducing his version of The Merry Widow (1925)] All the good things in this film were made by me. The things that are no good in it were made by others.

Salary (3)

Who Goes There? (1917) $75 /week
Blind Husbands (1919) $200 /wk
Sunset Blvd. (1950) $5,000 per week + 1,500,000 French Francs upon completion

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