Cinema and Media Studies Erich Von Stroheim
by
Fanny Lignon
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0095

Introduction

Austrian-born Erich von Stroheim (b. 1885–d. 1957) is one of the greatest directors of the American silent movie era. Every one of the nine films he made is considered a masterpiece. He was also an actor whose career started in the United States and continued in France. Lastly, he was a prolific writer. In addition to the scripts of the movies he directed, he wrote a play, three novels, about ten articles, and numerous scripts and film drafts, most of which have never been published and remain dormant in the American and French archives. In the world of cinema and the world at large, Stroheim is an icon. He is considered a rebellious genius in constant conflict with financiers, the accursed artist crushed by Hollywood whose work was massacred. However, Stroheim was also a brilliant mystifier. Although he was widely seen as the epitome of the Prussian aristocrat, a regular officer of the Imperial Army, the cinema’s dirty Hun, in fact, he had only just managed the rank of corporal and had spent only eight months in the army before being discharged as unfit for active service. His father was a hat maker, and both his parents were practicing Jews. It is when he immigrated to the United States that Stroheim began to give shape to his mythic personality. He never ceased to better this myth, day after day, film after film, making quite sure that myth would replace reality. The stratagem worked so well that the truth was only discovered ten years after his death and has not yet completely replaced the fiction. The man and his work, art and life, are here so intertwined that it seems necessary, in order to introduce the bulk of Stroheim’s works, to take into account the moviemaker’s degree of actual involvement in his writings. Because, although Stroheim was an immense artist, he was also a past master in the art of communication, familiar with all the tricks of self-promotion, in which he overindulged. Anyone interested in this question would be advised to read Max Nordau’s Paradoxe (1885), a book which greatly impressed Stroheim in his youth and whose precepts he later followed with talent.

Stroheim by Stroheim

Whatever the subject matter, the texts written by Stroheim are privileged ways to access his work and, for anyone who can read between the lines, his personality. Under this heading will be found his main articles and some of the speeches he delivered and which were later published. The collection is rather limited but nevertheless contributes interestingly to our understanding.

Career and Films

In application of the principles laid out by Max Nordau, his favorite philosopher, Stroheim reveals of himself only that which he wishes us to know. Stroheim 1950 recounts his version of his time as an apprentice to D. W. Griffith. Stroheim 1935 offers a review of his whole career, whereas Stroheim 1972 stresses the projects underway in 1949. Stroheim 1941 sees him emphasizing his contribution to the Seventh Art in, most notably, Blind Husbands (1919) and Foolish Wives (1922). Stroheim 1966 is an account of the misfortunes and setbacks suffered by his films The Merry Widow (1925) and Greed (1924). These articles are first-hand documents, essential to those who wish to get acquainted with the Stroheim legend. It nevertheless remains useful to compare them with the Biographies, which try to reestablish historical truth and decipher the myth.

  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Scapegoat of Hollywood: The Screen-Life Story of Erich von Stroheim.” Film Weekly, May 1935.

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    Quite a difficult article to find. Known under the title “My own story.” Stroheim reviews his whole career, trying to destroy his reputation as an uncontrollable, prodigal director. This article, which is typical of his mode of communication, reveals his problematic relationship with reality, but only provided we compare it with the hard facts.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Movies and Morals.” Decision: A Review of Free Culture 1.3 (March 1941): 49–56.

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    Stroheim voices his indignation against American hypocrisy and puritanism. He presents Blind Husbands as the movie that marked at long last the arrival on cinema screens of normal sexual behavior and Foolish Wives as a film which was to serve as a warning to husbands who neglect their wives. He acknowledges that the public subsequently became more tolerant.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Homage to D. W. Griffith.” In Hollywood Scapegoat: The Biography of Erich von Stroheim. Edited by Peter Noble, 23–28. London: The Fortune, 1950.

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    Stroheim recalls his Hollywood debut and his years of apprenticeship with the Master. We are led to believe that he was D. W. Griffith’s privileged disciple or even his spiritual son. However, although it is undeniable that Stroheim was influenced by Griffith, it is also true that Griffith was not aware of this. Originally published in 1948.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Présentation de la veuve joyeuse.” In Hommage à Erich von Stroheim: A Tribute. Edited by Charlotte Gobeil, 33–35. Ottawa: Canadian Film Institute, 1966.

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    In 1955, when he presented The Merry Widow at the Cinémathèque in Brussels, Stroheim was scathing about the film’s story, which he considered infantile, and about the fact that he was forced to direct in order to compensate for the financial losses of his previous movie. He then talked about Greed and recalled how it was massacred and the numerous cuts to which it was subjected.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Suis-je vraiment le metteur en scène le plus cher et le plus salaud du monde?” In Erich von Stroheim. Edited by Freddy Buache, 117–120. Cinéma d’aujourd’hui 71. Paris: Seghers, 1972.

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    In this article in French, Stroheim who then lived in France and had produced nothing for the past twenty years, summed up his situation and described his projects. He demonstrated that his creative mind was intact and manifested his desire to resume directing. He also took advantage of this opportunity to tell the story of his Hollywood disgrace. Originally published in 1949.

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Cinematic Conceptions

Filmmaking, according to Stroheim, is an art apart, powerful and formidable, “the only medium with which one could reproduce life as it actually was” (Stroheim 1972a, p. 8). In the articles cited below, Stroheim states his main cinematographic conceptions. Broadly speaking, they all take root in his own vision of realism in film, which he reveals in Stroheim 1972a. In Stroheim 1924, he expounds his conception of what a good story for the screen should be like. In Stroheim 1976, he tackles issues such as production costs and the filmmaker’s freedom of creation. In Stroheim 1941, he discusses the question of sexuality in film, and in Stroheim 1972b, he explains some of his views about film technique. For anyone who wishes to study his works from the esthetic point of view, these texts are essential reading. However, it is advisable to complement this reading with those indicated in the Analyses section.

  • Stroheim, Erich von. “People versus Plot.” In The Truth about the Movie by the Stars. Edited by Laurence A. Hughes, 353–355. Hollywood, CA: Hollywood, 1924.

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    According to Stroheim, there are two manners to tell a tale: either you give priority to the plot or you give priority to the study of people. Having explained why the latter way of proceeding has his preference and elaborated upon what he means by it, he concludes with “There must be more of this realism on the screen” (p. 355).

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Movies and Morals.” Decision: A Review of Free Culture 1.3 (March 1941): 49–56.

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    In this article, Stroheim makes fun of the puritanism of American society at the beginning of the 20th century. He describes the history of sexuality in films in a chronological way, from total ban to acceptance, with an in-between period of innuendos. Stroheim describes precisely what his films have contributed to this evolution. He is adamant that sex is a subject matter like any other and must be treated with honesty.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Dreams of Realism.” In Greed: A Film by Erich von Stroheim. Rev. ed. Edited by Joel W. Finler, 7–8. Classic Film Scripts. London: Lorrimer, 1972a.

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    Stroheim outlines his notion of realism, possibly even naturalism (in reference to source novelist Frank Norris). He develops his ideas and principles, explaining how he insists on directing true-to-life stories, in real cities with real people, and how he strives for a true rendition of real life without compromise, regardless of convention. Original version published in 1958.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Suis-je vraiment le metteur en scène le plus cher et le plus salaud du monde?” In Erich von Stroheim. Edited by Freddy Buache, 117–120. Cinéma d’aujourd’hui 71. Paris: Seghers, 1972b.

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    An article in French. Stroheim states his point of view on filmmaking technique and its evolution. Technique: must have a reason and must be a natural part of the action. Color: must express our feelings and does not have to be used throughout. 3D: “Tomorrow’s movies can only be in colour and in 3D, because life is in colour and in 3D” (p. 119). Originally published in 1949.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “The Seamy Side of Directing.” In Hollywood Directors, 1914–1940. Edited by Richard Koszarski, 172–175. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

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    In this article, originally published in Theatre Magazine in November 1927, Stroheim stands up for directors generally, explaining that they are not solely responsible for production costs of movies. He then goes on to explain that greatness in film can be achieved only if the director is free of any restraints in terms of time or budget.

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Other Directors’ Work

There are few texts in which Stroheim writes of other filmmakers and their films. It is worth noting, however, what he says about D. W. Griffith, the pioneer, whom he considers his mentor, and to whom he vows boundless admiration (Stroheim 1950); about Jean Renoir, the man of La grande illusion (1937), whom he admired just as much (Stroheim 1937); and about Orson Welles, with whom he compares himself when he evokes Citizen Kane (1941) (Stroheim 1941). These texts link his work and that of others and enable us to understand who influenced him.

  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Le réalisateur: Un Renoir.” Cinémonde, December 1937, 1039.

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    An article in French, known under the title “Ma première rencontre avec Jean Renoir.” Stroheim writes emotionally of Renoir. He praises both the man and the director. He insists on Renoir’s admiration of his own work and the way they had collaborated in La grande illusion. He hints that, contrary to what his legend suggests, he is a serious director, still involved in filmmaking.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Citizen Kane.” Decision: A Review of Free Culture 1.6 (June 1941): 91–93.

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    A critical review of Citizen Kane. Stroheim deplores flaws in the film (trivial subject, awkward story-telling, deconstructed time sequence, lack of explanatory scenes), but interestingly this tells us more about the way Stroheim built his own scripts than about Welles.

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  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Hommage à D. W. Griffith.” In Hollywood Scapegoat: The Biography of Erich von Stroheim. Edited by Peter Noble, 23–28. London: Fortune, 1950.

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    Stroheim praises Griffith’s stylistic innovations, underlines his understanding of the power of the cinema, recalls that his films were the first to attract cultural elites to the theaters, stresses his taste for realism, and pardons the failure of his last film. He never misses an opportunity to underline what he and Griffith had in common. Originally published in 1948.

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Books under Influence

The following are works of a biographical character that are based on discussions between Stroheim and their authors. Fronval 1939 and Bergut 1960 use oral interviews recorded at different periods, whereas Noble 1950 uses letters. Curtiss 1971 uses conversations but maintains that Stroheim’s autobiography was also an inspiration. Atasceva and Korolevich 1927, written from articles published in the press at that time, is mentioned for the record because of its precedence. If these are not, stricto sensu, books written by Stroheim, their subject matter has in many ways been influenced by Stroheim, who also used them to tell the story of his own personal and professional life in his own way. Variations and other inconsistencies that come to light when these texts are compared have several origins. Some could be attributed to the biographers, others to Stroheim himself, who used to remain deliberately vague about chosen moments of his past. These books, most of them hagiographic, reveal the different facets of the Stroheim legend as well as his gifts as a communicator. They are also worth analyzing to see how Stroheim uses anecdotes and to admire the skill with which he invents these little events that he reuses in his films.

  • Atasceva, P., and V. Korolevich. Erich Stroheim. Moscow: Kinopechat, 1927.

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    The text is in Russian and is fourteen pages long. It has been classified in all histories of film as the first “book” ever written about Stroheim and his work. This publication, which is a Soviet reading of Stroheim’s films, contributed to the spread of his legend, particularly in eastern Europe.

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  • Bergut, Bob. Erich von Stroheim. Paris: Le Terrain Vague, 1960.

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    A text in French. Written from interviews conducted during the late 1950s. This book was revised after Stroheim’s death by Denise Vernac, his last lady friend. In a journalistic style, Bergut relates the life of the great man just as he had told it him. The book is a collection of anecdotes and impressions arranged in a linear sequence. It faithfully mirrors the ultimate state of the legend Stroheim had invented.

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  • Curtiss, Thomas Quinn. Von Stroheim. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1971.

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    Curtiss, an intimate friend of Stroheim’s, ignores more recent revelations about his past. His book is mainly based on the conversations they had together and upon the filmmaker’s unfinished autobiography (to date, nowhere to be found). In the introduction to the French edition, he writes, “The story of his youth and of his family is reported here as he deemed it should be” (Erich von Stroheim, Paris: France Empire, 1970. p. 14).

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  • Fronval, Georges. Erich von Stroheim, sa vie, ses films. Paris: Visages et contes du cinéma, 1939.

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    A text in French. Thirty-four pages illustrated with film stills. Fronval tells the story of both the man and the artist in a chronological, detailed way, according to what Stroheim, with whom he became friends, had told him. His text, which is full of facts, is also full of errors and picturesque anecdotes.

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  • Noble, Peter. Hollywood Scapegoat: The Biography of Erich von Stroheim. London: Fortune, 1950.

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    In 246 pages, Stroheim’s career as a whole up to Sunset Boulevard (1950). Noble was a fervent admirer of the moviemaker. Over a long period, the two wrote each other letters, which Noble quotes and uses as a source. This book contains the same “errors” and “inaccuracies” as usual, alongside precise and original information. Stroheim, who wrote the preface to Noble’s book, would later reject him.

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Scholarly Studies

All the texts in this section were written after Stroheim’s death, after the discoveries made by Denis Marion and free of any control by Stroheim. Thousands of studies, more or less long, more or less elaborate, fulfill these criteria. All works dealing with silent films, whatever their approach, mention Stroheim. However, the works presented here represent a deliberate choice of texts most likely to be useful to Stroheim scholars. They are all both analytically relevant and original. For the sake of clarity, these texts are organized under several subheadings. The presence of a reference under one category does not prevent it from being also occasionally referred to under another category.

Biographies

In the history of the Stroheim biography, Denis Marion is pivotal. There is what has been written before him and what has been written after him. A whole section of the legend the filmmaker had so patiently constructed collapsed following Marion’s revelations. His discoveries, which he published in two separate works (Marion 1966, Marion 1966), have modified the studies of Stroheim and his works in a lasting fashion. The texts collected in this section have one purpose: to identify what pertains to the myth and to reestablish the truth. Both Koszarski 1983 and Koszarski 2000 and the film by Richard Koszarski and Patrick Montgomery (Montgomery 1979), which mainly study Stroheim’s nine feature films, should be high on the priority list because of their exceptionally precise documentary value. The works by Arthur Lennig and Fanny Lignon are in the same vein: Lennig 2000 is very informative on Stroheim’s Austrian period, and Lignon 1999, followed by Lignon 2006, shows how truth, untruth, and Jewishness are articulated in the filmmaker’s life and his works. These works are presented (unless otherwise indicated) in chronological order and by author: because Stroheim built his legend over the years, because scholars deconstruct it (and reconstruct it) in the same way, and because the progress of some is food for the work of others. (In order to understand why Noble 1950 has not been cited in this section in spite of its title, see Books under Influence).

  • Koszarski, Richard. The Man You Loved to Hate: Erich von Stroheim and Hollywood. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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    Richard Koszarski is mainly interested in Stroheim’s American years and “the real story of Erich von Stroheim and Hollywood—a story more fantastic than the ones he invented for the screen (cover page).” Koszarski’s work, which is extremely precise, is based on numerous direct and unpublished sources. It is a mine of information.

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  • Koszarski, Richard. Von: The Life and Films of Erich von Stroheim. New York: Limelight Editions, 2000.

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    A revised version of the book written in 1983. This new publication, even more detailed than the previous one, takes into account research both in Austria and in France and is based on documents discovered in 1999 by Rick Schmidlin (Schmidlin 2006, cited under Aborted Film Projects).

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  • Lennig, Arthur. Stroheim. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2000.

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    The author develops the idea of an interaction between Stroheim’s life and work. He strives to shed light on his Viennese years as well as on his American years, mainly relying on official documents or ones kept by the film studios. He considers Stroheim as a humanist eager to attain perfection, but whose career was broken by his rejection of any compromise.

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  • Lignon, Fanny. Erich von Stroheim: Du ghetto au Gotha. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1999.

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    A text in French. Fanny Lignon’s work focuses on the Stroheim myth and aims at deciphering the filmmaker’s personality, his rapport with truth and untruth. She argues that he himself is his greatest masterpiece. She bases her work on American sources but also upon testimonies, formal documents, and unpublished pieces housed at the Cinémathèque française.

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  • Lignon, Fanny. “Erich von Stroheim, mythe et réalité.” In Vienne et Berlin à Hollywood: Nouvelles approches. Edited by Marc Cerisuelo, 125–145. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2006.

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    A text in French. This text complements and updates Lignon 1999. After evoking the Stroheim myth, Fanny Lignon exposes what we know today of the real Stroheim and endeavors to understand the logic behind the paradoxical relationship between myth and realty. In particular, she looks at the question of his Jewishness. A Spanish-language edition was published in 2008.

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  • Marion, Denis. “Stroheim: The Legend and the Fact.” In Hommage à Erich von Stroheim: A Tribute. Edited by Charlotte Gobeil, 5–9. Ottawa: Canadian Film Institute, 1966.

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    A Belgian-born lawyer and film critic, Denis Marion, spotted contradictions in the biographies of Erich von Stroheim and decided to investigate his Viennese past. He discovered that Stroheim was not a nobleman and that he was a Jew. To prove this, he published the filmmaker’s birth certificate. His article reveals a Stroheim totally different from the one everyone thought they knew. Originally published in Sight and Sound in 1961–1962.

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  • Marion, Denis. Stroheim. Etudes Cinématographiques 48–50. Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1966.

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    A text in French. In this 150-page book, Denis Marion presents his discoveries in great detail. He makes public all the documents handed over by the Jewish community in Vienna. He reports the exchanges he had had with Emil Feldmar, a cousin of Stroheim’s who had stayed in Vienna. Then follows an analysis of Stroheim’s career as creator, actor, scriptwriter, and novelist.

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  • Montgomery, Patrick, dir. The Man You Loved to Hate. Hollywood, CA: Film Profiles, 1979.

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    This documentary film is a complement to the book written by Richard Koszarski (Koszarski 1983); Koszarski also wrote the film script. It presents a great many iconographic documents, excerpts from films that are sometimes difficult to find, and unpublished testimonies from Stroheim’s collaborators and relatives.

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Analyses

The books presented below focus upon Stroheim’s opus. Biographical details are relegated to the background. The selection is based on the relevance of the analyses presented. Casiraghi 1945 proposes a political and quite plausible reading of Stroheim’s films. Garcia Riera 1988 and Bruno 2000 approach the subject from other angles as well as ideological ones. Whereas Finler 1967 concentrates more particularly on the study of Greed, Ciment 1967 attempts to elucidate the logic of the works as a whole, as does Castello and Buache 1963 and Buache 1972. Buache is also the first to insist upon the importance of the theme of truth and untruth in Stroheim’s work. Lastly, Grob 1994 considers Stroheim’s style and his work to be fundamental to the art of film.

  • Bruno, Edoardo. Espressione e ragione in Stroheim: Immagine e spettacolo. Turin, Italy: Testo & Immagine, 2000.

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    A text in Italian. A study of the historical and social discourse running through the works of Stroheim which goes beyond the issue of cinematographic genres.

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  • Buache, Freddy, ed. Erich von Stroheim. Cinéma d’aujourd’hui 71. Paris: Seghers, 1972.

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    A text in French. A chronological and analytical book which, among other things, tries to understand the way in which Stroheim’s lying gave birth to truth. One of the first to consider that Stroheim turned his life into a work of art.

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  • Casiraghi, Ugo. Umanità di Stroheim e altri saggi. Milan: Poligono, 1945.

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    A text in Italian. A cinema critic and a member of the Italian Communist Party, Ugo Casiraghi presents, at the beginning of this book, one of the first analyses of the works of Stroheim (pp. 8–25).

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  • Castello, Giulio Cesare, and Freddy Buache. “Erich von Stroheim.” Premier Plan, Vol. 29, August 1963.

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    A text in French. After a brief reminder of the way in which Stroheim’s work was massacred, Castello stresses the fact that Stroheim was very faithful to certain themes which he developed from one film to the next (Vienna, adultery, the obsession of reality, sadism, eroticism, morality). Buache then introduces and gives a synopsis of Stroheim’s works from Blind Husbands (1919) to Queen Kelly (1929).

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  • Ciment, Michel. Stroheim: 1885–1957. Anthologie du cinéma 27. Paris: Avant Scène du Cinéma, 1967.

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    In about fifty pages, a thorough and synthetic analysis of Stroheim’s work: “Love’s Triangle: A Comedy” (Blind Husbands, The Devil’s Passkey, Foolish Wives) (pp. 339–347); “Stones and Dreams” (Greed) (pp. 347–352); “A Viennese Tetralogy” (Merry Go Round, The Merry Widow, The Wedding March, Queen Kelly) (pp. 352–369).

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  • Finler, Joel W. Stroheim. Movie Paperbacks. London: Studio Vista, 1967.

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    The author studies the whole Stroheim opus but focuses on Greed, to which he dedicates about sixty pages. After commenting upon Frank Norris’s novel, he presents an analysis of the film in four parts (“Prologue,” “Courtship,” “Marriage,” “Decline”); then, to conclude, he mentions the links with the moviemaker’s other works.

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  • Garcia Riera, Emilio. Erich von Stroheim. Guadalajara, Mexico: Centro de Investigaciones y Enseñanza Cinematográficas, Universidad de Guadalajara, 1988.

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    A text in Spanish. Clues and intuitions useful to the analysis of Stroheim’s films. His cinema, according to Garcia Riera, is “la expresión a la vez orgullosa, despiadada y desolada de quien trama en el siglo XX una imposible venganza del siglo XIX” (the expression both proud, inhuman, and desolate of one who would plot, in the 20th century, an impossible 19th-century-style revenge).

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  • Grob, Norbert. “Schwarze Flecken, flirrendes Weiß.” In Erich von Stroheim. Edited by Wolfgang Jacobsen, Helga Belach, and Norbert Grob, 9–165. Berlin: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek und Argon, 1994.

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    A text in German. In this essay of over 150 pages, the author reviews and analyzes Stroheim’s work and career. He considers him to be a visionary and one of the inventors of the language of cinema.

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Essays

The books presented below analyze Stroheim’s work at length and from different points of view. The selection has been made because they are well known, original, and of scientific value. They represent typical themes: naturalism, violence, cruelty, poetry, sensuality. Whereas Deleuze 1986 adopts a philosophical approach to Stroheim’s work, Bazin 1982 puts more stress on his editing style, and Paganelli 2001 takes the latter’s analysis of Stroheim’s vision a step further.

  • Bazin, André. “Eric von Stroheim.” In The Cinema of Cruelty: From Buñuel to Hitchcock. By André Bazin, 3–16. New York: Seaver, 1982.

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    According to Bazin, Stroheim allows cinema to reconnect with its primary function and teaches cinema how to “show” again. He describes his contribution as “a revolution of the concrete” (p. 8). Unlike Griffith, Stroheim builds his stories on continuous, rather than on discontinuous, editing.

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  • Deleuze, Gilles. “From Affect to Action: The Impulse Image.” In Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. By Gilles Deleuze, 127–145. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.

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    A philosophical essay. The author studies Stroheim more particularly in the chapter on the naturalistic style of cinema. He approaches Stroheim’s films through the notion of the image seen as an irresistible urge. Originally published in French in 1983.

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  • Paganelli, Grazia. Erich von Stroheim: Lo sguardo e l’iperbole. Rome: Bulzoni, 2001.

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    A text in Italian. An analysis of how Stroheim sees reality and the way he transfigures it in order to access the interiority of things.

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Collections of Articles

Many texts about Stroheim are not easily available. Fortunately, many of these are grouped together in certain books. Noble 1950 gathers together an impressive collection of articles published in English. Gobeil 1966 brings this work up to date and adds to it by introducing texts in French. Marion 1966 and Buache 1972 collect articles in French written exclusively by filmmakers or critics. Jacobsen, et al. 1994 puts together a collection of older articles published in Germany. Barna 1966 is atypical; it presents only fragments of reviews but organizes them in a very accessible fashion.

  • Barna, Jon. Erich von Stroheim. Vienna: Osterreichisches Filmmuseum, 1966.

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    A text in German. A very special book which uses Stroheim’s filmography and reports (unexhaustively) what has been said about each film by the critics and by Stroheim himself.

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  • Buache, Freddy, ed. Erich von Stroheim. Cinéma d’aujourd’hui 71. Paris: Seghers, 1972.

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    A text in French. The last part of the book is titled “Texts and Documents.” The reader will find, apart from certain articles by Stroheim, critical opinions and testimonies published in France about his work (in subsections with titles including “Vitality of His Works,” “Through the Magnifying Glass,” “A Revolutionary Real-Life Approach,” “Mirror of Emptiness,” “Exhibitionism,” and “Critical Naturalism”) and some analysis of specific films (Blind Husbands, Foolish Wives, Greed, The Wedding March, The Great Flamarion, La dame blanche, Sunset Boulevard).

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  • Gobeil, Charlotte. Hommage à Erich von Stroheim: A Tribute. Ottawa: Canadian Film Institute, 1966.

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    Texts in French and in English. An anthology of texts written by film historians, critics, and people who collaborated with Stroheim. A valuable survey of what had been written on Stroheim up to 1966. Texts by Herman G. Weinberg, Denis Marion, Lotte H. Eisner, Iris Barry, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Renée Lichtig, Karel Reisz, and Claude de Givray.

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  • Jacobsen, Wolfgang, Helga Belach, and Norbert Grob. Erich von Stroheim. Berlin: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek und Argon, 1994.

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    Texts in German. Within this collective book is included an anthology of about ten press articles, of which eight were published in Germany between 1921 and 1931. The reader who wishes to work on the reception of Stroheim’s work would be well advised to consult them. Texts by Billy Wilder, Fay Wray, Valeska Gert, Benedikt Fred Dolbin, Arnold Höllriegel, Anton Kuh, Egon Jacobsohn, Ludwig Seel, Willy Haas, and Lotte H. Eisner (pp. 243–261).

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  • Marion, Denis. Stroheim. Etudes cinématographiques 48–50. Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1966.

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    A text in French. Parts 4 and 5 of this book present a corpus of texts grouped under the headings “Homage to the Artist” and “Recollections of the Man.” Denis Marion mainly gives an account of his discussion with Emil Feldmar, a cousin of Stroheim’s, and of the reactions of different personalities from the world of cinema to who he disclosed his discoveries. In appendix, unpublished texts by Bob Bergut, Raymond Bernard, Pierre Chenal, Christian-Jaque, Emil Feldmar, and Jean Renoir; reprints of texts by Louise Brooks, Lillian Gish, Renée Lichtig, Karel Reisz, and Charles Spaak.

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  • Noble, Peter. Hollywood Scapegoat: The Biography of Erich von Stroheim. London: Fortune, 1950.

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    Peter Noble’s book is partly an anthology of Anglo-American criticism published in Stroheim’s lifetime. The authors discuss his art, his status within the history of cinema, the films he directed (texts on Blind Husbands, Foolish Wives, Greed), and the roles he played (texts on La grande illusion, Mademoiselle Docteur). In appendix, texts by Rodney Ackland, James Agate, Ernest Betts, Oswell Blakeston, Thomas Quinn Curtiss, John Grierson, Robert Herring, Lewis Jacobs, Caroline Alice Lejeune, Roger Manvell, Paul Rotha, and Herman G. Weinberg.

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Photographic Studies

Most works about Stroheim are illustrated with more or less well-known photographs. Some, however, offer more pictures than text. They are listed below. The scholar who consults them will find private photographs, press photographs, photos taken during filming, and photos of film extracts (stills and working pictures). One must keep in mind that although Stroheim’s image corpus is, as a rule, a relatively international one, it is also linked to the author’s country (indeed, some photographs are available only in German, Italian, or Spanish books). These books are useful because they give an overall view of Stroheim’s career (Bessy 1984). They also give us an idea of some films not readily available, rare, or lost, and of scenes that had been cut. Whereas Weinberg 1975a presents photos from all nine feature films Stroheim made, Weinberg 1972 concentrates on Greed and Weinberg 1975b on The Wedding March (1928).

  • Bessy, Maurice. Erich von Stroheim. Paris: Pygmalion, 1984.

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    A text in French. A pictorial account of Stroheim’s life and career as both actor and director. More than four hundred photographs, including some unpublished. Note: the proofs in the German edition (Munich: Schirmer-Mosel, 1985) are of a far better quality than those in the French one.

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  • Weinberg, Herman G. The Complete Greed of Erich von Stroheim. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1972.

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    Of all Stroheim films, Greed is undoubtedly the one that suffered most. In this book, Weinberg presents a very precise reconstruction of the film by putting together, in the order of the script, 348 photographs of cut scenes and uncut scenes. His work gives the unique impression of watching a film that has never really existed. Forty-one pictures of shoots are also reproduced.

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  • Weinberg, Herman G. Stroheim: A Pictorial Record of His Nine Films. New York: Dover, 1975a.

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    Stroheim’s works as director, chronologically presented in 188 film pictures, ten pictures of shoots, and nine synopses and descriptive entries. Also reproduced are advertising documents of the time.

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  • Weinberg, Herman G. The Complete Wedding March of Erich von Stroheim. Boston: Little, Brown, 1975b.

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    When released, The Wedding March was presented in two parts. The second part, titled “The Honeymoon,” is now lost. Here, Weinberg presents a reconstruction of the two parts of the film by arranging the 137 photos of part one and 110 photos of part two in script order. Thirteen pictures of shoots are also reproduced.

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Filmographies

Most books about Stroheim present a more or less detailed filmography. Without discarding the pioneers’ work, the scholar will preferably use recent research based on sources of recognized historical value. Koszarski 2001 is the standard reference. Jacobsen 1994 brings additional information on the screening of Stroheim’s films in Europe. These filmographies do not present synopses. This is not a problem for films directed by Stroheim. For synopses, the reader could look at, for instance, Weinberg 1975 (cited under Aborted Film Projects). As for the other films, one could consult, for instance, in the case of the American movies, the American Film Institute Catalog and The Motion Picture Guide, and in the case of the French movies, the Catalogue des films français de long métrage compiled by Raymond Chirat.

Bibliographies

Most books about Stroheim present a bibliography. Some just give lists of references, others present methodical selections, and only a few comment briefly on the texts quoted. I would suggest only one source, which is quite recent and precise: Rehhahn 1994.

  • Rehhahn, Yvonne. “Bibliografie.” In Erich von Stroheim. Edited by Wolfgang Jacobsen, Helga Belach, and Norbert Grob, 315–335. Berlin: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek und Argon, 1994.

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    A text in German. The most complete, precise, and orderly bibliography. Of particular note is that each film entry is divided into sections: literary sources, materials, essays, analyses, and criticism. However, the texts quoted here are not commented on. The reader would be advised to bring this material up to date, by using, for instance, Koszarski 2001 (cited under Biographies and Filmographies).

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Research Documents

Numerous original documents about Stroheim are available. Some belong to private collections, but many of them are in public archives, in Austria, the United States, and France. The reader wishing to consult the Austrian and American documents will find the list of archives and their locations in Arthur Lennig’s book (Lennig 2000, cited under Biographies, pp. 493–494) and in Rick Schmidlin’s article (Schmidlin 2006, cited under Aborted Film Projects, pp. 101–109). A reader wishing to consult the documents preserved in France could look through the inventory put together by Dominique Brun (Brun 1992) for the Bibliothèque du film (BIFI; Cinémathèque française) and ask to be given access to the Erich von Stroheim Collection.

Synopses and Screenplays

In this section are listed together published synopses, by Stroheim and others, and screenplays written by Stroheim. Greed (Finler 1972), Queen Kelly (Wood 2002), and Walking Down Broadway (1938) (Stroheim 1966) were all produced, whereas La dame blanche (Stroheim 1959) remained only a project. In these documents, the reader will be able to study, among other things, the way the moviemaker conceived his cinematographic narrations and to evaluate the discrepancy between the initial project and the film as we now know it.

Aborted Film Projects

Throughout his life, Stroheim was never short of ideas for scenarios and never stopped writing. In some of his texts, we find his usual preoccupations and style. However, other narrations are more surprising, if not enigmatic. In any case, they all shed a new light—sometimes a puzzling one—upon his work. The researcher interested in these projects could get an overall view of them by looking at the lists and précis written and published by Herman G. Weinberg (Weinberg 1975) using sources archived in the United States, and by Fanny Lignon (Lignon 2001, Lignon 2002), who used sources archived in France. While studying these texts, the reader could keep in mind the analyses presented in Lignon 1999, Lennig 2000, and Koszarski 2000 (all cited under Biographies), the last being the only one to have also discussed documents discovered by Rick Schmidlin in 1999 (see Schmidlin 2006).

Preparatory Sketches

When working on a film, Stroheim used to draw preparatory sketches with color crayons to represent characters, costumes, props, and other details. Most of these sketches, kept in archives, have never been published, or have been released in haphazard fashion. The Cinémathèque française has, for example, a wonderful unpublished series drawn by Stroheim as he was preparing a talking version of Blind Husbands (Brun 1992, cited under Research Documents). Stroheim 1959 is the only publication that presents a sizeable collection of drawings.

  • Stroheim, Erich von. “Photographic Folio.” In Von Stroheim. Rome: Bianco e Nero, 1959.

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    A text in Italian. Forty-nine preparatory drawings drawn by Stroheim for La dame blanche. Sketches of scenes, half-length and full-length portraits of men in uniform and of women, details of costumes, and weapons.

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Literary Opus

The one play and the novels written by Stroheim which have actually been published are put together in this section. Among these are a youthful work, “In the Morning” (Stroheim 1988), and four later texts written when Stroheim was no longer directing and which are rather like drafts of films. The reader will find all the author’s favorite themes rather melodramatically presented: true love, false love in Paprika (Stroheim 1935), superstition in Les feux de Saint Jean (Stroheim 1951, Stroheim 1954), and jealous love in Poto-Poto (Stroheim 1956). The reader will no doubt also notice the author’s very unusual literary style. Abstracts are available online (1912–1939, 1940–1956) in French.

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