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Erich Von Stroheim (1885-1957)

  1. William Courtright, Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout The Ages, 1916.     The Von Stroheim Confusion... The second Pharisee (in the Judean Story) is credited to Von Stroheim. Except, henever played the role. DW Griffith, the inventor of silent movie epics, borrowed the name (of one of his production assistants for the Babylon sequence) as a pseudonym for actor Courtright. This has caused much confusion over the years. Courtright made a further 67 films under his own name.  Exactly the same output as Von Stroheim in the same period..
  2. Norman Kerry, Merry-Go-Round,1923.    Long before ruling MGM, Irving Thalberg made his name (as Universal’s general manager) by sacking Von Stroheim  .“I’ll let you direct this film or act in it. You can’t do both.” Von Stroheim rushed to New York feeling big boss Carl Laemmle would back his vision. “I am an artist. I find my inspiration everywhere.  I don’t go by schedules prepared by...dumbkopfs counting words on a page. I embroider. I paint - red here, blue there.  I compose, pianissimo, fortissimo. That’s how I work. You cannot tell me, Erich von Stroheim!  What do you know?  Where do you come from? An asylum maybe?” Thalberg chose Rupert Julian to direct Norman Kerry - disguised to look like Von Stroheim. Ironically, the great Von found himself making his seven hour Greed under Thalberg,after Goldwyn and Metro merged into MGM.
  3. Roy d’Arcy, The Merry Widow, 1925.   Ever-pretentious,  Erich von Stroheim planned to take the second male lead, Crown Prince Mirko. opposite Mae Murray. But no. MGM genius Irving Thalberg had made sure the contract was for directing, no acting allowed. In fact, he was told the faster he directed, the more salary he would win. Von Stroheim (fired twice during the shoot) discovered  D’Arcy in a LA play.  He made a further  51 other films up to 1938.
  4. Pierre Renoir, Macao, l'enfer du jeu (US: Gambling Hell, Mask of Korea and Dangerous Cargo), France, 1942. When first released in 1939,  Von Stroheim was playing Werner von Krall.  When reopening in 1942, during the Nazi occupation of France, his scenes had been re-shot with Pierre Renoir.  Von Stroheim was Jewish and, therefore, all his films were banned by Hitler’s Third Reich. He escaped to Hollywood in the 40s.
  5. Maurice Escande, Paris-New York, 1940.     The Von acted in the scenes aboard the Normandie liner, but disappeared during the studio interiors...
  6. Walter Slezak, This Land Is Mind, 1942.   For his second Hollywood film, French realisateur Jean Renoir wrote too much preachy dialogue. Also wrote to his La Grande Illusion star - August 27. 1942 - offering another “civilised” German officer. He explained that Major Von Keller’s dream was a Europe where the Germans were organisers and the French, the artists.   Never happened.  Maybe because the uniforms could not be re-designed by Stroheim or, more likely, he knew Charles Laughton’s “coward” would steal the entire movie.
  7. Pierre Brasseur, La tête contre les murs, France, 1958.    Actor Jean-Pierre Mocky adapted Herve Bazin’s novel and intended to direct but the pre-nouvelle vague mindset said he was too young at 29. Perfect for the main role, said new helmer Georges Franju. Mocky shot some scenes when Franju fell victim to booze and medicine but never got the two veterans he’d always wanted as his character’s shrinks - Berry and Eric von Stroheim were both dead.
  8. Rod Steiger, Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain), Austria-West Germany-France-Italy, 1981.    Years earlier, Gifford Cochran failed to launch his production of the Thomas Mann classic wih Von Stroheim as Mynheer Peperkorn.   Alexander Korda and Luchino Visconti, among others, also failed to achieve their most cherished project. German director Hans W Geissendorfermade the ’81 version.





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