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Erich Von Stroheim's "Greed"
December 18, 2011 9:09 AM   Subscribe

No one living can say whether the original, ten-hour version of Erich von Stroheim's most famous movie was the epic masterpiece it was touted to be. The 140-minute version is all that remains, and while it's only a quarter of the film it was meant to be, it's still one of the greatest accomplishments (SPOILER) of the silent film era.

As Norris's novel was a protest against the elaborate fluff that was popular reading during the end of the 19th century, Greed was a protest against the pretentiousness and glamour that was part and parcel of Hollywood in the '20s. Nevertheless, it is a stunning visual work, and the overall sordidness of the film has a dreamy, rather nightmarish aura. Out of any American director of his era, only von Stroheim could have found such beauty in ugliness and created such fascination for the commonplace. He shot Greed with utter faithfulness to the Norris book and proposed to run the lengthy film on more than one evening, but the idea was far ahead of its time and the releasing studio, MetroGoldwyn-Mayer, insisted on radical trimming.
posted by Trurl (13 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The ending is unforgettable.
posted by Trurl at 9:10 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw the over 5 hour reconstruction on TCM using stills and intertitles to fill in a lot of the gaps, and even though I was massively riveted by this revelation, a part of me was still incredibly sad for the footage that as of now seems to be irrevocably lost to time. If I had a time machine, one of my first priorities would be to acquire a duplicate of the original cut of GREED.
posted by theartandsound at 9:21 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I had a time machine, one of my first priorities would be to acquire a duplicate of the original cut of GREED.

You can borrow my time machine right after I'm done killing baby Hitler, and helping Thomas Pain throw the most rockin-est house party evar!
posted by a shrill fucking shitstripe at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2011


Thomas Pain

That would be an AWESOME name for a professional wrestler who dressed up in 18th century costumes.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:07 AM on December 18, 2011 [16 favorites]


I prefer to watch my silent films with live accompaniment (and am lucky to be able to indulge myself in that preference) and one of the things I've figured out from hearing enough stories of "and this print is 10 minutes longer than the one we rehearsed with!" is that there are a lot of different prints of the same movie of different lengths out there, both in release on film and DVD and in vaults. I have to admit I didn't know about this one, but I know they keep recovering more of Metropolis every few years. Maybe they'll dig up the rest of Greed in a vault somewhere, she said hopefully.
posted by immlass at 10:25 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wish I could remember my film prof's exact words in telling the story of Greed's editing. It's a terrible story on one hand, but the way he described von Stroheim's growing despair and anger over the process seemed very funny at the time. Well before it was whidled down to its present cut, the director was saying things along the line of, "one more scene removed and it shall be the death of me, you might as well slice me in two".

A great movie, 'even' in its diluted form.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:47 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I read the synopsis anyway, despite the Spoiler alert. Alas, it breaks off in mid-sentence, just at the critical moment. Now I really have to see the film.
posted by charlesminus at 12:22 PM on December 18, 2011


Related — famous glamour [NSFW, mostly] photographer Peter Gowland (1916 - 2010) was the son of Gibson Gowland (1877-1951), who played McTeague in Greed (1924) [AMC FilmSite Movie Review].
posted by cenoxo at 12:39 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some might remember him best for his Acadamy Award nominated role as Norma Desmond's butler Max in Sunset Boulevard.
posted by fairmettle at 12:41 PM on December 18, 2011


Ebert wrote, in Carl Sandburg's compiled reviews, that the original length was seven hours, rather than ten. He has some contemporary sources, so I suspect he's more right than not.
posted by dhartung at 1:01 PM on December 18, 2011


Trurl, your posts are consistently great. Keep 'em coming.
posted by Currer Belfry at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2011


one more scene removed and it shall be the death of me, you might as well slice me in two.

When I looked up "pay the piper" (which dates to before 1000AD it seems) I also found "He who would sup with the Devil should use a long spoon."
posted by Twang at 9:48 PM on December 18, 2011


charlesminus: "I read the synopsis anyway, despite the Spoiler alert. Alas, it breaks off in mid-sentence, just at the critical moment. Now I really have to see the film."

Click on the "Read More", and you'll see the rest of the synopsis.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:49 PM on December 21, 2011


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