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ERICH VON STROHEIM
Date of Birth 22 September 1885, Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Date of Death 12 May 1957, Maurepas, Yvelines, France (cancer)
Birth Name Erich Oswald Stroheim
Nickname The Man You Love to Hate
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)
Erich Von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatmaker from 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 reshooting 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.
Valerie Germonprez (16 October 1920 - 1936) (separated) (1 child)
Mary Agnes Jones (1916 - 1919) (divorced) (1 child)
Margaret Knox (19 February 1913 - 1915) (divorced)
Denise Vernac (? - 12 May 1957) (his death)
Ambulances are recurring themes in his films
Frequently included imbecile characters in films he wrote/directed
Worked frequently with Maude George, Dale Fuller, Gibson Gowland, Cesare Gravina and Zasu Pitts.
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 vaccuming the grand staircase in the palace in Queen Kelly (1929).
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 (1929).
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
Often wore a monocle
Thick Austrian accent
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 back-story for himself as an Austrian aristocrat and imperial officer, while in fact 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 of 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 U.S.
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 Boulevard (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 (1929), which von Stroehim 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.
May 1924: A $10,000 bonus was offered to him by MGM chief Louis B. Mayer if he finished The Merry Widow (1925) in less than six weeks.
Profiled in "From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow Transgression in Cinema's First Century" by John Cline and Robert G. 
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 (1929). 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 re-edited (badly) and subsequently flopped at the box office.
Under contract at Universal (as actor/director), 1918-22; to Samuel Goldwyn (as director), 1923-25; at RKO (as actor) in 1931.
Juxtapositions of scared and profane imagery in films he directed.
He briefly served in the Austro-Hungarian army.
Great-grandfather of actress Alena von Stroheim.
On Eric Von Stoheim'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.