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Directed by Erich von Stroheim Foolish Wives is a silent film also written by him.
Plot

The silent drama is set in and around Monaco where Villa Amorosa is leased out for the season. The three Russians who occupy the villa are frauds and they are there to make a killing and move on before the season ends. Count Wladislaw Sergius Karamzin (von Stroheim) is a cad of the deepest hue whose forte is in compromising rich heiresses and milking them while his cousins run a private casino to bilk the unwary who are taken in by their pretensions to nobility. Naturally passing around counterfeit notes is part of their trade.
Of these three the role of Stroheim looms larger,- and he is almost in every scene, but his riveting performance as an actor and as an auteur make this film a great experience. The character that he assays here is typical of other roles he has handled, and indeed he is the man you love to hate. But what a character! Before we see him mixing with the high society and holding his own with cold aloofness of a Count we are given a clue to his baseness.

Von Stroheim shows a world that lies to itself, where swindlers and rich people mix, and where the heroine reads a book called Foolish Wives . The writer-director deals with false appearances: the titles of Count Wladislas Sergius Karamzin and his two princess cousins are fake (von Stroheim himself was not an Austrian aristocrat as he would have us believe during his lifetime, but the son of a Jewish hat-maker), the money is counterfeit, and the sentiments are fraudulent; Karamzin playing at love to seduce his maid, the ambassador’s wife, and an idiotic 14-year-old girl are all put on and fake, like impasto on the canvas of high society as the royal pretensions of Grimaldi might strike the House of Windsor or of Hohenzollern. This hypocrisy of the social game is set in the context of World War I, which had just ended: an armless veteran, a nurse pushing a soldier in a wheelchair, a little girl on crutches, a boy playing with a military helmet are all daubs that add to the overall effect.
As the film progresses depth of his villainy is indeed mind-boggling. He shall not spare even the servant maid’s life savings if he could lay hands on it and his comeuppance of course would come from that quarter, and before the film comes to an end we see of what his panache and sense of honor amount to in a critical moment.
The bulk of the film is taken up how the three cousins lay traps to compromise the honor of Helen Hughes (Miss Dupont) the young wife of the American envoy and its unraveling with unexpected consequences to the three.
Production:
Before release there were both censorship and length problems. In the wake of Fatty Arbuckle’s scandal the company decided to delete the most provocative shots; after screening a rough cut of six and half hours, it took the film from von Stroheim’s hands and asked Arthur Ripley to reduce it from 30 reels to 14. Ultimately it ran only ten reels.
The film began director von Stroheim’s reputation as a “manic perfectionist,” a huge money spender, and as a director that needed to be brought under control.
Started on 12 July 1920, the shooting ended almost one year later on 15 June 1921. The costs were soaring as von Stroheim insisted on the veracity of every detail. The main facades of the casino, the Hotel de France, and the Cafe de Paris were built by Richard Day (his first assignment) on the backlot of Universal. During filming, the costs for the film soared. While the budget was slated at $250,000, according to von Stroheim, it ended at $750,000. At the end, Universal Studio, estimated the costs at $1,225,000. During the production, Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal, appointed 20-year-old Irving Thalberg as head of the studio. Right away the new studio chief started clashing with von Stroheim, whom he considered a spendthrift.
Actor Rudolph Christians died on February 7, 1921 from pneumonia during production, and his part was taken over by Robert Edeson. Edeson only showed his back to the camera so as not to clash with shot footage of Christians that was still to be used in the completed film.
Original prints reportedly had hand coloring of certain scenes by artist Gustav Brock.

In Retro:

Even with all the difficulties the film is one of the most stunning of the silent era. It also exercised a major influence on future directors, including Renoir, Buñuel, and Vigo.

In Foolish Wives von Stroheim also gives the final—and most brilliant—touch to his portrait of the cynical seducer, equally eager for money and sex. His physical appearance is as recognizable as Chaplin’s, with his military cap, his whip, and his monocle.
Even as we look back at the silent era with rose-tinted glass and smile tolerantly at its naïveté, this film stands out as a shocker. Its originality and boldness ran against the grain of films that were to come out of the MGM studios several years later. I cite this studio because the boy genius, who headed the studio was to thwart the artistic independence Stroheim demanded and Stroheim had to pay the price for his artistic integrity.
“If you live in France, for instance, and you have written one good book, or painted one good picture, or directed one outstanding film fifty years ago and nothing else since, you are still recognized and honored accordingly. People take their hats off to you and call you “maître”. They do not forget. In Hollywood—in Hollywood, you’re as good as your last picture. If you didn’t have one in production within the last three months, you’re forgotten, no matter what you have achieved ere this.”
Stroheim’s unwillingness or inability to modify his artistic principles for the commercial cinema, his extreme attention to detail, his insistence on near-total artistic freedom and the resulting costs of his films led to fights with the studios. As time went on he received fewer directing opportunities.
He is perhaps best known as an actor for his role as von Rauffenstein in Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937) and as Max von Mayerling in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).

For the latter film, which co-starred Gloria Swanson, Stroheim was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Excerpts from Queen Kelly were used in the film. The Mayerling character states that he used to be one of the three great directors of the silent era, along with D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille; many film critics agree that Stroheim was indeed one of the great early directors. Stroheim’s character in Sunset Boulevard thus had an autobiographical basis that reflected the humiliations suffered through his career.
‘De Mille as early as 1919 brought to the American screens a mixture of spice and sex but within strict moral limits. Von Stroheim, however, through his unsparing vision of human psychology, his probing of hidden motives, and his harsh realism made the American cinema (particularly with Foolish Wives ) enter the 20th century, away from the Victorian and romantic sensibility of Griffith. Chaplin would soon follow with A Woman of Paris (1923) and Lubitsch with The Marriage Circle (1924). “Lubitsch shows you first the king on the throne, then as he is in the bedroom. I show you the king in the bedroom so you’ll know just what he is when you see him on his throne.”
Foolish Wives anticipates two subversive works that open and close the 1930s: Buñuel’s L’age d’or and Renoir’s La règle du jeu .
In 2008, Foolish Wives was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Ack:michel Ciment/film reference,wikipedia-foolish wives,Stroheim)

(also see cinebuff.wordpress.com)
benny

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Directed by Erich von Stroheim and starring Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller, Tempe Pigott, Sylvia Ashton, Chester Conklin, Joan Standing and Jack Curtis, ‘Greed’ is one of the greatest films ever made. It is a silent film and a morality play: it holds a mirror to our own psyche and though we may never play the part the shapes come to play therein, we may as well accept the truth it reveals.Truth of this film is greed and it is exclusively a human peculiarity that must make even man avowing highest ideals cringe. ‘Out, out with this damn spot,’ we may as well say and yet we shall pursue it with more resolve under some guise or other. Those who want to bring democracy into Iraq shall know that the underbelly of such risky venture only carries the ilks of Halliburton, Bechtel, KBR and what not and yet supposedly the idea ( of democracy)seems more a license than a right to fool the world.

At the opening of the film the title card reads a quote from the author of the book McTeague on which it is based: ‘I never truckled; I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. By God, I told them the truth. They liked it or they didn’t like it. What had that to do with me? I told them the truth; I knew it for the truth then, and I know it for the truth now.
. FRANK NORRIS.
Frank Norris’ powerful novel McTeague first came out in 1902 and was first filmed in 1915. It is the 1924 version is that we are presently concerned with. From early on Erich von Stroheim was attracted to the book and after scoring an enormous financial hit with Foolish Wives, in 1923, he began work on what he hoped would his masterpiece.

Plot

Stripped to its bare essentials, McTeague tells the story of a brute but basically good-natured miner named McTeague (played by Gibson Gowland), his wife Trina (ZaSu Pitts) and Marcus(Jean Hersholt), his best friend who later turns out to be his nemesis.
The eponymous character finds his true calling in life by taking over the practice of a traveling dentist. Setting up shop in San Francisco, McTeague falls in love with the daughter of German immigrants. It happens that Trina is the girlfriend of  Marcus who is mildly resentful, but ultimately forgiving, when McTeague and Trina are married. Always seeking out an opportunity to better herself, Trina buys a lottery ticket. When the ticket pays off and she wins a fortune, the previously even-tempered Trina undergoes a complete personality change, metamorphosing into a grasping, greedy, miserly shrew, hoarding huge sums of money while her husband must get by on his meager earnings as a dentist. Trina’s sudden windfall sparks a change in both McTeague and Marcus, as well; driven to distraction by his wife’s avarice, McTeague turns into a violent beast, while Marcus boils with jealousy over losing the now-prosperous Trina to McTeague. Pushed too far, McTeague ultimately murders Trina and escapes to the desert with her money. Appointed a sheriff’s deputy, the envious Marcus heads out to bring McTeague in, and the two men catch up with one another in the middle of Death Valley. Their water supply gone, their packhorse dead, McTeague and Marcus begin a fight to the death. McTeague manages to shoot and kill Marcus — only to discover that Marcus has manacled himself to McTeague. Utterly defeated, he sits benumbed on the scorching rocks, awaiting madness and a horrible death.
Marcus: There’s no water… within a hundred miles o’ here!
[the two men hopelessly stand by the dead mule in the middle of the desert]
Marcus: We… are… dead… men!

Filming at actual locations (the murder scene was shot at a locale where a real murder had occurred, while the sweltering Death Valley sequence was, likewise, made there), Von Stroheim remained doggedly faithful to the Norris original, shooting every page word for word. The end result ran 40 reels, or roughly 10 hours of screen time. Production head Irving Thalberg argued logically that no audience would sit still for ten hours of unrelenting realism. Von Stroheim reluctantly responded by paring his film down to 20 reels, but it was still far too long and depressing for MGM’s taste. It was edited even more – the current release version of the film is now shown at approximately two and a quarter hours (about 10 reels), one quarter of its original length. The severe editing was completed by Joe Farnham and June Mathis, Goldwyn’s story editor, who hadn’t read either the book or the screenplay. Reportedly, the 32 reels of edited negatives were melted down by MGM to extract the valuable silver nitrate from the film stock.
Cast

* Gibson Gowland as John McTeague
* Zasu Pitts as Trina
* Jean Hersholt as Marcus
* Dale Fuller as Maria
* Tempe Pigott as McTeague’s mother
* Jack Curtis as McTeague’s father (uncredited)
* Silvia Ashton as ‘Mommer’ Sieppe
* Chester Conklin as ‘Popper’ Sieppe
* Joan Standing as Selina

Directed by     Erich von Stroheim
Produced by     Irving Thalberg
Louis B. Mayer
Written by     June Mathis
Erich von Stroheim
Frank Norris (novel)
Distributed by     Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s)     December 4, 1924
Running time     140 min.
239 min. (restored)
Memorable Quote:
Trina: Let’s go sit on the sewer.
—-
Trivia:

* MGM’s first feature-length movie.

* The original 42 reel version is one of the top ten “lost films” of the American Film Institute

* Jean Hersholt was hospitalized after he lost 27 pounds during the filming of the movie’s climax in Death Valley.

* Concerning the editor hired to cut “Greed” down to 2 hours, Erich von Stroheim supposedly commented: “The only thing he had on his mind was his hat!”

* Director Cameo: [Erich von Stroheim] as a balloon vendor (although only in a deleted sequence). McTeague and Trina buy balloons from the vendor on the street.

* The filming of the climax was actually the subject of an early silent newsreel. The facts reported by the newsreel concerning the Death Valley portion of the shooting: it took a day just to reach the location from the town of Keeler, California, they rode in a combination of cars and horses (one of the cars had the word “Greed” stenciled on it), water had to be rationed and they shot in August when temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

•    The only screening of the original complete director’s cut was for a small group of reporters. One wrote a glowing review of it, using words like “wonderful” and “brilliant” to describe it, but lamented the fact that nobody else would ever see it.
Similar Movies
29th Street  (1992, George Gallo)
The Barbary Coast  (1935, Howard Hawks)
Citizen Kane  (1941, Orson Welles)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  (1948, John Huston)
Wall Street  (1987, Oliver Stone)
L’Argent  (1929, Marcel L’Herbier)
The Trail of ’98  (1928, Clarence Brown)
Intolerance  (1916, D.W. Griffith)
Sátántangó  (1994, Béla Tarr)
Waking Ned Devine  (1998, Kirk Jones)
Movies with the Same Personnel
The Wedding March  (1928, Erich Von Stroheim)
Blind Husbands  (1919, Erich Von Stroheim)
Queen Kelly  (1929, Erich Von Stroheim)
Foolish Wives  (1922, Erich Von Stroheim)
The Devil’s Passkey  (1920, Erich Von Stroheim)
The Merry Widow  (1925, Erich Von Stroheim)
Grand Illusion  (1937, Jean Renoir)
Hello Sister!  (1933, Erich Von Stroheim, Alan Crosland)
Other Related Movies
Grand Illusion  (1937, Jean Renoir)
Life’s a Whirlpool  (1916, Barry O’Neill)
(Ack:filmsite.com,imdb,allmovie,wikipedia)

compiler:benny

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