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Erich Von Stroheim

Biography

Silent film era actor turned director who appeared in Sunset Boulevard, La Grande Illusion, and Greed. His last picture was 1955’s Napoleon, where he performed Ludwig truck Beethoven. He started his Hollywood profession as a expert on German style and lifestyle. He famously stated, “In Hollywood, you’re just as effective as your last picture.” His parents are Benno Stroheim and Johanna Bondy. Like Billy Wilder, he transferred from his indigenous nation of Austria to try his good luck in Hollywood.

Quick Facts


Date Of Birth September 22, 1885
Died May 12, 1957, Maurepas, France
Place Of Birth Vienna, Austria
Profession Movie Actor
Nationality Austrian, American
Spouse Valerie Germonprez, Mae Jones, Margaret Knox
Children Erich von Stroheim Jr., Joseph Von Stroheim
Parents Benno Stroheim, Johanna Bondy
Awards BAFTA Certificate of Merit
Nominations Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Movies Greed, Sunset Boulevard, Foolish Wives, The Wedding March, The Grand Illusion, Queen Kelly, Blind Husbands, Die lustige Witwe, The Great Gabbo, Five Graves to Cairo, Hello, Sister!, Intolerance, Merry-Go-Round, The Devil's Pass Key, The Great Flamarion, The North Star, The Lady and the Monster, Crimson Romance, The Lost Squadron, As You Desire Me, The Heart of Humanity, Hearts of the World, The Crime of Dr. Crespi, The Mask of Diijon, So Ends Our Night, Boys' School, I Was an Adventuress, Alraune, The Unbeliever, Old Heidelberg, The Devil-Doll, Storm Over Lisbon, Three Faces East, Portrait of an Assassin, Friends and Lovers, His Picture in the Papers, Gibraltar, Gambling Hell, The Social Secretary, Less Than the Dust, Alarm in Morocco, Panthea, Between Two Women, Under Secret Orders, Personal Column, Scotland Yard Investigator, Fugitive Road, Ultimatum, Sylvia of the Secret Service, Madonna of the Sleeping Cars, The Country Boy
Star Sign Virgo

  • Facts
  • Filmography
  • Awards
  • Salaries
  • Quotes
  • Trademarks
  • Pictures

#Fact
1 He briefly served in the Austro-Hungarian army.
2 Juxtapositions of scared and profane imagery in films he directed.
3 Under contract at Universal (as actor/director), 1918-22; to Samuel Goldwyn (as director), 1923-25; at RKO (as actor) in 1931.
4 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.
5 Profiled in "From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow Transgression in Cinema's First Century" by John Cline and Robert G. [2010]
6 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.
7 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.
8 As the butler in Sunset Blvd. (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.
9 His longtime business manager was Elmer Cox, father of actor Dick Sargent.
10 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".
11 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.
12 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..
13 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.
14 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.
15 Brother-in-law of Louis Germonprez.
16 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.
17 Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 1069-1079. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
18 Immigrated to the United States at the port of New York aboard the S.S. Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm on 25 November 1909.
19 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.


Actor

Actor

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Ghosts 1915 Bit Part (uncredited)
The Failure 1915/I Minor Role (uncredited)
Captain Macklin 1915 Short Officer on Horseback (uncredited)
The Country Boy 1915 Diner in Restaurant (uncredited)
La madone des sleepings 1955 Dr. Siegfried Traurig
Napoléon 1955 Ludwig van Beethoven
The Infiltrator 1955 Sacha Zavaroff
Orient Express 1952-1954 TV Series Man / Karmesin / Jovanovitch / ...
Alerte au sud 1953 Conrad Nagel
L'envers du paradis 1953 William O'Hara
Minuit... Quai de Bercy 1953 Professeur Kieffer
Alraune 1952 Jacob ten Brinken
Sunset Blvd. 1950 Max Von Mayerling
Portrait d'un assassin 1949 Eric
Le signal rouge 1949 Le docteur Mathias Berthold
La danse de mort 1948 Edgar
Devil and the Angel 1946 Frank Davis
On ne meurt pas comme ça 1946 Eric von Berg
The Mask of Diijon 1946 Diijon (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Scotland Yard Investigator 1945 Carl Hoffmeyer
The Great Flamarion 1945 The Great Flamarion (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Storm Over Lisbon 1944 Deresco
The Lady and the Monster 1944 Prof. Franz Mueller
The North Star 1943 Dr. von Harden (as Erich Von Stroheim: in opening credits)
Five Graves to Cairo 1943 Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Gambling Hell 1942 Werner von Krall (as Eric von Stroheim)
So Ends Our Night 1941 Brenner
I Was an Adventuress 1940 Andre Desormeaux (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Tempête 1940 Korlick
Menaces... 1940 Le professeur Hoffman (as Eric Von Stroheim)
Personal Column 1939 Pears (as Eric Von Stroheim)
Rappel immédiat 1939 Captain Stanley Wells
The World Will Shake 1939 Emil Lasser / Monsieur Frank (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Derrière la façade 1939 Eric (as Eric von Stroheim)
It Happened in Gibraltar 1938 Marson
Ultimatum 1938 General Simovic
Les disparus de St. Agil 1938 Walter, prof d'anglais
The Lafarge Case 1938 Denis
Les pirates du rail 1938 Tchou King
The Alibi 1937 Le professeur Winckler
Under Secret Orders 1937 Col. W. Mathesius / Simonis
La Grande Illusion 1937 Le captaine von Rauffenstein (as Eric von Stroheim)
Marthe Richard 1937 Le baron Erich von Ludow
The Crime of Doctor Crespi 1935 Dr. Andre Crespi
Crimson Romance 1934 Capt. Wolters
Fugitive Road 1934 Hauptmann Oswald Von Traunsee
As You Desire Me 1932 Carl Salter
The Lost Squadron 1932 Von Furst (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Friends and Lovers 1931 Victor Sangrito
The Honeymoon 1930 Nikki
Three Faces East 1930 Valdar / Schiller / Blecher
The Great Gabbo 1929 Gabbo
The Wedding March 1928 Nicki / Prince Nickolas von Wildeliebe-Rauffenburg
Greed 1924 Balloon Vendor (uncredited)
Foolish Wives 1922 Their Cousin - Count Sergius Karamzin - Capt. 3rd Hussars Imper. Russian Army (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Blind Husbands 1919 Lt. Erich von Steuben
The Heart of Humanity 1918 Eric von Eberhard
The Hun Within 1918 Von Bickel
Hearts of the World 1918 A Hun
The Unbeliever 1918 Lt. Kurt von Schnieditz
Who Goes There? 1917
Sylvia of the Secret Service 1917 Undetermined Role
Reaching for the Moon 1917 Prince Badinoff's Aide (uncredited)
Draft 258 1917
For France 1917 Undetermined Role
In Again, Out Again 1917/II Officer (uncredited)
Panthea 1917 Lieutenant
The Social Secretary 1916 The Buzzard
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages 1916 Second Pharisee (uncredited)
Macbeth 1916 uncredited
The Flying Torpedo 1916 Accomplice
His Picture in the Papers 1916 One of the Weazels (uncredited)
Old Heidelberg 1915 Lutz
Farewell to Thee 1915 Short Jackson - Louise's Partner

Writer

Writer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Hoyden 1998 Short screenplay "Walking Down Broadway"
Papatya 1956 novel
La danse de mort 1948 adaptation
I Was an Adventuress 1940 contributing writer - uncredited
It Happened in Gibraltar 1938 writer
Between Two Women 1937 original story - as Erich Von Stroheim
The Devil-Doll 1936 screen play - as Eric Von Stroheim
Fugitive Road 1934 unconfirmed - unconfirmed, uncredited
Hello, Sister! 1933 scenario
The Honeymoon 1930 writer
Queen Kelly 1929 based on an original story by - as Erich Von Stroheim
The Wedding March 1928 writer
Tempest 1928 uncredited
The Merry Widow 1925 screen adaptation and scenario
Greed 1924 screen adaptation and scenario
Merry-Go-Round 1923 uncredited
Foolish Wives 1922 story and scenario - as Erich Von Stroheim / titles - uncredited
The Devil's Passkey 1920 screenplay / story
Blind Husbands 1919 screenplay - as Erich Stroheim / story "The Pinnacle" - as Erich Stroheim

Director

Director

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Fugitive Road 1934 unconfirmed, uncredited
Hello, Sister! 1933
The Honeymoon 1930
The Great Gabbo 1929 uncredited
Queen Kelly 1929 as Erich Von Stroheim
The Wedding March 1928
The Merry Widow 1925
Greed 1924 personally directed by
Merry-Go-Round 1923 uncredited
Foolish Wives 1922 as Erich Von Stroheim
The Devil's Passkey 1920
Blind Husbands 1919 as Erich Stroheim

Assistant Director

Assistant Director

TitleYearStatusCharacter
O. Henry's Full House 1952 assistant director - segment "The Last Leaf", uncredited
Reaching for the Moon 1917 technical assistant director - uncredited
In Again, Out Again 1917/II assistant director
Panthea 1917 assistant director
Less Than the Dust 1916 assistant director
The Social Secretary 1916 assistant director - uncredited
Macbeth 1916 assistant director
His Picture in the Papers 1916 assistant director - uncredited
Old Heidelberg 1915 assistant director - uncredited
Captain Macklin 1915 Short assistant director - uncredited
The Birth of a Nation 1915 assistant director - uncredited

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Emperor's Candlesticks 1937 contributor to treatment - uncredited
Anna Karenina 1935 technical advisor: military sequence - uncredited
The Heart of Humanity 1918 technical advisor
Hearts of the World 1918 technical supervisor - uncredited
Sylvia of the Secret Service 1917 technical advisor
Blind Man's Luck 1917 technical director
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages 1916 production assistant: Babylon sequence - uncredited
Old Heidelberg 1915 technical director: military detail
Ghosts 1915 technical advisor

Art Director

Art Director

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Wedding March 1928 uncredited
Greed 1924 uncredited
The Devil's Passkey 1920
Blind Husbands 1919 uncredited
In Again, Out Again 1917/II

Costume Designer

Costume Designer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Wedding March 1928 uncredited
The Merry Widow 1925 uncredited
Merry-Go-Round 1923 uncredited
Ghosts 1915

Producer

Producer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Queen Kelly 1929 producer - uncredited
The Wedding March 1928 producer
The Merry Widow 1925 producer - uncredited
Blind Husbands 1919 producer

Editor

Editor

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Wedding March 1928 uncredited
Greed 1924 42-reel version, uncredited
Blind Husbands 1919 uncredited

Art Department

Art Department

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Man You Loved to Hate 1979 Documentary title drawings
Queen Kelly 1929 additional art director - uncredited

Soundtrack

Soundtrack

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Sunset Blvd. 1950 performer: "Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor, BWV 565" ca 1705 - uncredited
The Great Gabbo 1929 performer: "I'm Laughing", "Icky Lollipop Song" - uncredited

Costume Department

Costume Department

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Ghosts 1915 wardrobe assistant

Production Designer

Production Designer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Greed 1924 uncredited

Self

Self

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Panorama 1954 TV Series documentary Himself - Interviewee
La vie des artistes 1938 Documentary Lui-même
Screen Snapshots Series 9, No. 14 1930 Short Himself, at Premiere
A Trip Through the Paramount Studio 1927 Documentary short Himself
1925 Studio Tour 1925 Documentary short Himself - a Director
Screen Snapshots, Series 4, No. 10 1924 Documentary short Himself
Souls for Sale 1923 Himself
C-V News: Filming Greed 1923 Short Himself (uncredited)
Screen Snapshots, Series 3, No. 14 1922 Documentary short Himself

Archive Footage

Archive Footage

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Blue Skies Beyond the Looking Glass 2008 Short
Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s'éteint et que le film commence 2007 segment "Cinéma de Boulevard"
Cannes, 60 ans d'histoires 2007 TV Movie documentary Himself
Billy Wilder Speaks 2006 TV Movie documentary Himself
Edge of Outside 2006 Documentary Himself
Cineastas contra magnates 2005 Documentary
Irving Thalberg: Prince of Hollywood 2005 TV Movie documentary Himself
Erich von Stroheim and Carl Laemmle 2000 TV Movie Himself
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies 1995 TV Movie documentary Himself (uncredited)
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Hollywood Follies 1994 TV Movie Count Sergius Karamzin (uncredited)
American Masters 1993 TV Series documentary Himself
Hollywood Mavericks 1990 Documentary Himself
Détective 1985 Arthur von Furst (uncredited)
Hollywood 1980 TV Mini-Series documentary Himself / Actor ' Heart of Humanity'
The Man You Loved to Hate 1979 Documentary Himself
The Moving Picture Boys in the Great War 1975 Documentary Himself
The Great Director 1966 TV Movie documentary Himself
Fractured Flickers 1963 TV Series Erich Von Stucker
The Legend of Rudolph Valentino 1961 Video documentary Himself
Screen Snapshots Series 18, No. 12 1939 Documentary short Himself
The Fall of Babylon 1919 A Pharisee (as Count von Stroheim)

Won awards

Won awards

YearAwardCeremonyNominationMovieAward shared with
1960 Star on the Walk of Fame Walk of Fame Motion Picture On 8 February 1960. At 6826 Hollywood Blvd.
1954 Certificate of Merit BAFTA Awards For services to film as director and actor.

Nominated awards

Nominated awards

YearAwardCeremonyNominationMovieAward shared with
1951 Oscar Academy Awards, USA Best Actor in a Supporting Role Sunset Blvd. (1950)
1951 Golden Globe Golden Globes, USA Best Supporting Actor Sunset Blvd. (1950)

TitleSalary
Sunset Blvd. (1950) $5,000 per week + 1,500,000 French Francs upon completion
Blind Husbands (1919) $200 /wk
Who Goes There? (1917) $75 /week

#Quote
1 [introducing his version of The Merry Widow (1925)] All the good things in this film were made by me. The things that are no good in it were made by others.
2 Yelling at Jean Hersholt and Gibson Gowland during a fight scene in Greed (1924), "Fight! Fight! Try to hate each other as you both hate me!"
3 My Vienna is as different from what they call Vienna now as the quick is from the dead.
4 [Sunday, May 18, 1941, article "I Am an American Day") I feel that the many reasons why I am glad to be an American will be propounded by others more articulate and eloquent than I . . . therefore I shall not touch "Liberty" and all other prerogatives that are America's. One reason I dare mention. I have been traveling abroad a great deal lately and I have had ample opportunity to notice the profound respect that little red passport with that gilded spread eagle and that simple inscription, "United States of America", commands everywhere . . . no matter who the bearer may be. They may not love us everywhere . . . but they respect and fear us. I prefer that!
5 [dying in bed, telling his biographer] This is not the worst. The worst is that they stole 25 years from my life . . .
6 [shouting at actors while shooting Foolish Wives (1922)] I'm making this picture for the theatre! Not for the actors!
7 [on Irving Thalberg and the cutting of Greed (1924)] The man who cut my picture has nothing on his head but a hat!
8 [on seeing the two-hour version of Greed (1924), rather than the whole film] It was like viewing a corpse in a graveyard.
9 The difference between me and [Ernst Lubitsch] is that he shows you the king on the throne and then he shows you the king in his bedroom. I show you the king in his bedroom first. Then when you see him on the throne you have no illusions about him.
10 If you live in France and you have written one good book, or painted one good picture, or directed one outstanding film, 50 years ago, and nothing ever since, you are still recognized as an artist and honored accordingly . . . In Hollywood - in Hollywood, you're as good as your last picture. If you didn't have one in production in the last three months, you're forgotten, no matter what you have achieved ere this. It is that terrific, unfortunately necessary, egotism in the makeup of the people who make the cinema, it is the continuous endeavor for recognition, that continuous struggle for survival and supremacy, among the newcomers, that relegates the old-timers to the ashcan.

#Trademark
1 Thick Austrian accent
2 Often wore a monocle
3 His films often explored the nature of human cruelty and greed and the loss of innocence
4 Short Prussian military hairstyle which sometimes gave him the appearance of being bald.
5 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.
6 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 (1928), the kingdom of Monteblanco in _The Merry Widow (1925)_ and the kingdom of Kronberg in Queen Kelly (1929).
7 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).
8 Worked frequently with Maude George, Dale Fuller, Gibson Gowland, Cesare Gravina and Zasu Pitts.
9 Frequently included imbecile characters in films he wrote/directed
10 Ambulances are recurring themes in his films

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