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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
1He briefly served in the Austro-Hungarian army.
2Juxtapositions of scared and profane imagery in films he directed.
3Under contract at Universal (as actor/director), 1918-22; to Samuel Goldwyn (as director), 1923-25; at RKO (as actor) in 1931.
4Started 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.
5Profiled in "From the Arthouse to the Grindhouse: Highbrow and Lowbrow Transgression in Cinema's First Century" by John Cline and Robert G. [2010]
6May 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.
7Although 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.
8As 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.
9His longtime business manager was Elmer Cox, father of actor Dick Sargent.
10Despite 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".
11In 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.
12Not 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..
13While 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.
14While 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.
15Brother-in-law of Louis Germonprez.
16He 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.
17Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 1069-1079. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
18Immigrated to the United States at the port of New York aboard the S.S. Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm on 25 November 1909.
19Althugh 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
Ghosts1915Bit Part (uncredited)
The Failure1915/IMinor Role (uncredited)
Captain Macklin1915ShortOfficer on Horseback (uncredited)
The Country Boy1915Diner in Restaurant (uncredited)
La madone des sleepings1955Dr. Siegfried Traurig
Napoléon1955Ludwig van Beethoven
The Infiltrator1955Sacha Zavaroff
Orient Express1952-1954TV SeriesMan / Karmesin / Jovanovitch / ...
Alerte au sud1953Conrad Nagel
L'envers du paradis1953William O'Hara
Minuit... Quai de Bercy1953Professeur Kieffer
Alraune1952Jacob ten Brinken
Sunset Blvd.1950Max Von Mayerling
Portrait d'un assassin1949Eric
Le signal rouge1949Le docteur Mathias Berthold
La danse de mort1948Edgar
Devil and the Angel1946Frank Davis
On ne meurt pas comme ça1946Eric von Berg
The Mask of Diijon1946Diijon (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Scotland Yard Investigator1945Carl Hoffmeyer
The Great Flamarion1945The Great Flamarion (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Storm Over Lisbon1944Deresco
The Lady and the Monster1944Prof. Franz Mueller
The North Star1943Dr. von Harden (as Erich Von Stroheim: in opening credits)
Five Graves to Cairo1943Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Gambling Hell1942Werner von Krall (as Eric von Stroheim)
So Ends Our Night1941Brenner
I Was an Adventuress1940Andre Desormeaux (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Tempête1940Korlick
Menaces...1940Le professeur Hoffman (as Eric Von Stroheim)
Personal Column1939Pears (as Eric Von Stroheim)
Rappel immédiat1939Captain Stanley Wells
The World Will Shake1939Emil Lasser / Monsieur Frank (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Derrière la façade1939Eric (as Eric von Stroheim)
It Happened in Gibraltar1938Marson
Ultimatum1938General Simovic
Les disparus de St. Agil1938Walter, prof d'anglais
The Lafarge Case1938Denis
Les pirates du rail1938Tchou King
The Alibi1937Le professeur Winckler
Under Secret Orders1937Col. W. Mathesius / Simonis
La Grande Illusion1937Le captaine von Rauffenstein (as Eric von Stroheim)
Marthe Richard1937Le baron Erich von Ludow
The Crime of Doctor Crespi1935Dr. Andre Crespi
Crimson Romance1934Capt. Wolters
Fugitive Road1934Hauptmann Oswald Von Traunsee
As You Desire Me1932Carl Salter
The Lost Squadron1932Von Furst (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Friends and Lovers1931Victor Sangrito
The Honeymoon1930Nikki
Three Faces East1930Valdar / Schiller / Blecher
The Great Gabbo1929Gabbo
The Wedding March1928Nicki / Prince Nickolas von Wildeliebe-Rauffenburg
Greed1924Balloon Vendor (uncredited)
Foolish Wives1922Their Cousin - Count Sergius Karamzin - Capt. 3rd Hussars Imper. Russian Army (as Erich Von Stroheim)
Blind Husbands1919Lt. Erich von Steuben
The Heart of Humanity1918Eric von Eberhard
The Hun Within1918Von Bickel
Hearts of the World1918A Hun
The Unbeliever1918Lt. Kurt von Schnieditz
Who Goes There?1917
Sylvia of the Secret Service1917Undetermined Role
Reaching for the Moon1917Prince Badinoff's Aide (uncredited)
Draft 2581917
For France1917Undetermined Role
In Again, Out Again1917/IIOfficer (uncredited)
Panthea1917Lieutenant
The Social Secretary1916The Buzzard
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages1916Second Pharisee (uncredited)
Macbeth1916uncredited
The Flying Torpedo1916Accomplice
His Picture in the Papers1916One of the Weazels (uncredited)
Old Heidelberg1915Lutz
Farewell to Thee1915ShortJackson - Louise's Partner

Writer

Writer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Hoyden1998Short screenplay "Walking Down Broadway"
Papatya1956novel
La danse de mort1948adaptation
I Was an Adventuress1940contributing writer - uncredited
It Happened in Gibraltar1938writer
Between Two Women1937original story - as Erich Von Stroheim
The Devil-Doll1936screen play - as Eric Von Stroheim
Fugitive Road1934unconfirmed - unconfirmed, uncredited
Hello, Sister!1933scenario
The Honeymoon1930writer
Queen Kelly1929based on an original story by - as Erich Von Stroheim
The Wedding March1928writer
Tempest1928uncredited
The Merry Widow1925screen adaptation and scenario
Greed1924screen adaptation and scenario
Merry-Go-Round1923uncredited
Foolish Wives1922story and scenario - as Erich Von Stroheim / titles - uncredited
The Devil's Passkey1920screenplay / story
Blind Husbands1919screenplay - as Erich Stroheim / story "The Pinnacle" - as Erich Stroheim

Director

Director

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Fugitive Road1934unconfirmed, uncredited
Hello, Sister!1933
The Honeymoon1930
The Great Gabbo1929uncredited
Queen Kelly1929as Erich Von Stroheim
The Wedding March1928
The Merry Widow1925
Greed1924personally directed by
Merry-Go-Round1923uncredited
Foolish Wives1922as Erich Von Stroheim
The Devil's Passkey1920
Blind Husbands1919as Erich Stroheim

Assistant Director

Assistant Director

TitleYearStatusCharacter
O. Henry's Full House1952assistant director - segment "The Last Leaf", uncredited
Reaching for the Moon1917technical assistant director - uncredited
In Again, Out Again1917/IIassistant director
Panthea1917assistant director
Less Than the Dust1916assistant director
The Social Secretary1916assistant director - uncredited
Macbeth1916assistant director
His Picture in the Papers1916assistant director - uncredited
Old Heidelberg1915assistant director - uncredited
Captain Macklin1915Short assistant director - uncredited
The Birth of a Nation1915assistant director - uncredited

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Emperor's Candlesticks1937contributor to treatment - uncredited
Anna Karenina1935technical advisor: military sequence - uncredited
The Heart of Humanity1918technical advisor
Hearts of the World1918technical supervisor - uncredited
Sylvia of the Secret Service1917technical advisor
Blind Man's Luck1917technical director
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages1916production assistant: Babylon sequence - uncredited
Old Heidelberg1915technical director: military detail
Ghosts1915technical advisor

Art Director

Art Director

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Wedding March1928uncredited
Greed1924uncredited
The Devil's Passkey1920
Blind Husbands1919uncredited
In Again, Out Again1917/II

Costume Designer

Costume Designer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Wedding March1928uncredited
The Merry Widow1925uncredited
Merry-Go-Round1923uncredited
Ghosts1915

Producer

Producer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Queen Kelly1929producer - uncredited
The Wedding March1928producer
The Merry Widow1925producer - uncredited
Blind Husbands1919producer

Editor

Editor

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Wedding March1928uncredited
Greed192442-reel version, uncredited
Blind Husbands1919uncredited

Art Department

Art Department

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Man You Loved to Hate1979Documentary title drawings
Queen Kelly1929additional art director - uncredited

Soundtrack

Soundtrack

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Sunset Blvd.1950performer: "Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor, BWV 565" ca 1705 - uncredited
The Great Gabbo1929performer: "I'm Laughing", "Icky Lollipop Song" - uncredited

Costume Department

Costume Department

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Ghosts1915wardrobe assistant

Production Designer

Production Designer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Greed1924uncredited

Self

Self

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Panorama1954TV Series documentaryHimself - Interviewee
La vie des artistes1938DocumentaryLui-même
Screen Snapshots Series 9, No. 141930ShortHimself, at Premiere
A Trip Through the Paramount Studio1927Documentary shortHimself
1925 Studio Tour1925Documentary shortHimself - a Director
Screen Snapshots, Series 4, No. 101924Documentary shortHimself
Souls for Sale1923Himself
C-V News: Filming Greed1923ShortHimself (uncredited)
Screen Snapshots, Series 3, No. 141922Documentary shortHimself

Archive Footage

Archive Footage

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Blue Skies Beyond the Looking Glass2008Short
Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s'éteint et que le film commence2007segment "Cinéma de Boulevard"
Cannes, 60 ans d'histoires2007TV Movie documentaryHimself
Billy Wilder Speaks2006TV Movie documentaryHimself
Edge of Outside2006DocumentaryHimself
Cineastas contra magnates2005Documentary
Irving Thalberg: Prince of Hollywood2005TV Movie documentaryHimself
Erich von Stroheim and Carl Laemmle2000TV MovieHimself
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies1995TV Movie documentaryHimself (uncredited)
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Hollywood Follies1994TV MovieCount Sergius Karamzin (uncredited)
American Masters1993TV Series documentaryHimself
Hollywood Mavericks1990DocumentaryHimself
Détective1985Arthur von Furst (uncredited)
Hollywood1980TV Mini-Series documentaryHimself / Actor ' Heart of Humanity'
The Man You Loved to Hate1979DocumentaryHimself
The Moving Picture Boys in the Great War1975DocumentaryHimself
The Great Director1966TV Movie documentaryHimself
Fractured Flickers1963TV SeriesErich Von Stucker
The Legend of Rudolph Valentino1961Video documentaryHimself
Screen Snapshots Series 18, No. 121939Documentary shortHimself
The Fall of Babylon1919A Pharisee (as Count von Stroheim)

Won awards

Won awards

YearAwardCeremonyNominationMovieAward shared with
1960Star on the Walk of FameWalk of FameMotion PictureOn 8 February 1960. At 6826 Hollywood Blvd.
1954Certificate of MeritBAFTA AwardsFor services to film as director and actor.

Nominated awards

Nominated awards

YearAwardCeremonyNominationMovieAward shared with
1951OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Actor in a Supporting RoleSunset Blvd. (1950)
1951Golden GlobeGolden Globes, USABest Supporting ActorSunset 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.
2Yelling 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!"
3My 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.
9The 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.
10If 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
1Thick Austrian accent
2Often wore a monocle
3His films often explored the nature of human cruelty and greed and the loss of innocence
4Short Prussian military hairstyle which sometimes gave him the appearance of being bald.
5Frequently 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.
6His 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).
7Frequently 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).
8Worked frequently with Maude George, Dale Fuller, Gibson Gowland, Cesare Gravina and Zasu Pitts.
9Frequently included imbecile characters in films he wrote/directed
10Ambulances are recurring themes in his films

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