Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatter from Gleiwitz, Germany (now 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 re-shooting 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.
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