Von Stroheim, Erich

Von Stroheim, Erich

(Hans Erich Marie Stroheim von Nordenaall) (ā`rĭkh fən shtrō`hīm), 1885–1957, Austrian-American film director, writer, and actor. He came to the United States in 1909, and his first appearance as an actor was in Griffith's Birth of a Nation. In 1918 he wrote, directed, and acted in his first film, Blind Husband, and in 1923 his Greed, a landmark in film realism, brought him acclaim. As a director, his attention to minute detail soon earned him a reputation as a spendthrift. Especially noted for his portrayals of Prussian officers, he is perhaps best remembered for Grand Illusion (1937). His last film role in the United States was in Sunset Boulevard (1950).


See T. Curtiss, Von Stroheim (1971, repr. 1973); R. Koszarski, The Man You Loved to Hate: Erich von Stroheim and Hollywood (1983); A. Lennig, Stroheim (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

Von Stroheim, Erich (b. Erich Oswald Stroheim)

(1885–1957) actor, motion-picture director; born in Vienna, Austria. Regarded by later generations of moviemakers and critics as an early genius of American film whose abilities were sacrificed to commercialism, in his brief eight-film career von Stroheim established himself as one of the silent era's most prominent directors. Although he claimed he was a Prussian aristocrat and cavalry officer, he was actually the son of a Jewish hatter for whom he worked before emigrating to the U.S.A. sometime between 1906–09. After arriving in Hollywood (1914), he worked for D. W. Griffith. In 1917 he played the first of the autocratic Prussian officer roles for which he became known as "the Man You Love to Hate." He directed his first movie, Blind Husbands (1919), his 42-reel, seven-hour masterpiece, Greed (1923), and his last Hollywood film, Queen Kelly (1928). Shunned by the studios for his profligate style and resistance to formula, after working as a character actor he moved to France and enjoyed considerable acting success, playing the hateful German officer in Renoir's The Grand Illusion (1937). After his last American role, in Sunset Strip (1950), he returned to France, unsuccessful in securing directing projects, but legendary as the director whose meticulous realism and mature themes anticipated the sound era.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.