Erich von Stroheim Criticism - Essay

Peter Noble (essay date 1950)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Stroheim, Sex and Symbolism," in Hollywood Scapegoat: The Biography of Erich von Stroheim, The Fortune Press, 1950, pp. 82-92.

[In the following essay, Noble examines Stroheim's portrayal of sexuality.]

Thanks to Stroheim the women and young girls of America learned to prefer the slick, insolent archdukes, whose kisses burned like the lash of a whip, to the bucolic American heroes. He was the true creator of a sophisticated cinema.

[Herman Weinberg in Film Art (Spring 1937)]

Foolish Wives is an insult to every American … Stroheim has...

(The entire section is 5083 words.)

André Bazin (essay date 1949)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Erich von Stroheim: Form, Uniform, and Cruelty," in The Cinema of Cruelty: From Buñuel to Hitchcock, edited by Francois Truffaut, translated by Sabine d'Estree with Tiffany Fliss, Seaver Books, 1982, pp. 3-16.

[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1949, Bazin considers themes of violence and cruelty in Stroheim's films.]


The films of Erich von Stroheim rightfully belong to the critics and filmmakers of the post-World War I period. And his work cannot be well known by anyone who is unfamiliar with the last five years of silent films. Perhaps because it is more recent...

(The entire section is 3552 words.)

Erich von Stroheim (essay date 1955)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Introducing The Merry Widow," in Film Makers on Film Making: Statements on Their Art by Thirty Directors, edited by Harry M. Geduld, Indiana University Press, 1967, pp. 74-8.

[The following essay is a transcript of Stroheim's introductory remarks to a 1955 showing of The Merry Widow.]

… I would like to introduce to you my friend, my collaborator, Denise Vernac … [applause].… It is always a very bad sign when a director has to speak before one of his own films … [laughter] … because he will be making excuses … and that is exactly what I want to do. I have many reasons for it and for asking your patience. In the first place, because I speak...

(The entire section is 1862 words.)

William K. Everson (essay date 1957)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Erich von Stroheim," in Films in Review, Vol. VIII, No. 7, 1957, pp. 305-14.

[In the following essay, Everson surveys Stroheim's films.]

Erich von Stroheim's death in Paris on May 12, 1957, has further reduced the rapidly diminishing number of directorial "giants" of the silent screen. First Murnau, then Griffith, Eisenstein and Pudovkin. With Stroheim's death, only two are left—Carl Th. Dreyer, the greatest living silent director, and probably the greatest director making films today, and Charles Chaplin, whose latest film appears to be a disappointment and an unhappy swan song.

Though not the most important of the seven "giants" just...

(The entire section is 3600 words.)

Joel W. Finler (essay date 1968)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Norris & McTeague," in Stroheim, University of California Press, 1968, pp. 23-97.

[In the following essay, Finler provides a scene-by-scene analysis of Greed.]

Stroheim's … film [Greed] was shot for the Goldwyn Co. It was to be a vast adaptation of Frank Norris's novel McTeague. The fidelity of the screenplay to the novel is such that any consideration of the film should involve Norris as well as Stroheim.

Frank Norris was born in Chicago in 1870. He lived and studied for a while in San Francisco, but much of his life was spent travelling as a foreign newspaper correspondent. When he died at the age of thirty-two he...

(The entire section is 13700 words.)

Jonathan Rosenbaum (essay date 1974)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Second Thoughts on Stroheim," in Film Comment, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1974, pp. 6-13.

[In the following essay, Rosenbaum reexamines Stroheim's canon, noting especially the discrepancy between the "legend" of the director and his actual work.]


Total object, complete with missing parts, instead of partial object. Question of degree.

—Samuel Beckett, "Three Dialogues"

Two temptations present themselves to any modern reappraisal of Erich von Stroheim's work; one of them is fatal, the other all but impossible to act upon. The fatal temptation would be...

(The entire section is 7144 words.)

Tom Milne (essay date 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Sparing No Hint of Verismo," in Sight & Sound, Vol. 54, No. 4, 1985, pp. 301-2.

[In the following essay, Milne examines a restored version of Stroheim's Queen Kelly.]

Hitherto, prints of Queen Kelly have ended, satisfactorily if unsatisfyingly, with Gloria Swanson's despairing leap from the bridge (followed, in the version issued by Swanson in 1931, by a coda not directed by Stroheim in which Prince Wolfram made it a double suicide). Although the watchman is seen jumping to the rescue, making it obvious that the convent-bred innocent deflowered by her princely admirer would in fact be saved and go on to justify the title through her...

(The entire section is 1086 words.)

Thomas K. Dean (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Thematic Differences between Norris's McTeague and von Stroheim's Greed," in Literature Film Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1990, pp. 96-102.

[In the following essay, Dean discusses the differences between Stroheim's Greed and the original novel on which it was based.]

The surprisingly few critics who have compared Frank Norris's novel McTeague and Erich von Stroheim's film adaptation Greed invariably assume that Norris is an imitator of Emile Zola rather than an author with his own thematic program, and they fail to take into account von Stroheim's consistent Judeo-Christian sin/punishment ethic that informs all his other...

(The entire section is 2967 words.)

Jared Gardner (essay date 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "What Blood Will Tell: Hereditary Determinism in McTeague & Greed," in Texas Studies in Literature & Language, Vol. 36, No. 1, Spring, 1994, pp. 51-74.

[In the following essay, Gardner examines the realism of Stroheim's films and Frank Norris's novels.]

We Anglo-Saxons are a fighting race … Civilization is far from that time when the fighting man can be dispensed with.

—Frank Norris (Literary Criticism)

Against these assaults of inferiority … where can civilization look for its champions? Where but in the slender rank of the...

(The entire section is 9461 words.)