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erich von stroheim: the man you love to hate    This is the meaningful phrase the Hollywood studios used to describe Erich Von Stroheim. It can't have been easy to carry that burden, but if anyone had the strength to do so, that was Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria von Stroheim. He was an exceptional director, actor and person. The past of the person and personality that made up this man always aroused the greatest curiosity. He was an exceptional cinema director and ahead of his contemporaries, a free man with no complexes, both in his life and in his cinema. Freedom is often paid dear, and Stroheim paid dear for doing what he wanted to do during his life. So that's why we're not interested in removing Erich von Stroheim's mask. What's more, we're not interested in guessing his biography, what we're interested in is the man he invented and tried to become.

Erich von Stroheim was buried at Marepas Castle, in a small tomb but, at the end of the day, in a castle, as his name deserved. He died in 1955 in France. This country offered him the only real medal he won, the Legion of Honour, which today goes to any old cook or fashionable singer. Parts of his biography have always been hidden in mist. Stroheim gave very little information about his family and childhood. He said he was born into an aristocratic family in eastern Europe in 1995. According to the researches, he was born in Vienna to a civil servant and a lady at court. As a young man, he tried to join the army, but was turned down because of his Jewish blood. It was then that he decided to become an artist. It was then that he started to act the part he was to play all his life. He started to introduce himself as a Prussian soldier. And he had no worries about doing this. No, from the moment he decided what his life's slogan was going to be, he didn't look back. In the same way that he mocked the military, he mocked the Jews for their licentious behaviour. Erich von Stroheim wanted to have no genetic, cultural or ideological ties.

In 1909 he took a boat the US, where he got deeper into his role. The people of the States had an immigrant's complex at that time, and accepted this man from Europe and with his aristocratic airs with admiration. At least, it was like that at first. He did various different jobs, but was quickly captured by the magic of cinema. He both both the director of and an actor in David W. Griffith's "The Birth of the Nation" and "Intolerance". Our "Prussian soldier" learnt from Griffith's way of working and skill with large productions and, from then on, wrote and directed his own films with astonishing skill for filming large productions and complicated stories. The second characteristic of his cinema is sex. In his stories, sex is clearly present. Erich von Stroheim wrote and filmed fetishism, masochism and other sexual tendencies which have not yet been accepted by the US cinema industry. And he paid dearly for it. The big studios turned their back on him and he made no films during the last two decades of his life. However, he still appeared in many films as an actor. Billy Wilder gave him work more than once when he was in financial trouble. In one of their collaborations, they made one of the finest accusations in cinema history: "Sunset Boulevard". Because in this film Erich von Stroheim's life is shown. In 1928 Gloria Swanson employed Erich von Stroheim to write and direct "Queen Kelly". As the film went on, she realised that it was becoming increasingly dark and licentious and she sacked him. Erich Von Stroheim's last film was a great one. In 1950 Wilder filmed "Sunset Boulevard". In this film, we're told the story of Norma Desmond, a film star who lost out when silent movies disappeared. Gloria Swanson played the forgotten film star Norma Desmond, and her silent, dear servant was played by... yes, you've guessed it: Erich Von Stroheim.

Films directed:
"Blind Husbands" (1919) / "The Devil's Passkey" (1920) / "Foolish Wives" (1922) / "Merry-Go-Round" (1923) / "Greed" (1924) / "The Merry Widow" (1925) / "The Wedding March" (1928) / "The Honeymoon" (1928) / "Queen Kelly" (1929) / "Walking Down Broadway aka Hello, Sister" (1933).