Stroheim, Erich von

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STROHEIM, ERICH VON (1885–1957), film actor and director. Born in Vienna, Austria, Von Stroheim, with his bullet-shaped head and his monocle, became famous for his Teutonic roles and was dubbed "the man you love to hate." He directed and acted in Hollywood, and his film Greed (1923) is still considered a masterpiece. Regarded as an indulgent, extravagant director, Von Stroheim directed such films as Blind Husbands (1919); The Devil's Passkey (1920); Foolish Wives (1922); The Merry Widow (1925); The Honeymoon (1928); The Wedding March (1928); Queen Kelly (1929); and Hello Sister (1933).

In 1937 he went to France to play in Jean Renoir's film La Grande Illusion. The son of a lower middle-class Jewish hat manufacturer, Von Stroheim had created his own "grand illusion" about himself in the film industry, fabricating the persona of a Prussian aristocrat and a decorated military officer. As his Jewish identity was not known, he was able to work in France after the Nazi occupation and appeared in some 30 films before going back to Hollywood to act in Five Graves to Cairo (1943); The North Star (1943); The Lady and the Monster (1944); Storm over Lisbon (1944); The Great Flamarion (1945); Scotland Yard Investigator (1945); The Mask of Dijon (1946); Sunset Boulevard (1950); and Orient Express (1954).

He was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Sunset Boulevard. In 1957 he was awarded the Legion of Honor in France.


R. Koszarski, The Man You Loved to Hate: Erich Von Stroheim and Hollywood (1983); N. Henry, Ethics and Social Criticism in the Hollywood Films of Erich Von Stroheim, Ernst Lubitsch, and Billy Wilder (2000); R. Koszarski, Von: The Life and Films of Erich Von Stroheim (2004).

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]