Golden Greats Of The Silver Screen
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Golden Greats Of The Silver Screen
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Here is the section of magazine/website where we take a look at classic silent films that have for the most part been forgotten by today's viewing public. We also explain what was going on "behind the scenes", with which we hope to provide insights into the making of these films...

"GREED" (1925)

* * * * *

Personally directed by Erich Von Stroheim

Starring Gibson Gowland, ZaSu Pitts, and Jean Herscholt

Based upon the book "McTeague" by Frank Norris

The main point here concerns the famed director Erich Von Stroheim. Once a poor immigrant, Von Stroheim came to America to seek his forture. Although he became more famous for having fights with the studio execs than for his movies, today he is most remembered for "Greed". Originally running at nine and a half hours, it was to be his greatest masterpiece. The studio heads, however, said that no one would ever watch a nine and a half hour film.

True, most people probably wouldn't watch the whole length in one sitting. Only a handful of individuals have seen the film in its entirety. But there are such things as serials. In fact, Von Stroheim tried to get them to show it in parts. He even cut the movie down to four hours, after which he claimed he couldn't slaughter his film any further. No deal. It was cut and cut again by the studio editor. It was eventually released at about two hours. Von Stroheim remarked about that editor, "The only thing he had on his mind [when he cut my film] was his hat."

Why has there been a set time that movies have to be? What happened to the serials of yesteryear? Books are not required to have a set number of page; a piece of art, such as a painting, has no legal size of frame. Why must a film be no less than ninety minutes and no more than two hours? I admit there are quite a few films that are more that two hours, but actually not that many on average. And even the ones that exceed two hours are many times cut for theatrical release.

People don't usually read whole novels in one sitting, why must a film be seen in one sitting? Money is the main thing here. If they showed you a four hour film, with an intermission, to them (the "powers that be") that's like seeing two movies and only paying for one. Another point is that most folks nowaday have very short attention spans and lost interest after the ninety minute point.

If Von Stroheim has made his masterpiece today, perhaps it would have seen light as a television mini-series. But do television mini-series get as much respect as theatrical films? Sadly, no. For some odd reason, it has to be shown in a theater to command respect. Possibly because you have to pay to see it. You can't expect that much from [network] television because it's free.

And what about the rest of the footage from "Greed"? The approximate seven and a half hours never seen by the public? The studio burned it to get the few cents worth of platinum out of the nitrate. Funny, it seems like they would have liked a movie entitled "Greed"...

FUN FACT: Jean Hersholt is Leslie Nielsen's uncle.

[reprinted from the May 1st 2003 issue of Incredulous Magazine]

NEXT TIME: F.W. Murnau's 1922 horror classic, "Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens". Be there!