|Erich von Stroheim|
Erich's unique talent as a filmmaker was his eye for detail. (See, the monocle helped)! His films are by nature all epics. The lush compositions of his sets, mise en scenes, the wardrobe, etc, make his jaw-dropping even today: the screen still seems to drip with his startling authenticity. In terms of story, Erich pulled no punches, standing in as the precursor to Orson Welles, directing movies that turned a pointed finger at the audience. Unfortunately, his aesthetic sensibilities, while savory to the eye and intellect, were uncomfortable for tooshies and equally drove MGM crazy as he bled them dry reshooting and perfecting every project, making them bigger and bigger, longer and longer. Irving Thalberg had to fire him from Merry Go Round, Gloria Swanson did the same when Queen Kelly started spiraling out of control, and his ultimate success, Greed, which clocked in at somewhere between 7-10 hours had to be cut to shreds in order to be both bearable to audiences and releasable-- some theaters weren't even open that many hours!
Finally, his overzealous penchants put an end to his directorial efforts, but Erich was able to continue his acting career, as his notoriety had guaranteed him an eternal place in the spotlight. He churned out impressive and iconic performances in Le Grande Illusion, Portrait d'un Assassin, and of course, Sunset Boulevard. While Hollywood may have shunned his filmmaking, film lovers sure haven't, and we continue to be enchanted, bewitched, and transfixed by his efforts-- still remarkable and some of the best examples of cinematic genius from the silent era.