Motion Picture Director. The son of a Jewish straw hat maker, he arrived in New York in 1909. During the voyage, he re-invented his origins as "Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria von Stroheim," son of a German Baroness and an Austrian Count and a graduate of the Military Academy at Wienerneustadt. Early in his life in America, he took a job as a traveling salesman, ending up in San Francisco when the company ran out of money, stranding him there in 1912. He soon met his first wife, Margaret Knox, who taught him language and literature and encouraging him to write. They married a year later, in 1913, but divorced in 1914. He was fascinated by films being made in Hollywood to the south and soon was working on the D.W. Griffith film "Birth of a Nation." Around 1915, he married Mae Jones, a seamstress and dressmaker in Hollywood. The marriage was brief, but produced one son, Erich von Stroheim Jr. Remembered by Griffith, von Stroheim was asked to work for the great director in "Intolerance" as bit actor and assistant director, supervising segments of the crowd during mass action scenes in the film. He would eventually grow from this beginning to become a highly praised and brilliant director and actor, working with Norma Talmage, Douglas Fairbanks, Clara Bow, Valentino, and other greats of the Silent Era. "Foolish Wives" is one of his first masterpieces, cost over $1,000,000, a staggering amount for a motion picture at the time. His second son was born about this time. His reputation soon began to be that of "excessive" and he worked less and less as a director, since studio bosses thought he was far too expensive in his tastes. 1925's "Greed" is considered his masterpiece. In its original version, it was a 9-hour narrative of the novel "McTeague" by Frank Norris. The studio cutting it down to less than half that, and barely 2 hours were left. In 1928 Erich von Stroheim was hired by Gloria Swanson to direct a film. The film, "Queen Kelly," was written by von Stroheim and featured Swanson as an orphan who is seduced by the Queen's fiancée. As filming progressed, and the storyline grew darker, Swanson walked off the set and von Stroheim was fired. The rest of his career was spent writing two novels, touring in a production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," and appearing in small roles in Europe and the United States. Notable were roles in Jean Renoir's "Grand Illusion" and Billy Wilder's "Five Graves to Cairo." Ironically, he is best remembered by contemporary audiences for a supporting role in the 1950 Billy Wilder film, "Sunset Boulevard," playing "Max," a faded movie director-turned-servant to Gloria Swanson's character Norma Desmond.
Bio by: Christian