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"Greed" 1924 Silent Movie

wanted poster for John 'Doc' McTeague as used in von Stroheim's "Greed" [1924]           

synopsis & history

book & author Frank Norris

the movie


           still from the ending sequence of von Stroheim's lost silent film masterpeice "Greed" [1924]


           The 1899 novel "McTeague" by Frank Norris was a radical departure for American fiction of its era in its frank treatment of sex, domestic violence, and obsession.
           McTeague is a huge, simple and brutish dentist living in San Francisco with his gentle, diminutive wife Trina. She wins a lottery and becomes obsessed with her wealth. Her jealous ex-lover Marcus demands a share of the money, and he and McTeague fight. Marcus reports McTeague to the City for having neither license nor degree, and McTeague loses his practice. McTeague discovers Trina's hoard of gold and she refuses to give any to him; he flies into a rage and beats her to death, then flees to the mining camps of his childhood, and southward toward Mexico. Marcus catches up with McTeague in Death Valley; McTeague beats Marcus to death, but the dying Marcus manages to handcuff himself to McTeague, and the story ends with McTeague stranded in the desert and handcuffed to a corpse.

History of The Film
           A legendary 'lost film'. Austria-born movie actor Erich von Stroheim's movie career crashed with the hysteria accompanying America's entry into The Great War. Reduced to living in a dingy rooming house, he found a copy of Norris's 1899 novel "McTeague" left by a previous tenant. Director-producer D.W. Griffith brought von Stoheim with him to California to make an anti-war film, and von Stroheim was soon directing his own successful films.
           von Stroheim's plan was to film every event contained in the novel "McTeague". Grueling location filming in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and in Death Valley escalated the costs of production beyond a half million dollars (effectively bankrupting Goldwyn Pictures).
           von Stroheim delivered a film of ten hours length (42 reels!), which was shown once for contractual reasons, on 12 January 1924. The studio forced von Stroheim to make drastic cuts; he edited the film down to four hours. The still-displeased studio then took control and released a 2-hour & 20-minute version on 4 December 1924, which failed at the box office. von Stroheim later described himself as heartbroken. The excised negatives and exposed film elements were destroyed, perhaps as late as the 1950s; this lost film masterpiece is considered the 'holy grail' of film lovers.
           The Turner restoration of 1998 makes use of still photos & historical script continuity, and expands the run time to about four hours.

Book & Author

McTeague by Frank Norris  "McTeague: A Story of San Francisco" [1899 classic novel]
by Frank Norris

A San Francisco dentist woos and marries his best friend's girl. She wins the lottery and her jealous ex-boyfriend turns the dentist in for having no license to practice.
Signet mass pb [8/2003] for $7.95
W.W. Norton 8½x5¼ pb critical text [11/96] for $12.80
book entry at Wikipedia
McTeague opera  "McTeague: An Opera" [P.B.S. 1992]
Commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago & performed in 1992; co-written & directed by Robert Altman [1925-2006]; based on the 1899 novel "McTeague" by Frank Norris; composed by William Bolcom, libretto co-written by Arnold Weinstein; starring Ben Heppner, Catherine Malfitano & Timothy Nolen
filmed for broadcast on PBS • video/DVD not available • full credits at IMDb

"The Real McTeague: A Synthesis of Forms" tv program [WNEW/PBS May 1993]
Directed by Robert Altman; narrated by 'Studs' Terkel
video/DVD not available • credits at IMDb

Frank Norris [1870-1902]
browse books • IMDb listing • Wikipedia
Library of America Frank Norris Novels & Stories book edited by Donald Pizer  
"Norris: Novels and Essays" [1986] Edited by Donald Pizer
Library of America 8x5¼ hardcover [10/86] for $26.98
includes "McTeague" [1899], "The Octopus" [1901], "Vandover and The Brute" [1914], and 22 essays
Frank Norris Storyteller book by Barbara Hochman  "The Art of Frank Norris, Storyteller" [1988]
by Barbara Hochman

Univ MO Press 8¾z5¾ hardcover [8/88] out of print/used
Univ MO Press 8¾z5¾ hardcover [8/88] out of print/used
Frank Norris biography by McElrath & Crisler  "Frank Norris: A Life" [2006]
by Joseph R. McElrath, Jr. & Jesse S. Crisler

Univ IL Press 9x5¾ pb [4/2010] for $25.00
Univ IL Press 9½x6¼ hardcover [1/2006] for $38.00

see also Spirit of America's Frank Norris [1870-1902] Page

Greed 1924 silent film Art Deco half-sheet poster           "Greed" silent film masterpiece
[Goldwyn/M.G.M. December 1924]

film credits at Internet Movie Database
film entry at Wikipedia
          Greed 1924 silent film 'claw' poster

Written & directed by Erich von Stroheim; based on the novel "McTeague" {above}; starring Gibson Gowland,
Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller, Tempe Pigott, Sylvia Ashton, Chester Conklin & Joan Standing;
listed on the National Film Registry in 1991; not available on DVD
Turner 4-hr restoration [9/98] 2 tapes - out of prodn/used
MGM/UA Home Video 133-minute b&w VHS [undated] out of prodn/used

Magic Lantern's Erich von Stroheim [1885-1957] Page
search for Erich von Stroheim on DVD at Amazon
Erich von Stroheim posters & photos at

Greed critical text  "Greed" [1993] critical text by Jonathan Rosenbaum
British Film Institute 7½x5¼ pb [1/2008] for $14.95

"The Complete Greed of Erich von Stroheim" [1972]
by Herman G. Weinberg

Ayers 10¼x10¼ hardcover [1972] out of print/used
Dutton hardcover [1973] out of print/used

·            ·

Frames novel by Loren D. Estleman   "Frames: A Valentino Mystery" [2008] by Loren D. Estleman
Valentino, young 'film detective' at the U.C.L.A. Film Archives, stumbles upon some missing reels of von Stroheim's "Greed", the long-lost silent film masterpiece of 1924. But he also finds a human skeleton, and the stupid cops threaten to impound the film cans as 'evidence' (storing the delicate nitrate film improperly), so Valentino must solve the murder case before the cinematic treasure deteriorates even further.
Forge 8¼x5½ pb [8/2010] for $11.40
Forge 8½x5¾ hardcover [4/2008] for $12.42

L i n k s

film credits at Internet Movie Database
film entry at Wikipedia
browse Erich von Stroheim on DVD at Amazon

watch the Turner restoration on YouTube {3 hour 54 min. 9 sec. with German subtitles}
watch the ending on YouTube {clip of the last 3 min. 26 sec.}

VT's "Greed" movie fansite
MM's "Greed" movie fansite {parked 2011}
EB's "Greed" movie fanpage

See also Magic Lantern Video & Book Store's
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von Stroheim's "Greed" 1924 Silent Movie Page  «« you are here
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and also BlackHat Mystery Bookstore's 'The Thin Man' Movies Page
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