Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Greed (1924)

I'm working on a post about Buster Keaton's early partnership with Roscoe Arbuckle, but in the meantime, I tracked down a used copy of Erich von Stroheim's screenplay of the nine-hour version of his 1924 classic, Greed.

I'll just assume you know the legend—Stroheim spent two years putting together a nine-hour version of Frank Norris's novel McTeague, which Irving Thalberg then edited down over Stroheim's protests to a somewhat more commercial two hours. The excised footage was destroyed, but about forty years ago, somebody rediscovered Stroheim's original shooting script, including his extensive notes for camera set ups, along with hundreds of production stills, which together provided the basis for TCM's partial restoration.

Anywho, I've been reading the script and I'm taking notes for one of those marathon essays which I'll post later in the year. But in the meantime, in case you're tired of greed 2011 style, how about watching Greed as it appeared in theaters in 1924.


3 comments:

Erik Beck said...

God, I love the look of those Faber scripts.

By the way, if you've never read McTeague, you definitely need to. One of the greatest novels ever (http://nighthawknews.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/top-100-novels-50-mcteague/) and reading it along with the screenplay lets you see what a masterful job von Stroheim did with it.

I believe I called Greed the single finest American film of the Silent Era.

Meredith said...

I think that the 4ish hour version of Greed is the only film that I've accidentally stretched out over a 4 month period. It sort of ruins the effect, that. Though maybe no more than its original butchering.

Mythical Monkey said...

I think that the 4ish hour version of Greed is the only film that I've accidentally stretched out over a 4 month period. It sort of ruins the effect, that.

I have to say, I think the four-hour reconstruction is of more interest as an academic exercise than it is a way to watch the movie. When it comes time to rank Greed among the list of 1924's movies, I plan to judge the theatrically-released version rather than speculate about how a longer version might have played. For example, in terms of character development, I think some of the lost scenes featuring Jean Hersholt would have been helpful, but I can only guess how well those scenes would have actually played on screen. Like I said in my thoughts about Cleopatra, too many lost "classics" have turned out to be major disappointments upon rediscovery for me to assume anything.