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Stroheim Hardcover – January 27, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a thrilling biography of one of Hollywood's great originals, Lennig strips away the legends surrounding director/actor Erich von Stroheim. A notorious fabricator, this master of silent films and actor in talkies and silents invented a past for himself as an Austrian nobleman with a distinguished military career. Actually, Stroheim, the son of a Jewish hatmaker, arrived penniless in New York in 1909 at age 24, crowning himself "von" on Ellis Island. In Austria, he had joined the army but was discharged after five months as unfit for military service. Puncturing the lingering myth that Stroheim became an assistant director on D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, SUNY film professor emeritus Lennig, who did remarkable sleuthing in Austria, Paris and Hollywood, establishes that Stroheim was never even on the studio lot. Lennig convincingly portrays Stroheim as an exasperating, tragic, noble, partly self-destructive genius, doomed by Hollywood commercialism because he was an obsessive perfectionist and extravagant spender, a novelist at heart whose striving for full characterizations and intricate plotting led to gargantuan shooting scripts. Lennig compares the full prints of Stroheim's films with the disastrously truncated released versions, revealing the artistry that often ended up on the cutting-room floor. Best remembered as an actor for roles in Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1937) and Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950), Stroheim reveled in playing bad guys--crook, lecher, rapist, evil Hun, mad doctor--yet resented being typecast. Lennig reveals a complex man: caring and sentimental beneath the cynical aristocratic exterior; a religious mystic who renounced Judaism and assumed the mantle of Roman Catholicism, who went to fortune-tellers and made major career moves according to their advice. Lennig's masterful knowledge of film history and technique informs this penetrating biography. Photos. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Timed to coincide with Turner Classics' world premiere of a restored director's cut of Erich von Stroheim's silent masterpiece Greed, this book aims to puncture the Stroheim myths--myths that, to his liking, obscured his past and nonaristocratic origins. Better known to contemporary film audiences as an actor (Max in Sunset Boulevard was among his most famous roles), it is Stroheim's work as a director that is Lennig's (emeritus, film, SUNY at Albany) main focus. He devotes a chapter to each of the films he directed, including two of Stroheim's lost films. An extremely readable book, this biography manages to convey Lennig's appreciation of Stroheim's genius. Still, he doesn't shy away from exploring the affairs that forced Stroheim to act to support himself. (Always uncompromising, Stroheim tended to produce long movies resembling today's TV miniseries, because for him showing his film characters going through all the minutiae of daily life was crucial for character exposition.) Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.
-Marianne Cawley, Charleston Cty. Lib., SC
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 574 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky; 1st edition (January 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813121388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813121383
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By John McElwee on February 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Few Hollywood notables have been the object of more distorted,misinformed,or outright fabricated profiles than Erich Von Stroheim.Now that Arthur Lennig has come forward with his long-awaited biography,we are finally given the amazing truth of a maverick star/director who bit every hand that tried to feed him.Lennig has made a serious study of Stroheim for over fifty years---he restored "Foolish Wives" back in the sixties---he traveled to Austria to uncover the real story of Stroheim's humble beginnings---in short,Lennig,who prevously gave us the first and still best of the Bela Lugosi bios,has done it again with "Stroheim"---in fact,he has surpassed himself,and that's saying plenty considering the fact that Arthur Lennig is one of the most well-informed and reliable of all the pioneer film historians.Has there ever been a more fascinating(and ultimatly tragic) figure in the whole history of Hollywood than Erich Von Stroheim?Here's a guy that took on every front office in town---gambled it all for creative control that he invariably lost---but kept returning to the Hollywood arena again and again until they finally broke him.Yes,he took on the system and the system won---or did it?Stroheim's incredible films,even in their truncated latter-day forms,are here to give evidence that this was a director generations ahead of his time---already it's 2000 and we still haven't caught up with him.Read this book and get the dope on how "Greed","The Wedding March",and all the rest came to be. It's riveting.They should give AFI awards for books this good----it's from University Of Kentucky Press,so I don't know how big the print run is,but I suspect it would be a good idea to grab a copy(or two)quick,because this one's going to end up being a collector's item.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "outlawfran" on March 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What can I add to all the glowing reviews of this book except for my own enthusiasm for it! Arthur Lennig has done a spendid job recounting the life and work of Erich von Stroheim, presenting him as the man and genius he was while also debunking a lot of the myths. Not only is it THE definitive Stroheim biography, it's also highly entertaining reading! A must-read for all film lovers.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Schatzi on September 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was eagerly anticipating reading Lennig's bio of von Stroheim. After the first chapter my joy turned sour. Very little is revealed that was'nt already discussed in Richard Kosyarski's The Man You Love To Hate, and Weinberg's Stroheim: A Pictorial Review Of His nine Films. Both of these books are out of print but I beseech you to try to find at your local library or through Amazon's out-of-print service. Lennig prose is rather dry, the subject rarely comes to life, and when he does offer insights Stroheim the man seems sad forever the outsider, a two bit Viennese hustler with visions too great for his talent as a director. I was entranced by Stroheim when I was barely in my teens more than twenty years ago. I know about his losing battles against the studio heads, his public freaks and failures. It is the real man behind films like the breathtaking Greed, the unfinished Queen Kelly and the oftimes painfully erotic Foolish Wives that I wanted brought to life. Perhaps I'm only wishing that he could be brought back to life.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kelsey on September 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
Although rich in description and detail (and complete with many wonderful images) the writing was, at times, rather poor. Worse, it was repetitive. The author described a scene in a film in the chapter "The Artist," and then described it in the same way in the chapter specifically dedicated to that film. THEN, if the scene was similar to one in another film, the author felt the need to describe it once more, as if the reader were too stupid to remember. Additionally, he often made a scant reference to piece of information that could have added to the topic being examined, but instead of briefly detailing it, he simply mentioned that it was available in another book. (This might have been excusable once, but he did this multiple times!) He was dedicated to his subject, having quoted interviews he conducted, etc, but the book would have been much better if he had been even half as devoted to the reader.
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