During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
John McTeague was a simple slow man who became a dentist after working at the Big Dipper Gold Mine. He is now being hunted in Death Valley by his ex-best friend Marcus and the law. His lot was cast the day that he meet his future wife Trina in his office. She was with Marcus and she bought a lottery ticket. Well Mac fell for her and Marcus stepped aside. When Mac and Trina married, she won the Lottery for $5000 and became obsessive about the money in gold. Marcus is steamed as he stepped aside and now she is rich so he has the law shut down Mac as he has no official schooling for his dentistry. Trina fearful that they will take her gold away sells everything and takes all Mac earns when he is working. She adds to her stash of gold as they both live as paupers. When Mac has no job and no money, he leaves and Trina moves. Driven to desperation at being poor and hungry he finds Trina and demands the gold. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jean Hersholt was hospitalized after he lost 27 pounds during the filming of the movie's climax in Death Valley. See more »
After Marcus breaks McTeague's pipe and throws a knife at him, men pull McTeague's tie off as they hold him back. The tie is back in place a moment later as McTeague rushes out of the saloon. See more »
In January of 1924, director Erich von Stroheim gathered a small group of friends to view his magnum opus, a film which would become legendary. This was GREED & when the experience was over, all there agreed that they had just seen the greatest motion picture ever created. They were the only audience to see the film in its entirety.
Von Stroheim was, with Griffith & Chaplin, one of the authentic geniuses of the silent cinema. He had an unerring eye for what was visual and how to transfer mere words into astonishing images on the screen. He was also terribly adept at spending other people's money. A notorious stickler for the most authentic minute detail, he ignored concerns for time & financial budgets.
The original GREED ran somewhere between 8 and 9½ hours. While that would be fine for a modern TV miniseries, it is unworkable for a motion picture. The bosses at MGM had had difficulty with von Stroheim before and were in no mood to mess around. GREED was taken out of its director's control and hacked down to 140 minutes. All the excised footage was destroyed. This is the blackest spot on Irving Thalberg's memory. Von Stroheim mourned his lost masterpiece the rest of his life.
The story, although incredibly detailed, is fairly straightforward. The corrupting influence of wealth is examined through the lives of seven individuals. The tragic marriage of Mac, a fake dentist & Trina, an innocent young woman, is compared & contrasted to the equally horrific relationship between the mad Maria & Zerkow the Junkman; and to the beatific love between Old Grannis, owner of a dog hospital & Miss Baker, a sweet old lady. Shadowing Mac & Trina is her cousin Marcus, equally in love with her & the $5,000 she wins in a lottery.
The story of Mac & Trina is the main focus & it is utterly compelling. Seldom has the destruction of a marriage been seen in such detail. Certain scenes stay in the mind a long time: the picnic lunch on the sewer; their wedding, while a funeral procession marches by below; their final bloody confrontation.
The movie ends, as does the book it is based on, in Death Valley. Von Stroheim insisted on actually shooting there in summer. The heat was terrible & it shows on the faces of Gibson Gowland as Mac & Jean Hersholt as Marcus. The ending is as stark & unforgiving as the desert itself.
Mr. Gowland & ZaSu Pitts give the performances of their lives, magnificent in every way. Mr. Gowland shows us the full extent of a simple man being driven insane, while Miss Pitts' change from sweetness to a miserly shrew is truly frightening. Had the film not been butchered and their performances seen in their entirety, they surely would had ascended to the very heights of their profession. As it was, Gowland quickly descended back into obscurity, spending the rest of his career in mostly unbilled bit parts. Miss Pitts became a comedienne, whose vague manner & fluttery hands were seen in many comedies over the next 35 years. Von Stroheim continued with his excesses and finally met his directorial downfall a few years after GREED. He was able to continue on in films as a very good character actor, mostly in Europe.
In 1999, Turner Classic Movies had GREED reconstructed, using hundreds of still photographs taken during production, editing based on an original shooting script, an inspired use of color and tints & a new musical score. The result runs for 4 hours and is wonderful. At last we have a better understanding of Von Stroheim's blighted vision & wasted genius.
73 of 73 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?