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Sunday, January 01, 2006




Stroheim's Sartorial Splendor

I've always been fascinated with Erich Von Stroheim. There's a perversity about his acting (never mind legendary excess behind cameras) that's always delight to behold. The way he'll gesture suddenly, interrupt other actors (thespic co-worker interviews were seldom complimentary of him) , and if you ever give Von a drink for a prop -- look out! -- for he'd take the glass, goblet, flagon, whatever, throw back that shaved head, and down the hatch. I always look forward to someone giving Stroheim drinks on screen. There's no worse mistake an acting partner can make, for it is this moment wherein you may consider the scene stolen. Note he was always a jealous husband in early 30's roles ... and not merely jealous, but insanely so, and murderous besides. Someone once asked Von if he was so cruel to women in private life as on the screen, to which he crisply replied, "much more so." I once read a Films In Review report, circa 1953, about a South American film festival attended by Stroheim and where he'd introduce several classics he'd done during silent days. It appeared to have been a class event, names like Errol Flynn, June Haver, etc. among participants. So what does Von do when recognized on the dais after a well-applauded screening? He excoriates Hollywood philistines, names names, blasts hell out of our beloved industry. And the thing was supposed to be a good will tour --- hands across borders --- hello, neighbor. Poor Von made self-destruction a lifestyle, he's almost contemporary in that respect. Except he had real talent. Today, they're just self-destructive.

NOW ABOUT THESE STILLS --- Notice anything anything, well, similar, about them? Check out the suit. It is a great suit. I've had a few that were similar. Given the monocle and bald pate, would people have mistaken me for Von? I just wonder if I wore mine so often as he ... and for as many years. I know actors often used personal wardrobe in movies, and one can't blame Stroheim for getting maximum wear out of such devine fashion. I'm impressed, in fact, for EvS having maintained a svelte waistline enabling him to don such an arresting double-breasted creation over so many years. The portrait with the cane (God, did this man know how to accessorize) was done at Fox Film Corporation in 1933 shortly before Walking Down Broadway was snatched from him, mutilated, and finally released as Hello, Sister, effectively finishing Stroheim's career as a director. Note too the slave bracelet. Von was clearly into ironies, for he was nobody's slave. He didn't mind making slaves of others, however. The guillotine pose is from The Mask Of Diijon. Readers, I believe that's the same suit, and this is 1946. I'm also thinking how Von and that severed head complement one another. As for this last still, I'll need help, for while I know it's from a Stroheim French crime thriller, I don't have any idea which one. There were lots of them, you see. I'm told, in fact, that Von would wrap an entire French crime thriller before his first drink in the morning (kidding). And again, look close. Same suit. Of that, I'm reasonably certain. That means it crossed the Atlantic, possibly on the Leviathan. There may have been a valet on board whose sole function
was to attend that suit. Any dereliction of duty might well have resulted in a beating with Von's riding crop, or that bamboo cane. I wonder it still exists. I hope so. Those threads should hang in a museum.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mark A. Vieira said...

Hello:

I have been immersing myself in Stroheim and especially in his film Greed. First I watched the two-hour-and-ten-minute version. Then with Herman Weinberg's book nearby, I watched Rick Schmidlin's 1999 (TCM-funded) reconstruction of the film. Interesting how a film to which I had formerly felt indifferent grew on me; powerful and haunting, that movie, almost in any form. I am happy to see your images of Stroheim and I enjoy your fresh insights into both his acting and his wardrobe. Is that the same suit he wears in As You desire Me?

Your blogsite is enlightening as well as entertaining; a nice balance.

Bye for now,

Mark A. Vieira

6:01 PM  
Blogger normandie said...

The suit in the picture on the right is definitely different; compare the check pattern on the collar.
It appears that Stroheim was fond of that particular fabric and a cut, but if he had the same suit for such a long time, it would definitely look worn out and old.Not the case with the picture on the right.

Anyway, a interesting little tidbit of information, keep them coming!

2:45 PM  

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