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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Surrender To Stroheim!


"Every Woman's Ideal" Takes The Wedding March

 Still A Teen When This Was Taken,
 and Twice In The Clutches Of Von!
It's none of my business and years past mattering, but did Fay Wray actually sleep with Erich von Stroheim? The notion seems impure; my suggesting it an affront to decency in the eyes of many, yet it lingers. "Every woman's ideal" may well have been the case in 1927 when the above ad for The Wedding March appeared. Fay wrote of dawning love for Von in her 1989 memoir, On The Other Hand. Seems she confessed all to him during the shoot, and "in a flash, he had me pinned against the corridor wall, his body pressing against mine." According to Wray, her "heartbeat" was asking What has happened? What have I done? This, I'd suppose, is what fifty years does for a memory. EvS withdrew because "perhaps he heard someone coming." Withdrawals are a commonplace among actress reminiscence. Those of Fay Wray's generation were always saved at last moments from fate worse than death (or loss of parts), just like in movies. There would be another narrow escape as the wedding marched: Fay in Von's office ... "again, he pressed himself against me, bending me backward over the desk" ... only this time she hears someone coming. Freeze-frame Stroheim a la Warners' cartoon coyote and he'd be Erich von Coitus Interruptus.

Her Love Sacred, His Profane, and We're Talking Off The Set

When Asked If He Was As Cruel To Women
Off-Camera As On, EvS Replied, "Much More So"
This Wedding's banquet offered selling choice to showmen. They could propose Von as the Great Lover, The Genius Director, or ongoing Man You Love To Hate, that last a drop-out thanks to EvS being sympathetic for once, his faded Prince a lecher and layabout, but not an altogether bad guy. The above Allen ad tried "Carelessly insolent" Stroheim on (female surrender) terms as a "dashing" romantic figure, which gives some idea of wider range 1927 had in matinee idols. "Smartly accounted" may have referred to Von's attention to detail with regards dress, right down to silken underthings on both cast and extras so everyone could breathe his authenticity. The Wedding March was tendered too in terms of Stroheim as meg wielder supreme, equal at least to Griffith for having given us The Merry Widow (a hit) and longer-ago Blind/Foolish/Husbands/Wives, boilermakers that patronage still whispered over. I could cry that The Honeymoon, part two of The Wedding March and another feature in itself, perished in a 50's Paris Cinémathèque fire (or was it nitrate decomp of the print? --- both fates have been floated).

Too Bad He Didn't Stick Around To Direct Hotel Imperial

The Honeymoon Is Over, But Did It Burn or Deteriorate?
What effort it once was to see rare silent classics! (still is for many titles), The Wedding March one I'd read about for eternity up to crowded view in 16mm on a hotel wall at an 80's Cinevent. Someone had snatched a print from who knows where and held room service screening for those dedicated enough to seat themselves for hours on the floor, either bed (with others squeezed on a la Three Stooges), or direct-under the chattering projector. In those days, there were more movies watched in attendee's private space than at con-arranged play. You could walk down a hall to accompany of five or six soundtracks seeping from under doors. There was no music for our Wedding March run, alas, but it did have color sequences long legendary and presumed missing, at least by enraptured me. The sit was an ordeal what with light-leak around curtains and doors slamming without, but what matter to us and a mute print? An aching back at conclusion of reels and reel changes was small price for seeing The Wedding March, as who knew if opportunity would ever come again? Rumor stays afoot that Criterion proposed a Blu-Ray Wedding and Paramount accepted. Is announcement in the offing? There are few silents I'd choose over The Wedding March. Surely in High-Def, this would be a most stunning of all pre-talk visual treats.

Stroheim is rife at Greenbriar Archive, with Five Graves To Cairo, The Crime Of Dr. Crespi, The Lady and The Monster, and much more.

2 Comments:

Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

I stood in a VERY long line to get a copy of ON THE OTHER HAND signed by Miss Wray. This was in the bookstore at Hollywood and Vine, and I was either last, or next-to-last. When I reached her, I mentioned the book was a gift for my mother's birthday. "Oh! Do you want me to write 'Happy Birthday' to her?" I was absolutely stunned; it had been a long day for this frail-looking woman. I wouldn't have been surprised if her arm was about to fall off, and she's asking me if I want her to write MORE! Yet another example of the classiness of the stars of old Hollywood.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

In addition to being a classic, "The Wedding March" was one of the saddest movies I've ever seen. That climax was devastating in a way that talkies, even at their best, never were. I can't imagine what audiences in 1927 thought.

11:15 AM  

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