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Erich von Stroheim and Cecil B. DeMille

Early Hollywood and the Discourse of Directorial “Genius”

1. Origins to 1928

3. 1915–1928

  1. Gaylyn Studlar

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf012

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

Studlar, G. 2011. Erich von Stroheim and Cecil B. DeMille. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 1:3:12.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

Abstract

Cecil B. DeMille and Erich von Stroheim were two of the most important filmmakers to emerge in the early years of Hollywood feature film production. Their legacies now are perceived — rightfully — as having been of a radically different order. DeMille has come to epitomize the commercially savvy studio director who cultivated the public persona of an American “showman.” Over a career that spanned five decades, his name recognition revolved around a legacy of popularity and longevity. Rather than retaining recognition as a motion picture innovator and visual artist of the silent era, DeMille is now remembered almost exclusively as the director of entertaining, star-studded film spectacles of the sound era that commercially exploited low- and medium-brow tastes. By way of contrast, von Stroheim has grown to become one of the central referents in discussions of Hollywood's victimization of artists. An uncompromising perfectionist and proponent of naturalism, von Stroheim saw his vision thwarted by the industry. Through their triumph over him, producers consolidated their power in a move that would define the studio system for the next 40 years. For von Stroheim, that milestone was a tragic one that led writer Jim Tully to call the director, “the first man of genius and original talent to break his heart against the stone wall of cinema imbecility” (Tully 1927, 71).

Keywords:

  • Erich von Stroheim;
  • Cecil B. DeMille;
  • feature film;
  • film directors;
  • famous players-lasky;
  • film industry — United States;
  • Hollywood;
  • motion picture;
  • silent film;
  • MGM;
  • goldwyn;
  • universal;
  • carl laemmle;
  • gloria swanson