Love + Greed = Death

         Erich von Stroheim’s masterpiece Greed is psychological thriller way ahead of its time. Stroheim masterfully adapts Frank Norris’s novel McTeague into a big screen epic. Originally filmed at a length of over forty reels or nine hours, it was a massive achievement in any time period, especially in 1924. Needless to say, this good not be marketed to a viewing audience, and it was eventually slaughtered down to a running time of 140 minutes. Unfortunately the seven hours of film was destroyed after final editing, never to seen again.

         Despite the travesty that occurred, it still stands the test of time. Stroheim was able to convey the psychological effects money can have on a person. McTeague (Gibson Gowland), the main character, is prime example of someone being born under a dark cloud. His family heritage is one of a brutish history and violence. But through his own merits he overcomes this and becomes a dentist in San Francisco. Like any red-blooded man he falls in love with a woman, Trina (Zazu Pitts), who has won five thousand dollars in the lottery. A rival suitor, Marcus (Jean Hersholt), becomes increasingly jealous to the point that he sabotages McTeague’s dental practice. After losing his dental practice, the couple slowly slips into economic ruin. McTeague’s wife refuses to spend any of the lottery money she has won, despite their economic predicament.

         Greed is the ultimate ruin of all three characters. McTeaque eventually murders his wife for the money, because of the unfair treatment of his wife, and his drinking habit. After murdering his wife he becomes an outlaw. The jealous suitor, who thought he got screwed out of the lottery money, pursues McTeaque across Death Valley. He eventually catches up with McTeaque, who kills him in the fight, but not before the suitor has handcuffed himself to McTeague. McTeague dies a slow painful death under the desert sun.

         Through the evil of greed all three characters suffer a fate of death. I do feel sorry for McTeague, who seemed to have overcome his family heritage and become an honest man. It seems to me his fate was the only one of the three that seemed undeserving. His wife’s greediness and the jealous suitor’s scandalous actions are the reasons for McTeague’s ultimate breakdown.

Daniel Whitt Lawson

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