Greed: A Lost Treasure

         In the history of cinema, many films have gained recognition not only for their composition and storytelling, but also for interesting production techniques used in filming the movie as well. Erich von Stroheim’s 1924 film, entitled Greed, is a good example of this type of film.

         The film tells the story of a man named McTeague (Gibson Gowland), who practices dentistry for a living. When his friend, Marcus (Jean Hersholt), introduces him to a woman Trina (Zazu Pitts), he begins to fall in love with her. Shortly after, McTeague and the woman marry and she wins a lottery. This causes bitterness on the part of McTeague’s friend, who feels he has been robbed of the chance of living with a pretty rich wife. It is this love triangle and the ever-increasing greed of McTeague’s wife that are engaging to the audience. In an act of vengeance, McTeague’s friend alerts the authorities that McTeague’s dentistry practice is illegal since he had never legally gained a license to practice dentistry. After McTeague loses his practice, his wife begins to horde the money from the lottery away, and the couple begins living poorly. The audience members are left feeling sorry for McTeague in this situation, as all they would have to do is live off the money from the lottery until they found more stable employment. That does not happen though, and McTeague’s wife continues to horde the money away.

         In perhaps one of the more memorable moments of the film, we see McTeague’s wife playing with her gold coins on a bed as McTeague is out desperately trying to earn money for them. Another memorable moment of the film comes in the last scene that was actually filmed on location in Death Valley. It was so hot there that the cameras had to be cooled with wet towels while shooting. The scene consists of McTeague and his friend in a showdown for the money, as McTeague’s friend followed him their after he ran away with his wife’s money.

         It is interesting that Erich von Stroheim’s intentions on filming this movie were to recreate a realistic, exact depiction of the novel this film was based on. The version today consists of less than half of what the director initially shot for the film. That is another reason why this film is intriguing to audiences and why it is known as being a lost treasure of cinema.

Brian Schuldt

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