Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

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Richard M Roberts
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Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:11 am

Even with a casual knowledge of the history or his films, the question begs: why did any studio head in and or out of his mind ever rehire Erich Von Stroheim to direct another film after FOOLISH WIVES? Well, oddly enough, some of his pictures were actually hits with the general Public, and for every GREED either flopping or very tepidly and tinily earning against its expenses, there was a MERRY WIDOW that filled quite nicely the coffers. Then again, MGM dumped Von Stroheim in spite of THE MERRY WIDOW’s success, and you think Von’s studio exit numero dos would have been a warning to the other major studios who hadn’t had the pleasure. In fairness, Paramount only released THE WEDDING MARCH, it was eclectic motion picture pioneer, huckster and production dabbler P.A “Pat” Powers who took Von Stroheim on in 1926 to shoot another original story (his first since FOOLISH WIVES) in what the Director planned as a two-part picture with himself as star (again, for the first time since FOOLISH WIVES) playing what was essentially a sympathetic part.

Well, okay, relatively sympathetic as far as the Man-You-Love-To-Hate is concerned. Von Stroheim plays Prince Nicki, your average, run-of-the-mill Austrian Aristocrat just before World War One. Nicki may not be as depraved as the rest of his Family, and is even given to flirting with crippled but lovely musician Mitzi (Fay Wray, in one of her first major feature roles), but later finds his royal parents plan his nuptials to the club-footed Cecelia (Zasu Pitts) , daughter of a wealthy commoner, in hopes of reviving the royal family’s royal pocketbook.

That’s pretty much the set-up, and around it Von Stroheim paints a fascinating picture daubed throughout with his sometimes tasteless, but very human touches, as well as some oddly for Von, but very ethereal and lovely romantic interludes as Nicki weighs his choices: marry for love? marry for money? Then what to do after that?

We’ll never know, because Erich Von Stroheim once again lived up to his extravagant legends, the shooting of THE WEDDING MARCH abounds with such as the elaborate orgy scene which became a real orgy as Stroheim hired real prostitutes, gallons of bootleg liquor, and closed and locked the Stage doors and let all go at it for supposed days while he filmed away. Part One was completed as planned, but somewhere in the middle of shooting Part Two, Pat Powers tired of the cost-overruns and Erich Von Stroheim once again found himself with walking papers. The first half was released by Paramount nearly two-years after production began, boasting a Movietone musical track and Technicolor sequences, and what there was of Part Two was hastily shuffled together and padded out with lengthy flashbacks from Part One into a short feature called THE HONEYMOON, which was released in Europe only in 1929. The last known print of THE HONEYMOON was in the hands of the Cinemateque’s Henri Langois, who unfortunately allowed it to decompose before it was preserved in the 1950’s.

Yet the first half remains, and THE WEDDING MARCH may indeed be Erich Von Stroheim’s most poetic and gentle picture (perhaps in the same way THE GORILLA is the Ritz Brothers most poetic and gentle picture, but you get what I mean). Undoubtedly things got seamier in round two, but here we do find some beauty in Erich Von’s soul, and bittersweet but lovely romance, played nowhere near a sewer cap, but with some genuine Old World Viennese charm.

And nobody gave comedians and comediennes more opportunities in serious or certainly off-beat roles. Nobody else seems to have caught the wispy sadness in Zasu Pitts eyes, or gave her the chance to show what she really could do as an actress. Or Dale Fuller, whom this Author recently saw as herself in a silent SCREEN SNAPSHOTS reel and to his final relief, saw she looked like a normal-looking and happy lady in real life. Watch for early Vitagraph comic Hughie Mack in what became his final film role by default due to the pictures late release (he died in 1927). And lest we not forget the other Von Stroheim regulars: Cesare’ Gravina, George Fawcett, Sidney Bracey, and the always fascinating Maude George, with her strangely placid face and intriguing wicked eyes, another actress only Erich V. knew how to bring the best out of.

After THE WEDDING MARCH, Erich Von Stroheim had only one great debacle left, and at least QUEEN KELLY may have earned him the dubious distinction of being of being possibly the only Hollywood figure who actually took Joseph P. Kennedy to the cleaners. After that, except for acting roles, script doctoring, one more directing job down the drain on Fox’s WALKING DOWN BROADWAY/HELLO SISTER (1933) there were many years spent as a living legend before he became a dead one. Then the irony of his being immortalized by the masses for his portrayal of Max the Butler in Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD far more than any of his silent films.

In our impetuous film history youth, we cheered him on as the classic example of the brilliant misunderstood artist, dedicated only to his ART, at all odds, at all costs. In our middle years, we admit to ourselves that if we had been Irving Thalberg, Louis B. Mayer, or Pat Powers we’d have probably done the same damn thing. As much as I admire GREED, my heart of hearts and lower spine of lower spines sitting in theater seats tells me I really don’t want six more hours of it, or two or three more of FOOLISH WIVES. Erich Von Stroheim had incredible talent, but it was not a talent controlled by the real self-discipline that would have enabled that talent to exist fluidly in the art-form-by-committee known as the Movies, and in the end, the realist has to lay that blame at his own feet. I can even do without the patched and pasted together second half of THE WEDDING MARCH. As the newly-wedded Prince Nicki walks down the aisle betrothed to the one we won’t spoil by telling you, we can see all too clearly what is to come….




RICHARD M ROBERTS

christopher connelly
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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby christopher connelly » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:20 am

My mind is still boggled at the thought on Von directing (silent) what would eventually become GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL - especially if Clara Bow had remained attached to the project.

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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Sep 08, 2013 5:35 pm

christopher connelly wrote:My mind is still boggled at the thought on Von directing (silent) what would eventually become GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL - especially if Clara Bow had remained attached to the project.



Hmmmm---club footed chorus girls, that might have made it more interesting.


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Gary Johnson
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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby Gary Johnson » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:54 pm

I have never understood the cinematic fascination over Von Stroheim.
This may go back to my beginnings of film fascination in the Sixties when all books on film history consisted of Griffith, Chaplin and Von Stoheim.
No one else mattered!!

I always found it hard to believe (even at a young age) that an artistic Industry only produced 3 geniuses in it's first Thirty years of existence. Now, I am not holding early film researchers responsible for a skewed vision of Hollywood artists since everyone has their own mind set -- but I myself quickly realized that Von Stroheim was a pampered, spoiled, ego-maniac disguised as an artist who's best works (GREED, WEDDING MARCH and yes Richard, even FOOLISH WIVES) were all interesting but very flawed.

Which makes Von Stoheim, in my mind, very flawed to the very end.

[For the record, I still find Griffith and Chaplin very interesting]

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:30 pm

Gary Johnson wrote:I have never understood the cinematic fascination over Von Stroheim.
This may go back to my beginnings of film fascination in the Sixties when all books on film history consisted of Griffith, Chaplin and Von Stoheim.
No one else mattered!!

I always found it hard to believe (even at a young age) that an artistic Industry only produced 3 geniuses in it's first Thirty years of existence. Now, I am not holding early film researchers responsible for a skewed vision of Hollywood artists since everyone has their own mind set -- but I myself quickly realized that Von Stroheim was a pampered, spoiled, ego-maniac disguised as an artist who's best works (GREED, WEDDING MARCH and yes Richard, even FOOLISH WIVES) were all interesting but very flawed.

Which makes Von Stoheim, in my mind, very flawed to the very end.

[For the record, I still find Griffith and Chaplin very interesting]



Actually, I like FOOLISH WIVES as a movie, it's probably my favorite of his films, certainly his funniest, but it's most likely not worth the debacle and cost of making it, and it certainly doesn't need to be a four-hour or longer movie. And the problem with every film Von Stroheim directed afterward excepting GREED, they are all pretty much the same damn film with the same damn milieu. Do we really need that many films about the Viennese inbred upper classes?

And I really like Von Stroheim as an actor, he was indeed the greatest worker of props one ever saw, I just have no sympathy for his "tortured by the studios" genius stance. Sad truth is, the Studios really gave him a hell of a lot of chances, and he blew every one of them.


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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby Gary Johnson » Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:07 pm

Agreed on the whole 'tortured genius' stance.
I got tired of reading about it in book after book. Some lazy writers were still pushing that storyline by the mid-80's.

And I thought FOOLISH WIVES was on your 'avoid at all costs' list. My error.
(And the reason Von kept getting hired after that movie was because it made a boat-load of money, did it not?)

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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby Richard M Roberts » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:34 pm

Gary Johnson wrote:Agreed on the whole 'tortured genius' stance.
I got tired of reading about it in book after book. Some lazy writers were still pushing that storyline by the mid-80's.

And I thought FOOLISH WIVES was on your 'avoid at all costs' list. My error.
(And the reason Von kept getting hired after that movie was because it made a boat-load of money, did it not?)



It made pots of prestige and publicity for Universal------but not a penny of profit. I think that's really the reason Von was kicked off MERRY-GO-ROUND, the numbers came in while he was shooting and Universal decided it just wasn't worth the bother.


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Ed Watz
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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby Ed Watz » Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:38 am

For me, Stroheim's talent (and his entertainment value) comes to the fore in the dozens of cheap B features he appeared in, mostly in France but also the U.S. and elsewhere. No longer in control as director/producer and in need of quick money, Stroheim thought on his feet and enriched many of these films with plot details, clever dialogue plus his larger-than-life acting "business." His sound films remind me of Keaton's Educationals -- "the budget is low, so if you've got any ideas to add to the pot -- Buster (or Erich) -- we sure could use 'em."
"Of course he smiled -- just like you and me." -- Harold Goodwin, on Buster Keaton (1976)

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Cinevent Notes Past: THE WEDDING MARCH

Postby Richard M Roberts » Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:58 am

Richard M Roberts wrote:
Ed Watz wrote:For me, Stroheim's talent (and his entertainment value) comes to the fore in the dozens of cheap B features he appeared in, mostly in France but also the U.S. and elsewhere. No longer in control as director/producer and in need of quick money, Stroheim thought on his feet and enriched many of these films with plot details, clever dialogue plus his larger-than-life acting "business." His sound films remind me of Keaton's Educationals -- "the budget is low, so if you've got any ideas to add to the pot -- Buster (or Erich) -- we sure could use 'em."



Agreed. As I said before,as an actor, he was one of the best utilizers of props ever. In something like THE CRIME OF DR CRESPI, he's riveting just because the film has little going for it but his performance, and he can give you a minute or two of pure entertainment just lighting a cigarette, but when it's FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO and Wilder is giving him his head and all the bits and pieces he requests, it's positively sublime. Von Stroheim and a fly swatter can guarantee no one will be paying attention to Franchot Tone.


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