The High Cost of Greed

The 1924 silent film Greed (an adaptation of Frank Norris' novel McTeague) tells the story of how a winning lottery ticket brings about the end of of a friendship and the destruction of a marriage. And if that's not enough of a meditation on the destructive power of wanting it all, it also concludes with one of the bleakest endings in cinematic history. Sadly, Greed proved equally destructive for its director, Erich von Stroheim. Stroheim's original cut of the film was also too much of a good thing, reportedly clocking in at a staggering eight hours. The studio demanded more edits, and the ensuing fight between artistic purity and commercial concerns resulted in Stroheim disowning the film, a seriously gutted masterpiece, and the loss of the bulk of Stroheim's original footage. While the massive director's cut remains lost, a 140-minute archival print of the film will be screened as the centerpiece of the Greater St. Louis Humanities Festival. The theme of the festival is fittingly enough, "Money, Money! Need, Greed, and Generosity." Greed the film is shown at 8 p.m. tonight in Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; Musical accompaniment will be provided by Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum will be on hand to discuss the film. Admission is free.
Sat., April 6, 2013
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