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Erich von Stroheim

Erich Oswald Stroheim (September 22, 1885 - May 12, 1957) was an Austrian Jewish actor and film director, noted for his arrogant Teutonic character parts. He became known as "The Man You Love to Hate" because of the many villain roles he took.

He was born in Vienna, then the capital of Austria-Hungary. His biographies often referred to him as the scion of a noble Prussian family (and he added the "von" and sometimes styled himself as "Count von Stroheim" in order to capitalize on that story.) In fact, his father owned a hat-making factory, and young Erich was a supervisor until he emigrated to the United States prior to World War I.

He began working in movies in bit parts and as a consultant on German culture and fashion. His first film was The Country Boy , in which he was uncredited, in 1915. His first credited role was Old Heidelberg .

He began working with D. W. Griffith, with uncredited roles in Birth of a Nation and Intolerance. But his sneering Germanic demeanor began to show in such films as Sylvia of the Secret Service and The Hun Within . In The Heart of Humanity , he threw a baby out a window.

Following the war, his stereotypical character became less common in films, and he turned to writing and directing, first directing his own script for Blind Husbands in 1919. Perhaps his most famous directing job was on Greed. But his dictatorial and extreme attention to detail (including requiring that his actors wear period underwear in order to know how their characters would feel) caused him to go to war with the studios, and he received fewer directing calls. Other directorial efforts included The Devil's Passkey, Foolish Wives, The Merry-Go-Round, The Merry Widow, and The Wedding March.

His film Queen Kelly brought down the curtain on his own career as a director and may have shortened Gloria Swanson's as well. He was fired from the director's chair halfway through filming, and directed only two more films ever again.

Instead, he returned to acting. He is perhaps best known for Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion and Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, co-starring with Swanson. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Max von Mayerling in the latter movie.

Von Stroheim was awarded the French Legion of Honor shortly before his death.

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