These notes accompany Foolish Wives, which screens on January 13, 14, and 15 in Theater 3.
The name Erich von Stroheim (1885–1957) generally provokes one of two reactions: he is considered either a great genius done in by imbecilic studio executives, or a self-immolating martyr to his own inflated ego. Although the truth obviously lies somewhere between these two extremes, I’m not sure exactly where. Von Stroheim’s life and career are wrapped in several overlapping enigmas that further confuse his identity. The first enigma, indeed, is the self-created myth of his identity.