Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Wedding March (Erich Von Stroheim) ***

Director: Erich Von Stroheim

Cast: Erich Von Stroheim, Fay Wray, Matthew Betts, Zasu Pitts, George Fawcett

Background: Von Stroheim was already well known for a number of films, including the legendary Greed, where he fought with the studio over the running time (9 hours). The studio ripped his movie apart and destroyed the lost footage. Stroheim would fight with the studio over The Wedding March as well, with the studio forcing von Stroheim to split it into two films, the latter being known as The Honeymoon.

Story: A young aristocrat's (von Stroheim) parents tell him to marry money, but he falls in love with Mitzi (Wray), an inn-keeper's daughter.

Thoughts: Stroheim is clearly a talented director and his brilliant visual flair is on display throughout this film, able to capture both the grand celebratory moments for the royalty and the small intimate beauty of the backyard scenes. Still, this is a story that just doesn't click the way I expected it to. I fully admit that part of the problem is certainly due to the fact that it bears many similarities to Ernst Lubitsch's Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, which is superior to this film in almost every single way. Von Stroheim is a sly actor, but as a director he's sometimes a little too obsessed with the details. A flirtation scene between the two leads is one of the more memorable moments in the film, but goes on far too long. But even with all the problems, you can't deny Von Stroheim's talent or the appeal of the central story.

Postscript: After more fights with the studio on future films, Von Stroheim decided to stick to acting and among his many accomplishments is a memorable performance in the Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard. Fay Wray would go on to be known for her iconic role in King Kong. The last known print of The Honeymoon was destroyed in a fire in 1957.

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