Born in Vienna of bourgeois Prussian Jewish and Polish parents, Erich Oswald Stroheim emigrated to the United States in 1909, changing his identity en route:He called himself a decorated military officer, renamed himself Erich von Stroheim, and gave himself aristocratic parents, as von suggests. In this guise, he presented himself to Hollywood and quickly advanced from studio extra to military advisor, assistant art director, art director, scriptwriter, and finally to director in D. W. Griffith's (see also Vol. 3) production company. He also frequently acted the role of a sinister or seductive continental military officer, billed by the studio as "the man you love to hate"---a part rather similar to the one he had played behind the cameras since he had left Europe. His finest performance in that type of role was the role of von Rauffenstein in Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1936); it won him the French Legion of Honor. However, Stroheim is best remembered as a gifted but uncompromising director who was forcibly retired from directing in 1932. Believing that film was an art form, he toiled over his nine productions, refusing to conform to studio timetables or budgets. His work anticipated the aesthetics of sound film (although he never made one), using composition and realistic details of mise-en-scene rather than montage or pantomime to suggest character. Stroheim's first important film, which established his reputation as a creative genius and profligate spendthrift, was Foolish Wives (1921). It explored the sexual awakening of a neglected American wife in Europe, who responds to the attentions of a sophisticated continental gentleman, played by Stroheim himself. Because Stroheim insisted on authentic detail---for example, demanding that the studio build a life-size replica of Monte Carlo---the film went over budget and cost close to $1 million, an incredible sum for that time. Stroheim's masterpiece about human degradation, Greed (1924), was also made at considerable expense, in large part because of location shooting, including scenes in Death Valley. The original ran 10 hours, much too long for commercial release; an inexperienced studio cutter reduced it to an hour and a half, and the work print was destroyed, as were Stroheim's versions of almost all of his films. Stroheim's extravagance ensured the demise of his directing career, although his acting career as a monocled seducer continued to flourish long after he had ceased to direct.