He was the most brilliant, obsessive, secretive, far-sighted, and self-destructive figure in Hollywood history. A wandering Austrian Jew, the son of a Viennese hatter, Erich von Stroheim adopted the style of an émigré aristocrat and launched a career that changed the face of American movies. Starting out as an actor, von Stroheim became "the man you love to hate," a complex and contradictory personality who encouraged his audiences to confuse the man on screen with the one behind the camera. Before the Hollywood moguls finally had their way, he had created a handful of silent film classics that shocked his enemies and astonished his friends. Like his mentor, D.W. Griffith, he believed that film was an art form, not an investment opportunity. When his employers disagreed, the sparks flew. Who really was von Stroheim? How did he create such grandiose projects as Foolish Wives, Greed, and Queen Kelly? And what were these films really like before censors and studio heads cut them to pieces and melted down their negatives? Koszarski lovingly re-creates the meteoric career of Hollywood's most extravagant director. More than simply a biography, the book demonstrates in detail just how the Hollywood studios worked during their formative years. No previous book on von Stroheim has been based on so much original research in studio archives or written by a scholar with such a firm grasp of the Hollywood production system. Koszarski draws on production records, interviews, with von Stroheim's collaborators, and documents preserved by the filmmaker's family and friends to produce an authoritative account of von Stroheim's years a s a screenwriter and director. He analyzes unproduced projects, variant treatments of completed works, and "original" conceptions of the films later truncated by the studios. Here is the real story of Erich von Stroheim and Hollywood -- a story more fantastic than the ones he invented for the screen.