Greed (1924)

Greed (1924)

“You won’t touch my money, I tell you!”

When a miner-turned-dentist (Gibson Gowland) is introduced to the cousin and girlfriend (ZaSu Pitts) of his friend Marcus (Jean Hersholt), he falls instantly in love and is granted permission by Marcus to woo her. Shortly before their marriage, Trina (Pitts) wins $5,000 in a lottery ticket purchased from a neighbor (Dale Fuller), and becomes increasingly unhinged about spending money; meanwhile, Marcus regrets his decision to “give away” Trina and harbors deep resentment towards McTeague.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Dentists
  • Erich von Stroheim Films
  • Gold Seekers
  • Greed
  • Marital Problems
  • Mental Breakdown
  • Rivalry
  • Silent Films
  • Zasu Pitts Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of “Erich von Stroheim’s original, extremely faithful version of McTeague, Frank Norris’s well-known naturalist novel” by noting that it “was nearly 10 hours long” and then “drastically cut,” with “all excised footage… destroyed.” (Since Peary’s GFTFF was published, a fascinating four-hour restoration was completed by Turner Entertainment, which is the version I watched; you can read a lot more about it here.) Peary writes that in the butchered version, the “three most prominent characters” remain, and “despite being trimmed to about a fourth of it original length” it “is still a masterpiece, one of the greatest of silent films and a picture that still has impact today.” He notes that “surely no character has better displayed avarice than Pitts, whose brow rises automatically and eyes look cunning any time she can even smell money”:

(I’m actually not sure “avarice” is the best word to describe her pitiful character, who seems to suffer from an extreme form of OCD.) Peary adds that “the film also benefits from Von Stroheim’s typical array of unusual supporting characters”:

… “the intensity of his directing and the acting”:

… “his attention to set design”:

… “and his decision to film on location in San Francisco and even Death Valley for the classic finale.”

Peary writes that “the worst result of the extreme studio-imposed editing is that the changes in the characters’ personalities once money enters their lives are too rushed… For the naturalism of Norris to be conveyed propertly, the deterioration of their marriage and their descent from nice people to ‘animals’ must have a more natural progression.” Thankfully, this concern is addressed and fixed in the restored version, which is recommended. Indeed, the entire storyline remains remarkably compelling and relevant; I’m hard-pressed to think of a better film about the consequences of money-driven psychosis, greed, and envy.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • William Daniels’ cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a classic of the silent era.


  • Genuine Classic
  • Historically Relevant
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Greed (1924)

  1. A once-must, for its place in cinema history.

    I’ve seen the TCM restoration, but I doubt I would watch it again. Though. since it’s cut, it’s not nearly the challenge of something like ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’, ‘Greed’ is still somewhat daunting because of its currently available length (esp. for a silent). I wonder who else but diehard film junkies (or von Stroheim fans) would take up that challenge.

    To be honest, I didn’t actually love the film but it’s difficult to deny its worthy ambition / value – and the two lead performances are a plus.

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