In what must be the speediest turnaround from the time I acquire a book to the time I read and review it, I present to you Greed by Jonathan Rosenbaum, part of the BFI [British Film Institute] Film Classics series. Still on a “Greed” high after watching both versions of this silent classic and posting a review of the shooting script earlier this month, I managed to find this short film analysis originally published in 1993. None of this book’s short text (62 pages) duplicates what is found in the shooting script edition.
I was most enthralled with the comparisons between the Frank Norris novel McTeague, after which “Greed” was based, and the movie itself. Director Erich von Stroheim had a reputation for portraying realism on film and maintaining undying loyalty to the letter of Norris’s text, yet the author outlined convincing evidence of directorial artistic licence. Rosenbaum played the role of forensic investigator in finding out, to the best of his ability, who was most likely to have made certain edits as the film was shuffled around from editor to editor and pared down to a version just over two hours long. The book also covered the legacy of “Greed” and the myths around it, especially as its original version ran for close to nine hours and is considered one of Hollywood’s greatest lost films. Some of the original reviews were included, and film critics were not kind.
As for the book’s formatting, I had difficulty reading the tiny text and all text rendered in italics was illegible without a magnifying glass, as well as the endnotes which were in microfont. The cover was a sturdy glossy cardboard and the pages were rather thick; so much so that it always felt as if I was turning more than just one page as I read it. With such an unpliable cover it was hard to hold the book comfortably, even though the dimensions were only slightly larger than a standard pocketbook.