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Sunday April 14th 2024

Greed | 1924

Greed film location: Laguna Street, San Francisco
Greed film location: McTeague's 'Polk Street' dentist office: Laguna Street, San Francisco

Having rebuilt ‘Monte Carlo’ on the Universal lot for his 1922 production Foolish Wives, extravagant genius Erich von Stroheim took an entirely different approach for his epic adaptation of Frank Norris’s novel McTeague and made the movie on real locations, largely around San Francisco.

Greed was not exactly a low-budget indie film though. Von Stroheim was still von Stroheim. Taking over virtually an entire city block, he not only used exteriors but filmed inside houses too, with his cast living and sleeping on the sets.

The resulting 96 hours of film were edited down to a nine-hour picture, and then to a mere five. Eventually, the studio stepped in and slashed the movie down to little more than two hours. I guess today, it would have become an award-winning TV mini-series.

The ‘Polk Street’ dentist office of McTeague (Gibson Gowland) can still be recognized at 611 Laguna Street on the corner of Hayes Street, just west of the Civic Center District.

The church attended by McTeague and his new bride was St Paulus Lutheran Church which stood at the corner of Eddy and Gough Streets. It’s the church you can see opposite ‘Mckittricks Hotel’ in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but it was destroyed by fire in 1995.

The famously shocking desert climax, with the treacherous McTeague handcuffed to the dead body of his one-time friend, Marcus (Jean Hersholt) was shot in the blistering wilderness of Death Valley.