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Foolish Wives Overview:

Foolish Wives (1922) was a Drama - Black-and-white Film directed by Erich von Stroheim and produced by Irving Thalberg.

Foolish Wives was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2008.

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After six months in the editing room, Erich von Stroheim turned over his cut of the film to Universal Pictures in December of 1921. The film was 32 reels and 8 hours long, but von Stroheim insisted it was now "a perfect story." When asked how it would be possible to present 32 reels for an evening's entertainment, he replied, "That's a detail I hadn't time to bother about" (the magazine "Photoplay" suggested that the movie should be re-titled, "Foolish Directors," and released as a serial). Universal took over the movie, and edited it down to 14 reels, with a 210-minute running time. Von Stroheim hated the shorter version, complaining that all that was left of his masterpiece was "the bones."
Initially budgeted at $250,000, the film's production soared above $1 million, thanks to Erich von Stroheim's excesses. He started shooting in July 1920 and kept going for 11 months, until he was taken off the picture in June 1921. Afraid that the movie might bankrupt Universal, studio chief Carl Laemmle sent his assistant, 21-year-old Irving Thalberg, from New York to Hollywood to try to get von Stroheim to finish the film. When Thalberg threatened to replace him with another director, von Stroheim laughed in his face, pointing out that he was the star of the movie as well as the director; if he were replaced, the movie would never be finished. However, Thalberg outsmarted him. He carefully watched production on the picture and, when he thought enough footage had been shot to make up a story, took von Stroheim's cameras away, reminding the director that they were studio property. For proving his mettle against von Stroheim, Laemmle made Thalberg the new head of production at Universal Pictures.
Originally 6 hours long, censored to about 130 minutes.
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National Film Registry

Foolish Wives

Released 1922
Inducted 2008
(Silent)




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Also directed by Erich von Stroheim




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Also produced by Irving Thalberg




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Also released in 1922




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