Cast & Crew
Erich Von Stroheim
The setting is Vienna in 1914 before the outbreak of war. The aristocratic and somewhat jaded Prince Nicki, pursued by all the ladies, begins a flirtation with Mitzi, a crippled harpist who works in a suburban wine-garden, and who is in turn idolized by Schani, an uncouth and violently jealous butcher. Their first encounter significantly takes place in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral on Corpus Christi day, with Nicki among the emperor's cavalry regiment. Later, in the refracted light of falling apple blossoms in the wine-garden--scenes of a distilled, ethereal beauty--Nicki gradually wins her faith and love. Meanwhile, amidst the sumptuous and corrupt milieu of the family palace, Nicki is drawn into complicity against his will, as his unscrupulous mother informs him he must marry Cecelia, the daughter of a wealthy commoner, in order to revive the family fortune. Mitzi has a vision of The Iron Man (a symbol of the declining power and position of the Hapsburg dynasty) and falls before the crucifix in fear; but her love remains steadfast, and she protests her faith though abused by her mother and Schani. Infuriated by her rejection, Schani threatens to kill Nicki on his wedding day unless Mitzi agrees to marry him. Following the processional splendor of the cathedral wedding, Schani appears to carry out his threat, but Mitzi arrives in time to stop him; and through the downpouring rain Nicki sadly gazes on his true love in the crowd as he drives away with his bride.
Erich Von Stroheim
Harry D. Kerr
Jesse L. Lasky
P. A. Powers
Erich Von Stroheim
Erich Von Stroheim
J. S. Zamecnik
J. S. Zamecnik
The Wedding March
Set in pre-WWI Vienna, The Wedding March stars von Stroheim as Viennese aristocrat Prince Nikolas von Wildeliebe-Rauffenburg. Prince Nicki must marry into a family with money, because the royal house of Wildeliebe-Rauffenburg is too broke to sustain their extravagant lifestyle. Plans are set in motion for Nicki to marry Cecelia Schweisser, the daughter of a wealthy but decidedly middle-class corn-plaster merchant. At the celebration for Corpus Christi in the square in front of St. Stephens Cathedral, Nicki spots beautiful Mitzi Schrammell. Their eyes lock, and their romantic attraction is immediately apparent. Mitzi's family owns a small inn, so she cannot provide the fortune that Nicki's family needs. Local butcher Schani Eberle, who has his sights set on Mitzi for a bride, lurks on the sidelines, seething with jealousy and bitterness toward the aristocracy. The plotline follows von Stroheim's so-called "master narrative" in which a royal heir is torn between his love for a lower-class girl and his duty to his family or position. The girl in von Stroheim's films not only represents purity but offers redemption for the privileged protagonist from an immoral or debased life. In addition, The Wedding March features other von Stroheim motifs, tropes, and themes, including an unsympathetic portrayal of royalty, the pomp and circumstance of an Old-World military, the suggestion of imperial decay, and a bitter nostalgia for pre-war Vienna.
In fan magazines and publicity articles, Von Stroheim liked to spin mysterious versions of his life story in which he hinted that he was a lost member of Austrian aristocracy forced to immigrate to America because of some unspoken nefarious deed. Such a background might explain his obsession with pre-war Hapsburg Vienna to movie-goers and fanzine readers, but the definitive biography of von Stroheim offers the truth about his childhood. The Man You Loved to Hate: Erich von Stroheim and Hollywood revealed that the director was the oldest son of a Jewish hatter. Thus, his favored themes, stylistic characteristics, and storylines represented the fantasy construction or wish fulfillment of someone who saw himself as the perpetual outsider.
Von Stroheim's directorial style was famous for its lush opulence and extravagant mise-en-scene, which revealed an obsessive devotion to the intricate details of costumes, set designs, and makeup. Stories are legion about his insistence that the underwear of the military characters be historically accurate, though audiences would never see beneath the soldiers' uniforms. According to researchers at Western Costume, which provided most of Hollywood with clothing, uniforms, dresses, and props, the costumes and set dressings for The Wedding March came from pre-war Austria. An article in a 1938 issue of Silver Screen claimed that a buyer for Western Costume traveled to Vienna where he purchased two royal carriages that had belonged to Emperor Franz Josef, furs, medals, and military and court uniforms. Though the exact story of the purchase varies from source to source, most suggest that the items were acquired under strenuous or devious circumstances. Von Stroheim showcased the authentic costumes and props in the Corpus Christi procession by shooting it in two-strip Technicolor, a common practice in silent films for dream sequences, lavish pageants, or fantasy scenes. Von Stroheim's devotion to authentic costumes and set details is often dubbed "realism," but his interest in portraying the realities of society or the human condition ended with Greed. In his last films, he retreated to romantic melodramas set in a dream-like interpretation of Old Europe. The result is more spectacle than drama.
Less often discussed is Von Stroheim's talent for editing, which he learned from the master, D.W. Griffith. Arguably, Von Stroheim may have surpassed Griffith in his ability to convey emotion and advance the narrative through editing. For example, when Prince Nicki and Mitzi watch each other during the Corpus Christi procession, there is a lengthy exchange of looks, gestures, and expressions depicted in close-ups and medium shots. The sequence reveals their growing attraction and announces their budding relationship, which fuels the narrative.
P.A. Powers, who owned Associated Studios as well as Western Costume, backed the production of The Wedding March. Von Stroheim had left MGM after the debacle of Greed and the disappointment of The Merry Widow; he was a director without a studio until he persuaded Powers to support him on his new project. Powers cut a deal with Paramount Pictures to split the cost of The Wedding March. Additionally, Paramount agreed to distribute the film while Powers was in charge of keeping von Stroheim in line.
The director secluded himself in drafty mountain cabins and isolated beach houses to write the script with the help of Harry Carr. He crafted several characters to fit the traits and skills of some of his favorite actors: Cecelia was written for Zasu Pitts, Nicki's parents were to be played by George Fawcett and Maude George, and he created Mitzi's mother for Dale Fuller. However, he wanted Mitzi to be portrayed by a new face, and his search for Hollywood's next big star generated much publicity in 1926. After several weeks, von Sternberg and Harry Carr grew weary of auditions. As Carr noted in Von: The Life and Films of Erich von Stroheim: "Nine-tenths of the girls available are more common than gum stuck under the edge of the chair." Finally, they auditioned a slim brunette who had appeared in only a few Hal Roach comedies and Universal westerns. Fay Wray and her agent had tried to audition earlier in the process, but they did not make it beyond the lobby. On their second try, they succeeded in broaching von Stroheim's office. After the director excitedly told her the entire story, which took several hours, he asked her if she was ready for such a role. Wray assured him that she could play Mitzi, and he handed her the part. When Wray burst into tears at the news, von Stroheim was delighted with her outburst of emotion, which he felt suited Mitzi's character. He didn't even make a screen test with Wray, who was just 18 years old. The part proved to be Wray's big break, and she was singled out in several reviews for her presence and her performance.
Shooting began in June 1926, but as was typical for a von Stroheim production, the proceedings ran far over schedule and way over budget. The production was shut down by Powers in January 1927. Von Stroheim thought he could make two films out of the material, which would be shown by theaters on consecutive nights. After Part 1 came in at four hours, Powers confiscated the footage to cut an alternative version. In 1928, The Wedding March was released as one film to a preview audience, but it was not well received. Paramount decided to release it as two films titled The Wedding March and The Honeymoon. The former was released in October 1929, while the latter was distributed only in Europe. Neither was well received by reviewers, nor were they successful at the box office.
Von Stroheim revisited The Wedding March and The Honeymoon in 1950 when Henri Langlois of the Cinematheque Francaise gave him the opportunity to re-edit the films from prints in the Cinematheque collection. Though he was unable to restore any footage, he did put certain scenes back into their original order. Nine years later, the last known copy of The Honeymoon burned in a fire at the Cinematheque.
By Susan Doll
Producer: Presented by Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky and produced by P.A. Powers for Paramount Pictures
Director: Erich von Stroheim
Screenplay: Erich von Stroheim and Harry Carr
Cinematography: Ben Reynolds, Hal Mohr, and B. Sorenson
Editor: Frank E. Hull
Art Direction: Richard Day
Costumes: Max Ree
Cast: Prince Nikolas von Wildeliebe-Rauffenburg (Erich von Stroheim), Mitzi Schrammell (Fay Wray), Cecelia Schweisser (Zasu Pitts), Prince von Wildeliebe-Rauffenburg (George Fawcett), Princess von Wildeliebe-Rauffenburg (Maude George), Schani Eberle (Matthew Betz), Mr. Schrammell (Cesare Gravina), Mrs. Schrammell (Dale Fuller), Mr. Schweisser (George Nichols), Wine-Garden Proprietor (Hughie Mack), Navratil (Sidney Bracey), Franz Josef I (Anton Vaverka).
The Wedding March
Fay Wray (1907-2004)
She was born Vina Fay Wray, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada on September 15, 1907. Her family relocated to Arizona when she was still a toddler so her father could find employment. When her parents divorced, her mother sent her to Hollywood when Fay's eldest sister died in the influenza epidemic of 1918. The reasoning was that Southern California offered a healthier climate for the young, frail Wray.
She attended Hollywood High School, where she took some classes in drama. After she graduated, she applied to the Hal Roach studio and was given a six-month contract where she appeared in two-reel Westerns (25 minutes in length), and played opposite Stan Laurel in his pre-Oliver Hardy days.
She landed her first big role, as Mitzi Schrammell, in Erich von Stroheim's beautifully mounted silent The Wedding March (1928). It made Wray a star. She then starred in some excellent films: The Four Feathers (1929), the early Gary Cooper Western The Texan (1930), and one of Ronald Coleman's first starring roles The Unholy Garden (1931), all of which were big hits of the day.
For whatever reason, Wray soon found herself in a string of thrillers that made her one of the great screamers in Hollywood history. The titles say it all: Doctor X, The Most Dangerous Game (both 1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Bat (both 1933) and, of course her most famous role, that of Ann Darrow, who tempts cinema's most famous ape in the unforgettable King Kong (also 1933).
Wray did prove herself quite capable in genre outside of the horror game, the best of which were Shanghai Madness with Spencer Tracy; The Bowery (both 1933), a tough pre-Hays Code drama opposite George Raft; and the brutal Viva Villa (1934), with Wallace Beery about the famed Mexican bandit. Yet curiously, the quality of her scripts began to tank, and she eventually found herself acting in such mediocre fare as Come Out of the Pantry (1935), and They Met in a Taxi (1936).
With her roles becoming increasingly routine, the last of which was the forgettable comedy Not a Ladies Man (1942), she decided to trade acting for domesticity and married Robert Riskin, who won two Best Screenplay Oscars® for the Frank Capra comedies It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). When Riskin died in 1955, Wray found herself working to keep busy and support her three children. She landed supporting parts for films like The Cobweb (1955), Hell on Frisco Bay (1956) and Tammy and the Bachelor (1957). She also found work in television on such popular programs as Perry Mason and Wagon Train before she retired from acting all together in the mid-'60s.
To her credit, Wray did remain reasonably active after her retirement. She published her autobiography, On The Other Hand in 1989 and was attending many film festivals that honored her contribution to film, most notably in January 2003, when, at 95 years of age, she accepted in person her "Legend in Film" Award at the Palm Beach International Film Festival. Wray is survived by a son, Robert Riskin Jr.; two daughters, Susan and Victoria; and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Fay Wray (1907-2004)
Shooting was stopped after 9 months. Von Sternberg was ordered to make two films of the material: The Wedding March and its sequel Honeymoon, The (1928). A third part, which von Stroheim had planned, was never realized. von Stroheim was able to restore his version of the first part in the 1950s at the Cinematheque Francaise.
Stroheim had in mind a two-part work, the first half of which was The Wedding March. This film was completed as planned, but during the filming of Part Two, the producer, Pat Powers, alarmed by the rising expenditures incurred by the production, ceased filming, and the material was edited together as The Honeymoon and given a very limited European release.
Released in United States 1928
Released in United States 1986
Released in United States 1999
Released in United States September 11, 1965
Released in United States September 28, 1986
Performance at the 1986 New York Film Festival was a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Cinematheque Francaise.
Shown at New York Film Festival (Retrospective) September 28, 1986.
Released in United States September 28, 1986 (Shown at New York Film Festival (Retrospective) September 28, 1986.)
Released in United States 1928
Shown at New York Film Festival September 11, 1965.
Released in United States September 11, 1965 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 11, 1965.)
Selected in 2003 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Released in United States 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Von Stroheim" June 25 - July 8, 1999.)
Released in United States 1986 (Performance at the 1986 New York Film Festival was a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Cinematheque Francaise.)