Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Greed (1924)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Greed (1924)

In Erich von Stroheim's severely-edited classic masterpiece - a dark morality tale and study of the oppressive forces that corrupted three people - an uneducated former miner and dentist in turn of the century San Francisco, his miserly, vulgar and pathological wife, and their mutual friend and ultimate nemesis:

  • the ex-miner and self-taught quack-dentist John "Mac" McTeague (Gibson Gowland), who had established himself in San Francisco, where his best friend was Marcus Schouler (Jean Hersholt), and his growing acquaintance with Marcus' cousin and fiancee Trina Sieppe (Zasu Pitts)
  • the scene of McTeague's lustful look at ether-anesthetized, helpless patient Trina in his dentist's chair; he eagerly bent over, smelled her hair and her perfume, and could not resist shamefully kissing her full on the mouth while she was under the influence of the ether - the title card noted: "But below the fine fabric bred of his mother, ran the foul stream of hereditary evil...the taint of generations given through his father"
  • shortly later, Marcus agreed to step aside from Trina for McTeague's sake: "I'll give her up to you, old man - - by damn!" and they had a short period of courtship and engagement
  • the sequence of a lottery official announcing to Trina that she won the $5,000 lottery prize - it was an unexpected windfall that will prove to be the downfall of the McTeague's lives
  • the wedding scene between McTeague and Trina, with the ominous view of a somber Roman Catholic funeral procession outside the window; after the ceremony, Mac presented Trina with with a covered gilded canary cage with not only one male bird, but now two love-birds - a female canary joined his male bird
  • the portrayal of a crazed, avarice-affected couple, especially Trina's miserly obsession with gold coins (her lottery winnings), and her sleeping with gold coins in her bed
Trina's Obsession with Gold Coins
  • the scene of his biting her fingers - and eventually murdering his wife Trina by striking her to death
  • the classic finale of a deadly and murderous confrontation in the parched, scorching Death Valley desert between fugitive McTeague and his former friend and now-rival Marcus (who had been appointed Deputy Sheriff to arrest him), and McTeague's discovery that he had no water and was handcuffed to the dead corpse of Marcus - the gold coins that caused all the trouble were scattered about on the cracked earth/sand, next to an empty water canteen
Handcuffed Together and Stranded in Death Valley
  • the final extreme long shot of McTeague in the desert wasteland - with no water or horse, and handcuffed to Marcus; as his last act, he set free his pet canary that fluttered briefly but then died

Unauthorized Kiss of Chloroformed Patient by Dentist

Short Courtship Between Trina and McTeague

Wedding Scene

McTeague's Deteriorating Relationship, Ending with the Murder of His Wife

Final Images: Scattered Gold Coins and Empty Canteen


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