USA, Paramount Pictures, 1928, 108 minutes
Scriptwriters: Harry Carr, Erich von Stroheim
Director: Erich von Stroheim
Production designers: Richard Day, Erich von Stroheim
Composers: John Stepan Zamecnik, Louis De Francesco
Cast: Erich von Stroheim, Faye Wray, Matthew Betz, Zazu Pitts, George Nichols, George Fawcett, Maud George, Dale Fuller, Cesare Gravina
American film director, screenwriter, and actor Erich von Stroheim (1885–1957) remained in the history of filmmaking as an artist inconvenient for the industry, due to his perfectionism and unwillingness to limit himself in terms of time and finances. His films, of which the original 7-hour naturalistic drama “Greed” (1923-25) is the best known, were cut and remade, which destroyed the director's (often extravagant) vision, but allowed them to be released. Some of them, like his first work "Blind Husbands" (1919) and "Foolish Wives" (1922), were popular successes.
The genius of the director was also recognized by the producers. But they could not help but worry about the financial side of things, which, starting with “Foolish Wives”, Stroheim stubbornly, openly neglected. He was always interested in something else. He was passionate about working out the smallest details, the credibility of which allows him to imagine and construct almost any screen world: Stroheim was directly involved in designing the decor and costumes for his films.
Stroheim’s acting career was less controversial. All his directorial work took place during the period of silent cinema, but he continued to act in films with the advent of sound, almost until the end of his life. For instance, in 1950 he played one of his most famous roles in Billy Wilder's film “Sunset Boulevard”, a requiem for a long-gone silent film era.
Released on October 6, 1928, “The Wedding March” was filmed in 1926-27 for producer Pat A. Powers, the first distributor of Walt Disney's sound animations (according to some sources, Stroheim was a producer as well).
“The Wedding March” is one of the director’s favorite types of films: critical dramas that explore forms of sexuality. But in this case, he softened his desire for psychological realism mixed with soft satire, with nostalgic romanticism connected to the memories of the pre-American period of his life and embodied on the screen when the old world that had raised him no longer existed.
Before moving to the United States in 1909, Stroheim lived in Europe. His last name was not yet preceded by the aristocratic prefix "von" at the time: he was the son of a hatter who had moved to the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was this city that became the background of “The Wedding March". Stroheim had observed the disappearance of the old Vienna already from across the ocean - and this, for sure, filled the images of the bygone Viennese life that he created with even greater romantic sadness and an even greater desire to reproduce that life with the maximum accuracy of details.
Almost all of “The Wedding March” (following the newsreel footage of Habsburg Vienna at the beginning of the film) was filmed using sets designed by Stroheim in collaboration with his longtime collaborator Richard Day. They also took part in designing the costumes corresponding to the era.
In “The Wedding March”, Stroheim played the leading role of an impoverished aristocrat, while Fay Wray performed the part of his commoner lover with restrained and sensuousness (a few years later she would appear in an expressive role in the film “King Kong” directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (1933), which would make her a star).
The story of lovers doomed to tragic separation was the center and symbol of the doomed lifestyle of Vienna and the whole of Europe, worthy of satirical tones, but at the same time evoking a feeling of nagging nostalgia.
In addition to its design, editing, and acting, "The Wedding March" impressed the audience with color in the shots of the religious procession (according to the director, the color was supposed to convey the joy of the celebration) and, under the influence of the rapidly advancing era of film sound, with the recording of music and noise.
Like the romance of the main characters, “The Wedding March” was also doomed - to re-editing and the loss of the second part released as a separate film. In the 1950s, Stroheim reconstructed the remaining material in a form he considered close to the original. Thanks to this and to subsequent restorations, today we can again enjoy this masterfully made film inspired by memories and love.
Prince Nicki from an impoverished aristocratic family is experiencing problems with money: he has nothing to pay with for his favorite entertainment. His parents offer to solve his money problems by arranging an advantageous marriage. Nicki accepts the offer and breaks off his relationship with a simple Viennese girl Mitzi, despite their mutual attraction.