“What? And leave show business?”

Image: Mary Pickford, (Wikipedia): “Gladys Marie Smith (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979), known professionally as Mary Pickford, was a Canadian-American film actress and producer with a career that spanned five decades. A pioneer in the American film industry, she co-founded Pickford–Fairbanks Studios and United Artists, and was one of the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”

Gary Susman wrote at entertainment.time.com on Aug. 17, 2013:

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Imagine how humiliating it would be to be Max von Mayerling of Sunset Boulevard. Once a top Hollywood director, married to his most exciting discovery (Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond), but now reduced to serving as her butler – tending her dusty mausoleum of a mansion, arranging parties with her fellow Hollywood has-beens, watching her parade new husbands and lovers before him, and forging fan letters in order to keep her from discovering that her fame has faded, lest she lose her already fragile grip on sanity. (In the movie’s supreme in-joke, Max is played by Erich von Stroheim, who really was a once-great director who’d had a tempestuous working relationship with Swanson; one of the movies screened at Norma’s house is actually Queen Kelly, in which von Stroheim directed Swanson.)

Of course, Billy Wilder’s movie is essentially a gothic horror movie, with Norma as Dracula and von Stroheim as Renfield; it’s a notion made explicit in those scary organ chords that the perpetually scowling Max plays. No wonder a good chunk of the running time is over before Norma’s kept man Joe Gillis (William Holden) learns about Max’s distinguished past. Why does he stay in such a degrading job? No doubt he still loves Norma and wants to protect her. But there’s also the old joke inquiring why someone wouldn’t quit a job like that. The punchline: “What? And leave show business?” “.

From Britannica.com:

“Erich von Stroheim, original name Erich Oswald Stroheim, (born September 22, 1885, Vienna, Austria—died May 12, 1957, near Paris, France), one of the most critically respected motion-picture directors of the 20th century, best known for the uncompromising realism and accuracy of detail in his films. He also wrote screenplays and won recognition as an actor, notably for roles as sadistic, monocled Prussian officers.

Various sources provide contradictory information about Stroheim’s early life, probably because Stroheim himself was fond of embellishing his past. He was not, as reported in several accounts, descended from Viennese nobility, nor had he been an officer in the Austrian army. Rather, he was the son of a Jewish hatmaker, and he served in the army—though he was never an officer—before coming to the United States in 1909. He worked as an actor and as assistant to the leading director D.W. Griffith in such famous early films as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). Stroheim wrote the script and played the leading role in Blind Husbands (1919), his first independently directed picture. As an early exemplar of the changing postwar morality, it intimated that a woman had the right to seek love outside of an unsatisfying marriage. Stroheim’s growing obsession with painstaking detail was reflected in The Devil’s Passkey (1920; now lost) and Foolish Wives (1922), pictures that enhanced his reputation as a director.

Stroheim’s masterpiece was Greed (1924), an adaptation of Frank Norris’s novel McTeague (1899), which dealt with the power of money to corrupt. A landmark in film realism, its grim irony and brutal honesty were untempered by optimism or compassion. Stroheim engaged in many legendary battles with studio executives over the years, but none so bitter as when Greed was cut from its original 9-hour length to 140 minutes without Stroheim’s approval or participation. Despite the cuts, the film retained much of its power, because Stroheim had concentrated the meaning of each scene in carefully constructed detail rather than by the juxtaposition of scenes. It remains a film classic and strongly influenced such later directors as King Vidor and Josef von Sternberg.

Although The Merry Widow (1925), The Wedding March (1928), and Queen Kelly (1928) were commercially successful, Stroheim’s reputation for extravagance, his fanatical insistence on complete artistic freedom regardless of any economic considerations, and his sophisticated treatment of controversial subjects ended his Hollywood directing career. He returned to Europe as an actor and thereafter appeared only occasionally in American pictures, such as Five Graves to Cairo (1943). One of his notable characterizations was the prison-camp commandant in Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937), and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting performance in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Stroheim is perhaps best known as an actor for his role as Rauffenstein in Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937) and as Max von Mayerling in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950). For the latter film, which costarred Gloria Swanson, Stroheim was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Excerpts from Queen Kelly were used in the film. The Mayerling character states that he used to be one of the three great directors of the silent era, along with D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille; many film critics agree that Stroheim was indeed one of the great early directors. Stroheim’s character in Sunset Boulevard thus had an autobiographical basis that reflected the humiliations suffered through his career.”

On DECEMBER 2, 2019, Dan P. McAdams wrote in The Atlantic:

“…At its mythic heart, narcissism is a story of disappointment. The ancient source is the Greek tale of Narcissus, a beautiful young boy who falls in love with his reflection in a pool. Captivated with his beguiling image, Narcissus vows never to leave the object of his desire. But the reflection—forever outside his embrace—fails to reciprocate, and as a result Narcissus melts away (in one version of the story), a victim of the passion burning inside of him. The lover’s inconsolable disappointment is that he cannot consummate his love for the reflection, his love for himself.

A real-life narcissist, by contrast, manages to take his eyes off himself just long enough to find out if others are looking at him. And if the narcissist has admirers, this makes him feel good. It temporarily boosts his self-esteem.

Likewise, his admirers feel a rush of excitement and allure. They enjoy being in the presence of such a beautiful figure—or a powerful, creative, dynamic, charismatic, or intriguing figure. They bask in his reflected glory, even if they find his self-obsession to be unseemly. As time passes, however, the admirers grow weary. Once upon a time, they thought the narcissist was the greatest, but now they suspect that he is not. Or maybe they just get tired of him, and disgusted with all the self-admiration. They become disappointed, for very few narcissists can consistently provide the sufficient beauty, power, and greatness to sustain long-term unconditional devotion. In the end, everybody loses. The former fans loathe themselves for being fools, or else they blame the narcissist for fooling them. And the narcissist never attains what can never be humanly attained anyway: supreme and unending love and adoration of the self…”

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