Erich von Stroheim (1885-1957) was one of the true giants of American film history. For years, however his life has been wreathed in myths, many of his own devising. Lennig has scoured European and American archives for details concerning Stroheim's life, and counters several long accepted and oft-repeated claims. Stroheim's tales of military experience are almost completely fictitious; the ""von"" in his name was an affectation adopted at Ellis Island in 1909; he couldn't possibly have participated in the production of ""Birth of a Nation"" in 1914. Wherever Stroheim lived he was an outsider: a Jew in Vienna, an Austrian in Southern California, an American in France. Undoubtedly this contributed to an almost pathological need to embellish and obscure his past. Yet it also may have been the key to his genius both behind and in front of the camera. As an actor, Stroheim threw himself into his portrayals of evil men, relishing his epithet ""The Man You Love to Hate"". As a director, he immersed himself in every facet of production, including script writing and costume design. In 1923 after submitting his masterpiece ""Greed"", infamous for its eight hour running time, his obsession with detail finally cost him his directorial career. He returned to acting, saving some of his finest performances for ""La Grande Illusion"" (1937) and Billy Wilder's ""Sunset Boulevard"" (1950).