Greed , the screen adaptation of the Frank Norris story, McTeague, was directed by Erich von Stroheim. He utilized two years and over $700,000 of Goldwyn and possibly some Metro money in its making.
Stroheim shot 130 reels in the two years. He finally cut it to 26 reels and told Metro-Goldwyn executives that was the best he could do. It was then taken into hand and cut to 10 reels.
McTeague, a worker in a gold mine, serves an apprenticeship with an itinerant dentist and in years after sets up an office in Market street, San Francisco. A chum brings in his cousin as a patient. McTeague falls in love with her, but, before Mac and she are married, the girl wins a $5,000 lottery prize.
Several years afterward, the chum, revengeful because of his failure to share in the spoils, tips off the Dentists’ Society that Mac is practicing without a license. Mac then drifts from bad to worse. With a few drinks of whiskey under his belt he walks out on the money-grabbing wife. Months later he runs across her. She is working as a scrubwoman. He tries to compel her to give him money, later murdering her to secure it.
After the crime Mac makes his way to the desert, in the direction of Death Valley. A posse starts after him from a small New Mexico town. In it is the former chum, still actuated by his greed for the $5,000.
The picture brings to light three great character performances by Gibson Gowland as McTeague, Jean Hersholt as the chum, and ZaSu Pitts as the wife. Chester Conklin is another who registers with a performance that is marked, although it is noticeable the part that Stroheim’s direction plays in it.