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Epic silent film to air Saturday in Auburn

Portions of 'Greed' shot in 1924 in Iowa Hill
By: Gloria Beverage
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“Greed,” a film some critics claim is the greatest movie ever to grace the silver screen, will be shown at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Gold Country Museum, 1273 High St. (inside the Gold Country Fairgrounds) in Auburn. “The film is a morality tale that illustrates the destructive nature of greed as three people, whose lives are intertwined, struggle until the bitter end for wealth,” said Placer County Museums Program Director Ralph Gibson. Portions of the silent film, based on the novel “McTeague,” were shot in the historic mining town of Iowa Hill in 1923. When residents of Iowa Hill got word the opening scenes of a movie were going to be shot at the Big Dipper Mine as well as other locations in town, they were more than thrilled. In the Feb. 9, 1923 edition of the Colfax Record, Editor/Publisher Scoop Thurman reported, “The filming of McTeague will revive in the minds of many memories –– pleasant and otherwise –– of the Big Dipper Mine.” More than 40 miners and their families were hired as extras and many more were hired as crew for the epic silent film, which later became known as “Greed.” After 18 months on location – moving from Iowa Hill to San Francisco and Oakland and then to Death Valley –– director Erich Von Stroheim had 50 reels of film. Much to his dismay, Louis B. Mayer, then head of Goldwyn, ordered the film cut to 10 reels. “The version we have is the one that was reassembled by a film curator in Washington, D.C.,” Gibson explained. “While most of the film was cut from nine hours to two hours, the version we have has been restored with the inclusion of screen stills from the cut portions that – along with the subtitles – advance all the story lines that were originally cut.” The version being presented on Saturday is 3 hours and 48 minutes long. “After a brief introduction, we will show half of the film, take a 15- to 20-minute intermission, then screen the last half,” Gibson said. “Greed” is one of four films shot locally being featured in a new exhibit, “History on the Go, the Silver Screen Edition” at the Placer County Museum. Because seating is limited, reservations are required. For more information or to make a reservation, call 889-6500.