Cast & Crew
Count Franz Maxmillian von Hohenegg, young and dashing personal aide to Franz Josef in prewar Vienna, though engaged to the stately Countess Gisella (daughter of the war minister), encounters pretty ingenue Agnes Urban. She is an organ-grinder for a merry-go-round and employee (along with Sylvester, her father, a puppeteer), of Shani Huber, a brutal concessionaire. The count, posing as a necktie salesman, courts the comely lass, his infatuation deepening; realizing his love, he tries unsuccessfully to break off his engagement, and the wedding takes place as planned. Agnes and her father denounce the count when they discover his imposture, but Agnes continues to care for him. During the war Agnes bands together with some of the circus people, including Bartholomew, a hunchback and fellow circus worker in love with her, whose pet orangutan kills the evil Huber. The count meets Sylvester Urban dying on the battlefield and is stunned at the old man's hateful denunciation, delivered with his dying breath. Franz returns from the war a widower, stripped of his rank. He is rejected by Agnes, who, believing him dead, has promised to marry Bartholomew, but Franz and Agnes are united when Bartholomew steps aside.
Charles L. King
Harry B. Johnson
E. E. Sheeley
Erich Von Stroheim
Erich Von Stroheim
By 1922 director and writer Erich von Stroheim was the most powerful filmmaker at Universal Studios. His films Blind Husbands (1919), The Devil's Passkey (1920) and Foolish Wives (1922) were the studio's biggest moneymakers. The last film, however, was one of its biggest money drains as well. Stroheim had shot miles of film and fussed over the smallest details. He created a masterpiece but one too long for the exhibitors and too suggestive for the censors. Universal chopped the film down, and then sought someone to bring Stroheim's future costs under control. They found him in studio boss Carl Laemmle's personal secretary, twenty-three-year old Irving Thalberg.
Thalberg was placed in charge of the studio while Laemmle was in Europe and he moved swiftly to keep a tight rein on Stroheim's new production Merry-Go-Round. First he refused Stroheim's request to play the lead in the film, which should have been a sure sign to the director that Thalberg was keeping open the option of replacing him without losing film already shot. Stroheim, however, did not take the hint. He continued to run up excessive costs, refusing to shoot one scene because the grass was the wrong shade of green despite the film being in black-and-white and calling halt to another shoot because mounted guards in the background did not have the appropriate amount of material inside their saddlebags.
After Stroheim had finished approximately one-quarter of the film, Thalberg finally had enough and dismissed him. The firing sent shock waves through Hollywood. Until then the director had been king of the studio lot. Now, under Thalberg, directors would become replaceable hired men under the control of the front office. Rupert Julian, with only one low-budget western to his credit, was put in the director's chair and production immediately resumed. Julian would go on to become Universal's new favored director, especially after he and Merry-Go-Round stars Norman Kerry and Mary Philbin made the studio's most famous silent-era hit, The Phantom Of The Opera, in 1925.
What part of the surviving film is Stroheim's and which Julian's has been a matter of controversy ever since. Although Stroheim is known to have directed the first few sequences of the film and a later orgy scene, he also wrote the script for the entire film and his story was used even though it was substantially shortened and sweetened. Gone was Stroheim's portrait of the last days of the beautiful but decadent Austro-Hungarian Empire and what remained was a love story between a lofty count and a lowly girl in an amusement park.
Those who, nevertheless, want to view this movie with its touches of the Stroheim genius can now do so thanks to Image Entertainment which has released Merry-Go-Round on DVD. The film exists today only on 16mm copies made for home viewing during the 1920s. Restoration wizard David Shepard used two of these prints to create this DVD and, despite the lower gauge and scratches on the film from wear, the image is clear and sharp. The original color tinting has been retained and the movie features musical accompaniment by Brian Benison based on the original 1923 performance score.
For more information about Merry-Go-Round, visit Image Entertainment. To order Merry-Go-Round, go to TCM Shopping.
by Brian Cady
Producer Irving Thalberg replaced Erich von Stroheim, the film's original director, with Rupert Julian halfway through the production. In a telegram to the New York Times, published July 22, 1923, Julian stated that with the exception of about 600 ft., the entire production was directed by him. That Finis Fox wrote the treatment is unconfirmed. No screen credit was given for writers. Fox's name appears in company records.