Erich von Stroheim was an Austrian-born film star of the silent era, subsequently noted as an auteur for his directorial work. As an actor, he is noted for his arrogant Teutonic character parts which led him to be described as "not a character actor, but what a character!". Playing villainous German roles during the Great War, he became known as "The Man You Love to Hate".
Stroheim's most recent biographers, such as Richard Koszarski, say that he was born in Vienna, Austria in 1885 as Erich Oswald Stroheim, the son of Benno Stroheim, a middle-class hat-maker, and Johanna Bondy, both of whom were practicing Jews.
Stroheim himself claimed to be Count Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria von Stroheim und Nordenwall, the son of Austrian nobility like the characters he played in his films, but both Billy Wilder and Stroheim's agent Paul Kohner claimed that he spoke with a decidedly lower-class Austrian accent. However Jean Renoir writes in his memoirs: ?Stroheim spoke hardly any German. He had to study his lines like a schoolboy learning a foreign language.? Later, while living in Europe, Stroheim claimed in published remarks to have "forgotten" his native tongue.
Stroheim was a great fantasist and his authorized biography contains many factual errors.