The story of the making of the movie has become a Hollywood legend. Von Stroheim attempted to film a version of the book complete in every detail. To capture the authentic spirit of the story, he insisted on the filming on location in San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada mountains, despite harsh conditions. The result was a final print of the film that was over ten hours in length, produced at a cost of over $500,000--an unheard of sum at that time. The studio forced him to edit the film to a more manageable length, and he reluctantly delivered a print with a running time of just over four hours. The film was then removed from his control and cut further, despite his protests. Even key characters were removed from the final version so that it could be screened in a reasonable timeframe. Existing prints of Greed run at about two hours and twenty minutes. The hours of cut film were destroyed, and this film is known as one of the most famous "lost" movies of Hollywood. (Other classic films with missing footage include Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons and Frank Capra's Lost Horizon.)
The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.