Fritz Lang


Director, Screenwriter
Fritz Lang

About

Also Known As
Friedrich Christian Anton Lang
Birth Place
Austria
Born
December 05, 1890
Died
August 02, 1976

Biography

A dark visionary whose meditations on human loneliness where punctuated by a stark visual style and an obsessive work ethic, Austrian director Fritz Lang made a number of acclaimed silent and talkie films in Germany before fleeing the Nazis to become a noted practitioner of film noir in Hollywood. Lang's often fatalistic worldview was on full display early in his career with the silent e...

Photos & Videos

Ministry of Fear - Movie Posters
You and Me - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Ministry of Fear - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

Thea Von Harbou
Wife
Novelist; screenwriter. Married August 1922, divorced 1933; co-wrote Lang's films 1920-33; first husband was Rudolph Klein-Rogge, actor who played title role in the silent Mabuse films and in such other Lang efforts as "Metropolis" (1926) and "Spies" (1928).
Lily Latte
Wife
Writer. Survived him.

Bibliography

"The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity"
Tom Gunning, British Film Institute (2000)
"Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast"
Patrick McGilligan, St. Martin's Press (1996)

Notes

Lang's fourth film "Harakiri" (1919), long thought to have been lost, was uncovered in a Dutch film archive in the 1980s and restored. It was shown in L.A. as part of a 2001 retrospective of the director's work.

Biography

A dark visionary whose meditations on human loneliness where punctuated by a stark visual style and an obsessive work ethic, Austrian director Fritz Lang made a number of acclaimed silent and talkie films in Germany before fleeing the Nazis to become a noted practitioner of film noir in Hollywood. Lang's often fatalistic worldview was on full display early in his career with the silent epic "Metropolis" (1927), a stunning cinematic achievement that influenced countless science fiction films throughout the decades. With "M" (1931), his first movie with sound, he crafted a dark and disturbing tale that introduced the wider world to actor Peter Lorre. After fleeing the Nazis following "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" (1933), Lang found his way to Hollywood, where he began a long tenure directing a variety of genres, though ultimately specializing in film noir like "Fury" (1936). He tried his hand at the Western with "The Return of Frank James" (1940) and "Western Union" (1941), both of which proved exceedingly popular with audiences, before returning his focus almost exclusively on noirs like "The Woman in the Window" (1944) and "Scarlet Street" (1945). Following another popular Western, "Rancho Notorious" (1952), starring Marlene Dietrich, Lang directed "The Big Heat" (1953), a classic film noir long considered on of the best ever made in the genre. He made only a few more films for Hollywood before returning to Germany, where he ended his career on a soft note with "The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse" (1960). Despite living out the remainder of his life in relative quiet, Lang was later championed by a wide swath of filmmakers like Jean-Luc Goddard, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese for his pioneering vision and profound impact on the art of filmmaking.

Born on Dec. 5, 1890 in Vienna, Austria, Lang was raised by his father, Anton, an architect, and his Jewish mother, Paula, who later converted to Catholicism and raised her son in that particular faith. After finishing his primary education, he followed in his father's footsteps and briefly studied architecture at Technische Hochshule, only to make the switch to art at the School of Arts and Crafts in Munich and later the Academie Julien in Paris. Once World War I broke out across Europe, Lang returned to Vienna and volunteered to join the Austrian army. Wounded three times - he lost vision in his right eye - while fighting in Russia and Romania, he was eventually discharged from his service with the rank of lieutenant and not long after, began acting in the Viennese theatre. Lang also ventured into screenwriting, penning "The Wedding in the Eccentric Club" (1917) and "Hilde Warren and Death" (1917), and was soon hired by producer Erich Pommer to write for the German-based production company, Decla.

Lang was soon motivated to become a director, a career that began with The Half-Caste" (1919), a tale of revenge lost to the sands of time. He later directed the first film of a two-part international thriller called "The Spiders "(1920). Part one, subtitled "The Golden Lake," proved so popular that his producers insisted Lang immediately make part two, "The Diamond Ship." Following "The Wandering Image" (1920), Lang's career rose to spectacular heights of fame. With each film, he became more assured, garnering critical acclaim as well as a popular following. Lang directed the mammoth four-hour "Dr. Mabuse the Gambler" (1922), a two-part film that marked the first of three movies he helmed featuring the titular character, a mast criminal who uses disguise and hypnosis to con unwitting victims out of their money. He next directed another two-part film, "Die Nibelungen" (1924), an epic fantasy based on a 13th century poem that feature stark and stunning imagery, including a weeping willow tree that transforms into a skull. But all was a precursor to the science fiction epic, "Metropolis" (1927), a groundbreaking film that influenced all other sci-fi films in the decades that followed, including "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968), "Star Wars" (1977) and "The Matrix" (1999), as well as even music videos, such as the David-Fincher-directed "Express Yourself" video by Madonna. Set in a futuristic dystopian world where mankind has been divided over industrialization and runaway technology into thinkers and workers. Undoubtedly prescient about the future, "Metropolis" was a landmark film in cinema history, not only for its sheer breadth and special effects wizardry, but also for the amount of money spent on production - made all the more surprising since it was a product of the Weimar Republic, not Hollywood.

Lang made his last two silent films, "Spies" (1928) and "Woman in the Moon" (1929), before making the remarkable transition to sound with "M" (1931), a powerful study of a child serial killer (Peter Lorre) pursued by both police and the criminal underworld. Another cinematic classic, "M" stood the test of time as being one of Lang's finest works - and his own personal favorite - while introducing the world to Lorre, who was unfortunately typecast as a criminal for a great portion of his career thanks to this role. Meanwhile, Lang ran afoul of Nazi authorities with "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" (1933), when the Third Reich accused him of anti-Nazi sentiments because the villains in the movie mouthed their propaganda. Though the film was banned, Lang was allegedly asked by the Nazi's Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, to make films for the Third Reich. Lang declined and fled Germany for Paris, leaving behind most of his personal possessions, as well as his wife, screenwriter Thea von Harboum, with whom he already had a falling out with over her joining the Nazi party. While in Paris, he directed "Liliom" (1934), a fantasy about a carnival barker (Charles Boyer) who commits suicide to avoid prosecution for a robbery gone bad, only to find himself trapped in purgatory until he returns to Earth and does one good deed.

"Liliom" was ill-received in France despite its merits, which prompted Lang to make a move to Hollywood, where he spent the next 20 years working in a variety of genres, though he ultimately became associated for his excellent work in film noir. His first movie for Hollywood, "Fury" (1936), was one of his best, a thriller about an innocent man (Spencer Tracy) who escapes a lynching and seeks revenge against the small town mob that prosecuted him. He followed up with the Depression-era drama, "You Only Live Once" (1937), starring Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney, before venturing into the world of Technicolor for two popular Westerns, "The Return of Frank James" (1940) and "Western Union" (1941). But his journey into the Wild West was brief, as Lang returned to the film noir on "Man Hunt" (1941), "Hangmen Also Die!" (1943) and "The Woman in the Window" (1944), the last being a tale of blackmail and murder starring Edward G. Robinson that proved to be one of his finer efforts in the genre. Lang reunited with his main cast from "The Woman in the Window" for "Scarlet Street" (1945), a bleak psychological noir about an ordinary man (Robinson) who falls prey to vice and murder, thanks to his involvement with a woman (Joan Bennett) who believes him to be a famous painter.

Lang went through a period in his career where he directed effective, but rather underwhelming crime films like "Cloak and Dagger" (1946), "Secret Beyond the Door" (1948) and "The House by the River" (1950). He returned to the Technicolor Westerns with "Rancho Notorious" (1952), which starred Marlene Dietrich as the matron of a criminal hideout and Arthur Kennedy who poses as a prisoner to gain entry in order to exact revenge on the killers of his fiancée. Lang followed up with "The Big Heat" (1953), an all-time classic film noir about a hardboiled cop (Glenn Ford) navigating the criminal underworld while investigating a string of murders. Taut, tense and unyieldingly violent - at least for its time - the film featured Lee Marvin in one of his most notorious roles, playing an out-of-control thug whose unleashes his fury in a famous scene by disfiguring Gloria Grahame's face with scolding hot coffee. Lang directed yet another film noir, "Human Desire" (1954), which focused on a railroad worker (Ford) compelled to murder in order to protect a sexy young woman (Grahame) from her drunk and abusive husband (Broderick Crawford).

After helming two more installments into the film noir canon - "While the City Sleeps" (1956) and "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" (1956) - Lang tired of Hollywood and returned to Germany. Back where his career had begun, he embarked on his last set of films, which included what became informally known as his Indian Epics, "The Tiger of Eschnapur" (1959) and "The Indian Tomb" (1959), both of which were rather mundane efforts despite lavish production design. Lang directed what ultimately became his last film, "The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse" (1960), a return to familiar ground that sparked renewed interest in the character and spawned a number of sequels, though the director had no involvement in any of the subsequent films. Meanwhile, Lang made a rare onscreen appearance as himself in Jean-Luc Godard's "Contempt" (1963), though the circumstances in the film were entirely fictional. That performance wound up being the last time Lang was involved in any film either in front of or behind the camera. He made his way back to Hollywood and lived out the remainder of his life in quiet fashion before passing away at age 85 in his Beverly Hills home on Aug. 2, 1976. As witnessed by the likes of Stanley Kubrick, William Friedkin, George Lucas and David Fincher among many others, Fritz Lang left behind a legacy as a pioneering director who influenced numerous generations of filmmakers.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1966)
Director
The Indian Tomb (1959)
Director
Tiger of Bengal (1959)
Director
Der Tiger von Eschnapur (1959)
Director
While the City Sleeps (1956)
Director
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)
Director
Moonfleet (1955)
Director
Human Desire (1954)
Director
The Blue Gardenia (1953)
Director
The Big Heat (1953)
Director
Clash by Night (1952)
Director
Rancho Notorious (1952)
Director
American Guerrilla in the Philippines (1950)
Director
House by the River (1950)
Director
Secret Beyond the Door (1948)
Director
Cloak and Dagger (1946)
Director
Scarlet Street (1945)
Director
The Woman in the Window (1944)
Director
Ministry of Fear (1944)
Director
Hangmen Also Die! (1943)
Director
Moontide (1942)
Director
Confirm or Deny (1941)
Director
Man Hunt (1941)
Director
Western Union (1941)
Director
The Return of Frank James (1940)
Director
You and Me (1938)
Director
You Only Live Once (1937)
Director
Fury (1936)
Director
Liliom (1935)
Un film de [A film by]
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
Director
M (1930)
Director
Die Frau im Mond (1929)
Director
Spione (1928)
Director
Metropolis (1926)
Director
Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache (1924)
Director
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924)
Director
Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922)
Director
Vier um die Frau (1921)
Director
Das Wandernde Bild (1920)
Director
Die Spinnen, 2. Teil: Das Brillantenschiff (1920)
Director
Die Spinnen (1920)
Director
Halbblut (1919)
Director
Der Herr der Liebe (1919)
Director
Harakiri (1919)
Director
Die Spinnen, 1. Teil: Der Goldene See (1919)
Director

Assistant Direction (Feature Film)

Die Herrin der Welt (1920)
Assistant Director

Cast (Feature Film)

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)
Himself
The Exiles (1989)
Himself
75 Years of Cinema Museum (1972)
Himself
Contempt (1964)
Himself, the director
Der Herr der Liebe (1919)
Hilde Warren und der Tod (1917)

Writer (Feature Film)

The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1966)
Screenwriter
The Indian Tomb (1959)
Writer (Adaptation)
The Indian Tomb (1959)
Screenplay
Hangmen Also Die! (1943)
Adapted and Original story
Fury (1936)
Screenwriter
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
Screenplay
M (1930)
Screenplay
Die Frau im Mond (1929)
Screenplay
Spione (1928)
Screenplay
Spione (1928)
From Story
Metropolis (1926)
Screenplay
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924)
Writer
The Indian Tomb (1921)
Screenwriter
Vier um die Frau (1921)
Screenwriter
Das Wandernde Bild (1920)
Screenwriter
Die Spinnen (1920)
Screenwriter
Die Pest in Florenz (1919)
Screenwriter
Totentanz (1919)
Screenwriter
Lilith und Ly (1919)
Screenwriter
Halbblut (1919)
Screenwriter
Die Rache Ist Mein (1918)
Screenwriter
Hilde Warren und der Tod (1917)
Screenwriter
Die Peitsche (1916)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1966)
Producer
Secret Beyond the Door (1948)
Producer
Scarlet Street (1945)
Producer
Hangmen Also Die! (1943)
Producer
You and Me (1938)
Producer
Die Frau im Mond (1929)
Producer
Spione (1928)
Producer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Cloak and Dagger (1946)
Company
You and Me (1938)
Company

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995)
Other
The Exiles (1989)
Other
Splendor (1988)
Other
Heaven (1987)
Other
The Man Who Envied Women (1986)
Other
Android (1982)
Other

Life Events

1909

Left home

1916

Lost vision in right eye; discharged (as lieutenant)

1917

First filmscripts sold "Die Hochzeit im Exzentrikklub/The Wedding in the Eccentric Club" and "Hilde Warren und der Tod/Hilde Warren and Death"

1917

Film acting debut (as "Death") in "Hilde Warren und der Tod/Hilde Warren and Death"

1918

Hired as screenwriter, Decla film company (Berlin)

1919

Film directing debut with "Halbblut/The Half-Caste" (also screenwriter; no longer exists)

1920

Left Decla; signed with Joe May as director for "Das Wandernde Bild/The Wandering Image" (no longer exists)

1920

Left May; returned to Decla (merged to become Decla-Bioscop)

1920

Rights to "Der Mude Tod/Destiny" bought by Douglas Fairbanks

1928

Founded production company Fritz-Lang-Films (released through UFA)

1933

Refused work as director of Nazi propaganda films; left Germany for Paris

1934

Left Paris

1934

Hired as director by David O Selznick, MGM

1935

Became American citizen

1936

Contract with MGM not renewed

1940

First color film and Western as director "The Return of Frank James" (for Fox)

1944

Co-founded production company Diana Productions

1948

Diana Productions went bankrupt

1952

Last Western directed (for RKO) "Rancho Notorious"

1956

Last American film directed "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt"

1960

Last film directed "Die tausend Augen des Dr. Mabuse/The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse"

1960

Last role as actor in "Le Mepris/Contempt" (Jean-Luc Godard film; Lang played himself)

Photo Collections

Ministry of Fear - Movie Posters
Ministry of Fear - Movie Posters
You and Me - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
You and Me - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Ministry of Fear - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Ministry of Fear - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
While the City Sleeps - Pressbook
Here is the original campaign book (pressbook) for While the City Sleeps (1956). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
Metropolis - Movie Poster
Here is the Window Card from the original American release of Metrololis (1927), directed by Fritz Lang. Window Cards were 14x22 mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate information.
The Big Heat - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release American movie posters from Columbia Pictures' The Big Heat (1953), directed by Fritz Lang and starring Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame.
Moonfleet - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Moonfleet (1955), starring Stewart Granger, Viveca Lindfors, and George Sanders, and directed by Fritz Lang.
Fury - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Fury (1936), directed by Fritz Lang and starring Spencer Tracy.

Videos

Movie Clip

Testament Of Dr. Mabuse, The (1933) -- Between Genius And Madness A well known scene from director Fritz Lang, the introduction of a central character, Professor-Doctor Baum (Oscar Beregi Sr.), offering students his startling conclusions about the title character, early in The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse, 1933.
Testament Of Dr. Mabuse, The (1933) -- Give Him A Shot Police commissioner Lohmann (Otto Wernicke, seen in the same role in director Fritz Lang's M, 1931) casing a crime scene, as Professor-Doctor Baum (Oscar Beregi Sr.) has a weird visit with the title character in his cell, in The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse, 1933.
Metropolis (1926) - The Tower Of Babel In the secret chapel in the catacombs beneath the city, Maria (Brigitte Helm) with one of the wildest sequences supporting her parable, directed by Fritz Lang from his script, co-written with his wife Thea von Harbau, from her novel, in Metropolis, 1926.
Contempt (1963) - A Story Of That World Ever unorthodox Jean-Luc Godard narrates his own credits, the opening to his 1963 movie-business tale Contempt, starring Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli and Jack Palance, from a novel by Alberto Moravia.
Contempt (1963) - I Like Gods Unhappy producer Prokosch (Jack Palance) and writer Paul (Michel Piccoli) drop in on Fritz Lang (playing himself) and screening his fictional "Odysseus," in Jean-Luc Godard's movie-business commentary Contempt, 1963.
Hangmen Also Die (1943) - Our LIves Becoming Forfeit For His Professor Novotny (Walter Brennan) allows himself to be arrested in a Nazi roundup in Prague, protecting Svoboda (Brian Donlevy) and panicking his wife (Nana Bryant) and daughter (Anna Lee) in Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die, 1943.
Hangmen Also Die (1943) - We Checked Your Story Quick series of Nazi interrogations from director Fritz Lang as Mascha (Anna Lee), the professor (Walter Brennan) and his wife (Nana Bryant) and Mrs. Dvorak (Sarah Padden) are victimized in Hangmen Also Die, 1943.
Hangmen Also Die (1943) - Who Started This Applause? Svoboda (Brian Donlevy), whom we don't know to actually be guilty, slips into a Prague theater as word spreads that Reichsprotector Heydrich, "The Hangman," has been shot, in Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die, 1943.
Woman In The Window, The (1944) - Thanks For The Dime Having committed no offense but justifiable homicide, Professor Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) leaves Joan Bennett (title character) with the body of her sponsor, flees New York to the north, and encounters a toll collector (Joe Devlin), Fritz Lang making it more than tense, in The Woman In The Window, 1944.
Woman In The Window, The (1944) - Some Psychological Aspects Of Homicide Opening doesn’t seem for a moment incidental, establishing Edward G. Robinson as composed professor Wanley, Dorothy Peterson his wife departing for the summer with the kids, Raymond Massey and Edmond Breon as his friendly colleagues, and a portrait of Joan Bennett, in Fritz Lang’s chilling The Woman In The Window, 1944.
Woman In The Window, The (1944) - What Kind Of A Guy Is He? Alice (Joan Bennett) serves a drink to the blackmailer Heidt (Dan Duryea) in Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window, 1944.
Woman In The Window, The (1944) - Scissors All Right? Claude Mazard (Arthur Loft) makes his only appearance, unexpected by Alice (Joan Bennett) and innocent visitor Professor Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) in this pivotal scene from The Woman In The Window, 1944.

Trailer

Woman in the Window, The - (Original Trailer) Joan Bennett gets innocent professor Edward G. Robinson mixed up in murder in Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window (1944).
Moonfleet - (Original Trailer) A British buccaneer (Stewart Granger) is torn among three seductive women in Fritz Lang's Moonfleet (1955).
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt -- (Original Trailer) Director Fritz Lang's last American movie, Beyond A Reasonable Doubt (1956), concerns a novelist (Dana Andrews) who frames himself for murder.
Clash by Night - (Original Trailer) An embittered woman (Barbara Stanwyck) seeks escape in marriage, only to fall for her husband's friend (Robert Ryan) in Clash by Night (1952), directed by Fritz Lang.
Rancho Notorious - (Original Trailer) A cowboy (Arthur Kennedy) infiltrates a bandit hideaway - the Chuck-a-Luck - in search of his girlfriend's killer in Rancho Notorious (1952), Fritz Lang's cult Western featuring Marlene Dietrich in one of her definitive screen portrayals.
Ministry Of Fear - (Original Trailer) Ray Milland gets the microfilm and into a lot of trouble in Fritz Lang's Ministry Of Fear (1944), based on the Graham Greene novel.
Fury -- (Original Trailer) An innocent man (Spencer Tracy) escapes a lynch mob and then returns for revenge in Fury (1936), directed by Fritz Lang.
Metropolis - (2010 Re-release trailer) A trailer for the newly restored silent science-fiction masterpiece, Metropolis (1927).
Big Heat, The - (Re-issue trailer) Police detective Glenn Ford teams with gangster's moll Gloria Grahame after his wife is murdered by the mob in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953).

Family

Anton Lang
Father
Architect.
Paula Schlesinger
Mother
Jewish; later converted to Catholicism.

Companions

Thea Von Harbou
Wife
Novelist; screenwriter. Married August 1922, divorced 1933; co-wrote Lang's films 1920-33; first husband was Rudolph Klein-Rogge, actor who played title role in the silent Mabuse films and in such other Lang efforts as "Metropolis" (1926) and "Spies" (1928).
Lily Latte
Wife
Writer. Survived him.

Bibliography

"The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity"
Tom Gunning, British Film Institute (2000)
"Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast"
Patrick McGilligan, St. Martin's Press (1996)

Notes

Lang's fourth film "Harakiri" (1919), long thought to have been lost, was uncovered in a Dutch film archive in the 1980s and restored. It was shown in L.A. as part of a 2001 retrospective of the director's work.