Biography of Fritz Lang (1890-1976)

Director, screenwriter and producer of American cinema, of Austrian origin, whose real name was Friedrich Christian Anton Lang, born in Vienna on December 5, 1890 and died on August 2, 1976 in Los Angeles (California).


Son of Anton Lang, an architect of much prestige in Vienna, and Paula Schlesinger, childhood and youth of the future great director was aimed at the graphical steps of his father (from 1908 to 1910 studied at the school of technical sciences of the Academy of graphic arts in Vienna) but, when age had to decide for itselfHe moved house and changed the architecture to the arts. Interestingly, the education received by Lang was decisive inasmuch as it delved into the physical spaces of expressionism - must remember that the decorations were entirely rebuilt in the studies, so Lang could add a new objective and balanced a movement too emotional and subjective way.

Since he/she is leaving the family home, the Lang life is fairly chaotic: studied painting at the school of Arts and crafts in Munich, lives a season in Paris, we know that he/she visited Asia minor, dived into the South seas, met Indonesia, stepped on North Africa and ventured by China, Japan and the Tsarist Russia. In 1911 it was selling postcards of famous paintings in a typical Brussels Café, but business not brought him poor, so he/she traveled to Munich, Amsterdam and Italy. In 1913, back to Paris, won the life designing fashion, drawing comic strips for German newspapers and painted and sold his own watercolors of the Cathedral of Chartres. The arrival of the first world war cut short his wishes to expose his extensive art collection gathered in their extensive travels around the world. And, of course, had a problem: Fritz Lang was Austrian, so he/she was arrested by the French police, but it is not known how, escaped and enlisted in the ranks of the Austrian army. Wounded a few times (one of them let you without the vision of the right eye, that he/she would then be one of the famous wrongs of Hollywood, along with Ford, Walsh and Ray) and decorated according to some twice, according to others, seven, began to write short stories and some script (a history of werewolves was never sold) during one of his stays at the hospital. There he/she met the director and German producer Joe May, for which he/she wrote in 1916 two completely original scripts: Die Hochzeit Im Exzentrik Klub and Hilde Warren Und Der Tod, which were brought to the screen the next year. Also in the hospital, Lang played an important role in a charity function on the war. His performance caught a Decla film producer representative and invited him to travel to Berlin to work with them. There met Lang with the omnipresent producer Erich Pommer, who gave him a job as a script reader and then promoted him to screenwriter serial and historical films. The majority of these films have not been preserved, even the titles have disappeared almost completely. You know, so he/she said, proud, Pommer, the first script for Decla was Die Peitsche (1916), Adolf Gärtner; but, as many directors who previously were screenwriters, it was the ineptitude of policymakers to put images to their scripts what he/she did move on to address to direct his own screenplays. In 1919, Pommer entrusted the filming of Halbblut, a complete success which continues the spiders (1919), returning to enchant the audience and critics. Pommer speaks to him of the possibility to carry out the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), which excited lang and suggests that you add you a parallel story; but the film distributors expect the second part of the spiders, so Pommer was forced to grant the project to Robert Wiene. The rest is well known history.

After rolling an impersonal and boring, although worthy (the matter was little with him), version of Madame Butterfly (1919) whose only incentive was the presence of Lil Dagover and, before tackling the two chapters of his great work the doctor Mabuse (1922), German, Fritz Lang wheel the magnificent and beautiful three lights (1921), scripted by the director and Thea von Harbouthat it had begun to collaborate with Lang a year earlier. The film has its roots in the great Germanic, philosophical tales about the relations of men with death and the German romantic literature, these elements, along with the aesthetic principles of expressionism inflated by Lang, the exotic of the argument (a villa in 1830, which has all the appearance of the middle ages, the heroin - Lil Dagover - is transported to the 9th century)the Venice of the 17TH and an ancient China), fruit of the previous voyages of Lang, and the fact that each episode is filmed with operators and decorators different (yet possessing a sense of original and fascinating set), make the film an unforgettable artwork, as unforgettable Bernhard Goetzke, that is death, tired of roaming between time and nothing.

The following year becomes the doctor Mabuse, with its two chapters, which constitutes the most portentous piece of cinema. Released three years after the beginning of the Weimar Republic, at a time that Germany must do an amalgam unprecedented extremist face and an economic crisis that involves the future of the country, the film is the tragic evidence of a society in full decomposition. Under multiple disguises, Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) we are everywhere. In front of him, the Attorney General is (again, Bernhard Goetzke) which, interestingly, will use partly the same weapons, harassing those who can serve you, betraying the diabolical doctor and masquerading it. Calculator demonic and without scruples, with a small army of accomplices to his orders, Mabuse announces a potential danger... Eleven years later, Hitler is, in fact, Chancellor. Admirably built, the doctor Mabuse is both a disturbing of the Germany then reflection and a detective film exciting, although it is convenient to point out that it is not the work of a filmmaker at the peak of his career nor of maturity, but of a great director who has failed to still the thirty-two years, and takes only three rolling.

A year after another work of enormous magnitude, the Nibelungen (1923); in 1924, the von Harbou actor who gives life to the doctor Mabuse, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, divorces and marries Lang, until in 1934 it decides to travel to Hollywood. Thea, very patriotic, preferred to remain in Germany, where became the official writer of the Third Reich, but the absence of Lang uncovered the lesser talent of his ex-wife that never reach the high rates that reached near him. Prior to this they put in scene the great Metropolis (1926). Today is difficult to appreciate the true meaning that Lang wanted to give to his work, as it has been cut and trimmed to the taste of each one, above all in the pre-nazi Germany. In 1984, a colorized version by filters, accompanied by a horrible Giorgo Moroder synthesizer music, was released with only 1 hour and 20 minutes; on the other hand, in Europe is one of two hours. Both views, none comes to materialize: there are ambiguities in the screenplay little comprehensible and too candid and paternalistic to Lang, but the setting in scene, surprising, is a continuous succession of eye-popping visions that are among the most fascinating pieces of film history.

But Lang was always these mounting problems. His first sound film, M, the vampire of Dusseldorf (1931), also suffered cuts on all sides, first of the producer, the Nero Films, then by the American Distributor. Anyway, Lang ended almost complaining of this terrifying story of a city in search of a killer pedophile (a sublime Peter Lorre) who loves the night and shadows. Lang tried to emphasize the realistic sense, with the characters, but Expressionism flows even in his veins in a subliminal way. The advent of the Nazis to power in 1933, takes you to start the filming of the testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) intimate and consistent criticism against the National Socialist Party, disguised as police fantastic. But not strain and Goebbels, the Minister of culture, called him to ask for explanations. Lang is surprised when offered the direction of the German film industry, i.e., propaganda Nazi direction. Of course, accept, but that same night, without luggage or wife, flees by train to Paris. There wheel for other illustrious emigrated, Erich Pommer, his only film French, Liliom (1933). Adaptation of a piece by the Hungarian writer Ferenc Molnár, Liliom is a movie apart in the career of Lang, who has little to show from the point of view of the plot, but that already carries all the thematic elements so dear lang: guilt and innocence, responsibility and justice, fate and redemption. A curiosity that should not be overlooked.

In 1934 to the United States (later it would nationalize American). The first months of the master of German Expressionism in Hollywood land, are not easy because it rejected its first projects. In 1936 the Metro Goldwyn Mayer does not want to start a script written by the own Lang and by Barlett Cormack, based on a story by Norma Krasna entitled "Mob Rule", Joseph Leo Mankiewicz - then producer only - fully trust him and is responsible, under responsibility yours, the film fury, the first American film of Lang and his first masterpiece. From then on, the career of Lang is often submitted by the producers, it should work most of the time with scripts written by others and, although these are splendid, as only live once (1937), the woman's picture (1944), evil (1945), Clandestino and Knight (1946), human desire (1954), all masterpieces of American thrillers, and is forced to bend to the impositions of the industry and roll custom films which do not obey their own concerns, such as the revenge of Frank James (1940) or guerrillas in the Philippines (1950), probably the worst movie of his career. But this is also the case of a masterpiece of adventure as the smugglers of Moonfleet (1954), adaptation of the work of John Meade Falkner, who without reaching the levels of Robert l. Stevenson, belongs to the Group of so-called classic youth. Lang protested a lot because they had changed the end, but the result is an extraordinary adventure tape, decidedly romantic and with a charming touch of gotico-expresionista terror (the smugglers are ghosts) the style of their first German achievements.

The American stage of Lang is very important, especially in what refers to film noir thriller. It is undeniably a director moralist, but fair; bit far, as in meeting at night (1952), in which although eventually Barbara Stanwyck is folded to his responsibility, has fallen before the temptation of adultery; sometimes very ambiguous, as the main character, played by Spencer Tracy, of fury; others, terribly rigorous with the society, corruption and revenge, as shown in in the case of the police played by Glenn Ford in the magistral Los bribed (1953), nobody in an extreme situation will choose the strict application of the law if you can satisfy the human impulse of retaliation, but end up being worse than criminals, something that also exists in fury and the magistral while New York sleeps (1956).

At the end of 1956, disgusted with the sacrificial situation created by McCarthy and his Committee's activities deepened, leaving Hollywood and moved to Germany, from where to India to make a wonderful affair divided in two parts, entitled the Tiger of Eschnapur and the Tomb India, both released in 1958. Thirty-seven years earlier, the director had collaborated with his wife, von Harbou, in the script of the first version of these two films, thinking that it would take place in two parts. Finally, Joe May took charge of the project and the India Tomb (1921) made him only the conventional. Back in Germany, resumes, twenty-nine years after the testament of doctor Mabuse, the old myth of this diabolical character and directs the crimes of Dr. Mabuse (1961), which allows you to repeat your favorite theme, the struggle of good against evil.

Destiny has wanted this work extraordinary was the last of this man who, at the age of 71, closed a brilliant career open close to half a century before, only ajar when Jean-Luc Godard, one of the "enfants terribles" of the French new wave (Nouvelle vague), begs you to intervene as actor which eventually would be the best film by the French filmmakerThe contempt (1963). In it, the great Fritz Lang said: "the CinemaScope is good to portray snakes and funeral committees, but not for people." Curiously, this meant it, which had given rise to the MGM undertake a range of classic Swashbuckling adventures, incorporating this format for much more spectacular with its smart and glamorous use of the scope on the smugglers of Moonfleet.

As neither adapts to European life, he/she returned to the United States and retires to his home in Los Angeles, watching from there how the continuous tributes, passes on television of his complete works, detailed critical studies of his usual narrative precision, creating environments, study of heterogeneous and many characters and the admiration of moviegoers around the world amending the flat to this immense filmmakerdissatisfaction with his own work, making you see despite the cuts he/she suffered, was much, very much, better than he/she ever thought.



As screenwriter

1916: Die Peitsche.1917: Die Hochzeit Im Exzentrick Klub; Hilde Warren Und Der Tod (and actor); Joe Debbs.1918: Die Bettler-G.M.B.H.; Die Rache Ist Mein.1919: Totentanz; Lilith Und Ly; Die Frau Mit Den Orchideen; The plague in Florence; Wolkenbau Und Flimmerstern.1921: the Indian Tomb; Carola Hansen.1922: Koning Artus Tafelrunde (coguion).

As Assistant of direction

1919: The owner of the world.

As a Director

1919: Halbblut (screenplay); Der Herr Der Liebe (and actor); The spiders (and screenplay) - two episodes: Der Goldene See and Das Brillanten Schiff; Harakiri; Madame Butterfly; Das Wandernde Bild Madonna Im Schnee (and screenplay). 1920: Vier Um Die Frau (and coguion). 1921: three lights (and coguion). 1922: El doctor Mabuse (and coguion) - two episodes: Dr. Mabuse des Spieler. Ein Build Der Zeit and Dr. Masuse: Inferno, ein Spiel von Menschen Unsererr Zeit-. 1923: the Nibelungen (and coguion) - two episodes: the death of Siegfried and the revenge of Gudrun-. 1926: Metropolis (and coguion). 1927: Spione (and coguion and producer). 1928: the woman in the Moon (and coguion and producer). 1931: M, the vampire of Dusseldorf (and coguion). 1933: the testament of doctor Mabuse (and coguion and producer); Liliom (and coguion). 1936: Fury (and coguion). 1937: only live a vez.1938: You and Me (and producer). 1940: revenge of Frank James.1941: spirit of conquest; Atrapado.1943 man: hangmen also die (and coguion and producer). 1944: the Ministry of fear; The woman of the cuadro.1945: perversity (and production). 1946: Cloak and Dagger.1948: secret behind the door (and producer). 1950: House By The River; Guerrillas in Filipinas.1952: cover-up; Meeting in the noche.1953: the bribed; Gardenia azul.1954: from I humanos.1955: Moonfleet.1956 smugglers: while New York sleeps; Apart from the duda.1958: the Tiger of Eschnapur (and coguion); The Indian Tomb (and coguion). 1961: the crimes of Dr. Mabuse (and coguion and producer).

As partial Director uncredited

1941: Confirm Or Deny.1942: Moontide.1950: 73 Winchester.

As an Actor

1963: Contempt.


BOGDANOVICH, P. Fritz Lang in America. (Madrid: Fundamentals, 1972).

HOUSES, J. Fritz Lang. (Madrid: Cátedra, 1991).

EIBEL, TO. The film by Fritz Lang. (Mexico: Editions was, 1964).

EISNER, L. H. Fritz Lang. (Paris: Flammarion, 1988).

HARBOUR, T. von. Metropolis. (Barcelona: Martínez Roca, 1977).

JENSES, P. M. Fritz Lang. (Madrid: Ediciones JC, 1990).

KRACAUER, S. From Caligari to Hitler. A psychological history. (Barcelona: Ediciones Paidós, 1985).

LANG, f. M, the vampire of Düsseldorf. (Barcelona: Aymá, 1964).

Méndez-LEITE, F. Fritz Lang. His life and his film. (Madrid: Daimon, 1980).

MOULLET, L. Fritz Lang. (Paris: Seghers, 1970).

STURM, G. Fritz Lang. (Nancy: Presses Universitaires, 1990).