Lang, Fritz

Lang, Fritz
born Dec. 5, 1890, Vienna, Austria-Hungary
died Aug. 2, 1976, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.

Austrian-born U.S. film director.

He studied architecture in Vienna and served in the Austrian army in World War I. While recovering from war wounds, he began to write screenplays. He found work at a movie studio in Berlin, where he later directed successful films such as Between Two Worlds (1921), Dr. Mabuse (1922), the two-part The Nibelungen (1924), the expressionistic Metropolis (1926), and M (1931). After making the anti-Nazi film The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse (1933), he left Germany for Paris and later Hollywood. His U.S. films, which equal his German films in their intensity, pessimism, and visual mastery, include Fury (1936), You Only Live Once (1937), Ministry of Fear (1944), Rancho Notorious (1952), and The Big Heat (1953). Many of his films deal with fate and man's inevitable working out of his destiny.

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▪ German director
born Dec. 5, 1890, Vienna, Austria-Hungary
died Aug. 2, 1976, Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.
 Austrian-born American motion-picture director whose films, dealing with fate and man's inevitable working out of his destiny, are considered masterpieces of visual composition.

      The son of an architect, Lang briefly studied architecture at Vienna's Technical University, then travelled widely before settling for a time in Paris as a painter. While recovering from wounds suffered in the service of Austria during World War I, he started to write screenplays; after the war he went to Berlin to work with Erich Pommer, a German film producer.

      His first successful picture as a director was Der müde Tod (1921; Between Worlds). Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922; Dr. Mabuse) studied a criminal mastermind; Die Nibelungen (1924; released in two parts in the United States, Siegfried and Kriemhild's Revenge) was based on the early 13th-century German poem; Metropolis (1926) was an Expressionist vision of the future; and M (1931), his most famous German film, explored the compulsion to murder. Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1932; The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse), in which a madman speaks Nazi philosophy, attracted the attention of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis' chief propagandist, who invited Lang to supervise German films. Lang left for Paris the same evening and later moved to the United States.

      Fury (1936), a study of a lynch mob, is his most praised American film. Others include You Only Live Once (1937), Western Union (1941), Hangmen Also Die (1943), Scarlet Street (1945), Clash by Night (1952), Rancho Notorious (1952), Moonfleet (1955), and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956).

Additional Reading
Lotte H. Eisner, Fritz Lang, trans. from German (1976, reprinted 1986); and Patrick McGilligan, Fritz Lang (1997), discuss his life and body of work. The films he directed between 1936 and 1956 are the focus of Peter Bogdanovich, Fritz Lang in America (1967); and Reynold Humphries, Fritz Lang: Genre and Representation in His American Films (1989; originally published in French, 1982).

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Universalium. 2010.

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