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Fritz Lang

(1890—1976) Austrian-born film director


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(1890–1976)

Austrian-born film director, who left Germany for France when the Nazis came to power and settled in the USA in 1935.

Son of an architect, Lang was born in Vienna and educated at the College of Technical Sciences and Academy of Graphic Arts there. He also studied painting and travelled extensively abroad until World War I, when he joined the Austrian army. Wounded and decorated several times, he was discharged in 1916. Screenplays written during convalescence led to his film career, which proved to be one of the most influential in the early years of the German cinema. During the pioneering days of silent films he directed such notable films as Die Spinnen (1919–20; The Spiders), Der müde Tod (1921; Destiny), and Dr Mabuse der Spieler (1922). After Die Nibelungen (1924) came his silent classic Metropolis (1927).

Lang's first talkie was the remarkable thriller M (1931), his personal favourite. This was followed by Das Testament des Dr Mabuse (1933), which was banned in Germany. Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels suggested that he should direct films for the government but Lang decided to leave the country instead. His wife, Thea von Harbou, who collaborated with him on many of his early scripts and who remained in Germany working on official films, divorced him. In France Lang made Liliom (1934), after which he went to the USA, where he made such films as Fury (1936), The Woman in the Window (1944), Rancho Notorious (1952), and The Big Heat (1953).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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