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The influential film director Fritz Lang was born on this day in 1890
He is regarded one of the most influential film directors of all time, a pioneer in the Sci-Fi and Film Noir genre, Fritz Lang was born Friedrich Christian Anton Lang on December 5, 1890 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, the son of a Jewish born mother who converted to Roman Catholicism and together with his father were dedicated to raising Fritz as a Catholic, which influenced some of Lang’s work, frequently featuring Catholic-influenced themes in his films, despite the fact that he described himself as an atheist who was “a born Catholic and very puritan”. In 1910 Fritz Lang left his hometown of Vienna to travel throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, and by 1913 was studying art in Paris. With an interest in the rising industry and art of cinema, during the early 1920’s he met his future wife, writer Thea von Harbou, that together with Lang co-wrote all of his movies from 1921 through 1933 including his most popular and influential masterpieces such as “Metropolis” and “M”. While working as a film director for German film studio UFA, Lang’s production costs often went far over budget and nearly destroyed UFA, which was bought by right-wing businessman and politician Alfred Hugenberg. Most notably the production of the 1927 Sci Fi masterpiece “Metropolis”, filmed over 17 months in 1925–26. Other movies of that period directed by Lang are “Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler” (1922), a four hours film split in two parts, the five-hour “Die Nibelungen” (1924), and after “Metropolis”, another science fiction film “Woman in the Moon” (1929).
Fritz Lang directed his first “talking” picture in 1931, the disturbing story of a child murderer (Peter Lorre) who is hunted down and brought to rough justice by Berlin’s criminal underworld. “M”, considered by many film scholars to be a masterpiece of the early sound era With the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany, Lang started to fear his Jewish heritage would be a problem for his career and life, specially because his wife and screenwriter Thea von Harbou had started to sympathize with the Nazis in the early 1930’s, and the political differences of both led to a divorce. His biggest fear was that under the Nuremberg Laws he would be identified as a part-Jew even though his mother was a converted Roman Catholic, and he was raised as such. During that period, the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels called Lang to his offices to inform him that “The Testament of Dr Mabuse” was being banned but, nevertheless, he was so impressed by Lang’s abilities as a filmmaker (especially Metropolis), that he offered Lang the position of head of German film studio UFA, however, Lang decided after that meeting to leave for Paris, and soon after to the United States. where he signed first with MGM Studio, debuting in that country with the 1936 crime drama “Fury”. In 1939 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States, and in his 20-year American career made twenty-three features of a variety of genres at every major studio in Hollywood, occasionally also producing his films as an independent. His last movie was “The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse” in 1960, by then, Lang’s health was declining and he was becoming blind. His last ever appearance in the big screen was in a role portraying himself in the 1963 Jean Luc Godard movie “Contempt”. Fritz Lang passed away in 1976 from a stroke. 129 years after his birthday and nearly a 100 years since his main masterpieces were directed, he remains as influential and popular as ever.
Watch the timeless Fritz Lang Sci Fi classic “Metropolis”, 1927
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