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Fritz Lang

The Nature of the Beast

Patrick McGilligan

Publication Year: 2013

The name of Fritz Lang—the visionary director of Metropolis, M, Fury, The Big Heat, and thirty other unforgettable films—is hallowed the world over. But what lurks behind his greatest legends and his genius as a filmmaker? Patrick McGilligan, placed among “the front rank of film biographers” by the Washington Post, spent four years in Europe and America interviewing Lang’s dying contemporaries, researching government and film archives, and investigating the intriguing life story of Fritz Lang. This critically acclaimed biography—lauded as one of the year’s best nonfiction books by Publishers Weekly—reconstructs the compelling, flawed human being behind the monster with the monocle.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Praise, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. 10-11

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pp. xi-xii

Bertolt Brecht Journals, 1934-1935, is quoted with permission of the publisher,Walter Wanger, Hollywood Independent, by Matthew Bernstein, is quotedPlacing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism, by Jonathan Rosenbaum, isErich Kettelhut's Memoirs, an unpublished manuscript, is quoted courtesy ofCurt Siodmak's reminiscences are quoted from his unpublished Ruminations...

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pp. 1-2

The end of genius is sometimes spectacular: a bomb's explosion, a madman'sgibbering, an orgasmic suicide before a sell-out audience. Sometimes?moreoften, to be sure?it is lonely and poignant, as with most ordinary humanFritz Lang, who had lived a long, colorful, and combative life, was nearingthe end. He knew it. The Last Dinosaur spent more and more time in bed as...


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Chapter 1: 1890–1911

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pp. 5-26

Fritz Lang lived his life?and cultivated his legend?with the glinted eyes ofHe was determined to carry his secrets to the grave. The true story of hislife, he believed, was nobody's business. It was irrelevant, according to his pointof view. Irrelevant to his vast audience of moviegoers, though they might befascinated by the bigger-than-life figure who directed with such mesmerizing...

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Chapter 2: 1911–1918

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pp. 27-48

Fritz Lang began his Wanderjahre by visiting galleries and museums in Nu-remberg, Munich, and Frankfurt, before journeying down the Rhine to Bel-Arriving with twenty-five francs in his pocket, Lang began to sketch post-cards, caricatures, watercolors, and easel art, selling them to tourists for coffeeand bread. Years later he liked to relate how he lived by his wits in those pre-...


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Chapter 3: 1918–1921

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pp. 51-69

The Allies broke through German defenses in France and Belgium. GeneralLudendorff of the high command demanded that peace be proposed to theAllies. There were rumors, in spite of strict censorship, of a naval revolt inKiel, cabinet disarray in Munich, a revolutionary government in Bavaria. Newswent around of a pending general strike. Workers and police clashed every-...

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Chapter 4: 1921–1922

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pp. 70-88

Der miide Tod (The Weary Death, a.k.a. Destiny) was the first original scriptFritz Lang and Thea von Harbou worked on from beginning to end withouta hovering producer, and with the sure knowledge that Lang would direct.This film, which came on the heels of his mother's death, would be the di-rector's most thoughtful and compassionate meditation on mortality....

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Chapter 5: 1923–1924

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pp. 89-107

The extraordinary achievements of Der miide Tod and Doktor Mabuse, derSpieler would have been enough to ensure Fritz Lang's lasting position amongthe greatest German directors, even if he had never worked again. One whoequaled Lang in stature, Ernst Lubitsch?a proven master of both Jewish com-edy and grandiose epics?had left Berlin for Hollywood in December of 1922,...

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Chapter 6: 1925–1927

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pp. 108-133

The director's account of how Metropolis came into existence?his awe-inspired brainstorm after gazing on New York City from the deck of theDeutschland ("his first premonition of a city of the future," in Frederick Ott'swords)?was one of those anecdotes Lang didn't mind repeating, with minorBut it couldn't have happened quite that way. Erich Pommer was already...

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Chapter 7: 1928–1929

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pp. 134-146

Already, as the filming of Metropolis drew to a close, Fritz Lang and Thea vonHarbou were planning their next film. "The Ufa crisis did not exist for them,"recalled Erich Kettelhut. "They made their plans as if everything would con-Far away in Hollywood, Erich Pommer wrote to tell the director that hecould arrange a comfortable studio contract for him if Lang wanted to come...

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Chapter 8: 1930–1931

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pp. 147-164

For the first time in years, Rudolf Klein-Rogge was out of the running?per-haps because Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou found less and less to agreeon. The director wanted another "virgin star" for his first talking picture, adifferent personality, someone who might fit snugly inside his own psyche, likeone of those Russian nesting dolls that were sold, then as now, on the streets...

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Chapter 9: 1932–1933

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pp. 165-186

The first talk of a sequel to Doktor Mabuse, der Spieler may have been spurredby a vacation in Istanbul that Lang and Thea von Harbou took, with authorThe director always claimed that he had long resisted the idea of makinganother Mabuse film. He emphasized that it was his producer, Seymour Ne-benzahl, who sweet-talked him into creating a follow-up to the 1922 bipartite...


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Chapter 10: 1933–1934

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pp. 189-204

The express train from Berlin to Paris, with intermediate stops, took somesixteen hours in those days. It would be safe to presume that Lang spent someof that time thinking about what his next film would be. Already somethinglike six months had passed since he had finished Das Testament des Dr. Ma-buse. Ordinarily, he and Thea von Harbou would have had their next film...


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Chapter 11: 1934–1936

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pp. 207-239

Lily Latte came to America in lowlier fashion, without fanfare, entourage, orpublicity. She had lingered in Paris for six months. The refugee flow did notabate, and one of the newly arrived was Peter Heiman, the Max Reinhardtassistant director who had become acquainted with Fritz Lang in Berlin in theearly 1930s under curious circumstances. In Paris in mid-1935, Heiman met...

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Chapter 12: 1936–1938

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pp. 240-279

Sylvia Sidney, one of the few who survived Fury in good humor, came to thedirector's rescue. The actress had signed an exclusive contract with producerWalter Wanger, who was preparing to star her in a story about a Bonnie-and-Clyde-like couple fleeing from justice. Sidney was the prime mover in rec-Wanger was something of an anomaly in Hollywood. While many of the...

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Chapter 13: 1939–1941

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pp. 260-286

At this peak of anti-Nazi fervor, this professional low point, Fritz Lang becamean American citizen. His citizenship papers were finalized on August 14, 1939.The two official witnesses were his secretary Teddy Le Beau and the director'swriter-friend Hy Kraft. Filling out a naturalization petition with details abouthis background, Lang declared his race and nationality as "German." He noted...

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Chapter 14: 1941–1945

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pp. 287-314

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, America hadno choice but to abandon its isolationism and enter the rapidly escalating war.The very next day the United States government declared war on Japan, andwithin a few days America's list of enemy states had expanded to include theDirectors were in the forefront of those in Hollywood who contributed to...

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Chapter 15: 1945–1946

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pp. 315-342

One must be careful in writing about the relationship between Fritz Lang andJoan Bennett. The actress was married to Walter Wanger from 1940-1965,and maintained, for the public record, that she was never unfaithful to himduring their marriage. In fact, during the period when she worked most closelywith Lang, Bennett and Wanger had two children?a daughter, born on June...

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Chapter 16: 1946–1947

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pp. 343-364

Sometime late in 1945, Lang moved from the house in Santa Monica, wherehe had lived since his arrival in the United States, to a new hilltop residenceIt was expected of the top Hollywood directors that they advertise theirimportance with the purchase of a big, beautiful house. Finally, Lang couldafford that luxury, and the one he chose was a lovely Spanish-style, tiled-roof...

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Chapter 17: 1948–1952

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pp. 365-379

It would have been understandable if Fritz Lang, approaching sixty, had en-tertained thoughts of slowing down, or even retiring. Diana Productions andhis association with Joan Bennett had ended ignominiously in late 1947. Hislove affair with Silvia Richards was ebbing. His sight continued to fail, and heAdding to these anxieties were revived attacks by the House Un-American...

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Chapter 18: 1952–1953

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pp. 380-400

It may be an exaggeration to describe Rancho Notorious, as the director himselfdid, as a "Western for adults"; as "an almost existential tale," in the wordsof one contemporary critic, its scenario probing "issues of personal identityand morality, the ephemeral nature of Man's quest for purpose"; or as a filmthat helps make Lang "the father of the psychological Western," in the words...

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Chapter 19: 1953–1956

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pp. 401-427

After Sam Jaffe resigned as Lang's agent, it was only a matter of time beforeLang would hire a succession of press agents in the 1950s, each in turncharged with the doomed search for a publicity moniker as strong as Hitchock's"Master of Suspense." One strategy Lang liked, and kept returning to, waspresenting himself as an expert on hard-to-handle actresses?not to mention...

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Chapter 20: 1957–1964

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pp. 428-454

Why would Lang agree to remake this film on a subject which, as he himselfput it, was no longer on his level? The answer, as he explained later, was thathe felt something "mystical" at play. A circle was closing. That which he hadbeen denied, almost forty years earlier, he was now being permitted. RemakingProducer Artur Brauner was a man of character and accomplishment. A...

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Chapter 21: 1965–1976

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pp. 455-482

Death, a constant specter in Fritz Lang films, began to shadow the director'sHis brother Adolf Lang, had died, at the age of seventy-six, in 1961. Langhad not seen Dolf since the early 1930s. He had delegated all communicationsto Lily Latte. Letters from Dolf desperately pleading for financial help weremet with recitations of the director's own burdens: medical expenses, property...

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pp. Plate 1-Plate 16

Fritz Lang as a boy in turn-of-the-century Vienna. The custom of the era was to dress Prestigious visitors to the Metropolis set: (left to right) boxer Jack Dempsey and his wife, American actress Estelle Taylor; producer Erich Pommer; Thea von Harbou; and unidentified others flanking Fritz Lang. (Courtesy of John Pommer) One way or another, the director got his way: Lang enslaving the bald-headed extras in ...

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pp. 483-504

Die Hochzeit im Exzentrikklub (The Wedding in the Eccentric Club)Director: Alwin Neuss. Cast: Ressel Orla, Fred Selva-Goebel, FritzCast: Margarete Frey, Karl Gebhard-Schroder, Albert Paul, Ressel Orla.Director: Otto Rippert. Ph: Willy Hameister. Cast: Theodor Becker, MargaKierska, Erich Bartels, Juliette Brandt, Erner Hiibsch, Otto Mannstaedt....

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pp. 505-536

Researching, interviewing, and reporting for Fritz Lang: The Nature of theBeast took me to Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, London, New York,Los Angeles, and (surprisingly!) Laramie, Wyoming. I investigated libraries andarchives in most of these cities, and also ones in Connecticut, Illinois, Texas,and Wisconsin. My fax machine buzzed with messages from Belgundi in Bel-...


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pp. 537-548

E-ISBN-13: 9781452940632
E-ISBN-10: 1452940630
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816676552

Page Count: 560
Publication Year: 2013