09 February, 2009
Friedrich Christian Anton "Fritz" Lang was an Austrian-German-American filmmaker, screenwriter and occasional film producer. One of the best known émigrés from Germany's school of Expressionism, he was dubbed the "Master of Darkness" by the BFI. His most famous films are the groundbreaking Metropolis (the world's most expensive silent film at the time of its release) and M, made before he moved to the United States, where he contributed greatly to film noir.
Friedrich Lang was born in Vienna, in what was then Austria-Hungary, to Anton Lang (August 1, 1860–1940), an architect and construction company manager, and Pauline "Paula" Schlesinger (July 26, 1864–1920) on December 5, 1890. He was the second of two sons (his brother Adolf was nearly seven years older). Both his father and his mother were practicing Roman Catholics, although his mother was Jewish and converted to Catholicism when Fritz was ten. Lang himself was baptized at the Schottenkirche in Vienna.
After finishing high school, Lang briefly attended the Technical University of Vienna, where he studied civil engineering and eventually switched to art. In 1910 he left Vienna to see the world, traveling throughout Europe and Africa and later Asia and the Pacific area. In 1913, he studied painting in Paris, France. The next year, he returned home to Vienna at the outbreak of the First World War. In January 1914, he was drafted into service in the Austrian army and fought in Russia and Romania during World War I, where he was wounded three times.
Returning to the United States in retirement, he continued collecting research material and drafting screenplays, though he never made another film. While his career had ended without fanfare, his American and later German works were championed by the critics of the Cahiers du Cinema. Lang died in 1976 and was interred in the Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.