Fritz Lang was the second son of Anton Lang (1860-1940), an architect and construction company manager, and his wife Pauline "Paula" Lang née Schlesinger (1864–1920).
Lang's parents were of Moravian descent and practicing Roman Catholics. His mother was born Jewish, but had converted to Catholicism when Fritz was ten. His mother took this conversion seriously and was dedicated to raising Fritz as a Catholic. Lang never had an interest in his Jewish heritage and identified himself as Catholic.
Lang’s father was an architect and the young Lang followed suit, attending Vienna’s College of Technical Science (1908-1911). After traveling the world as an artist and during the First World War, fighting against both Russia and Romania, Lang turned to writing short stores and screen plays during extended periods of convalescence from war wounds. He was subsequently hired as writer in residence at Erich Pommler’s Berlin-based production company Decla.
In 1919 he made his directorial debut with ‘The Half Breed’, which concerns a man destroyed by his love for a woman. It was a theme that would captivate Lang for the rest of his career.
Initially he resisted the advent of sound, but his first talkie in 1931 is his definitive masterpiece. Based on the real-life manhunt for a serial killer in Düsseldorf, ‘M’ is a brilliant mixture of realism and expressionism that creates a creepy character study of evil and it launched star Peter Lorre on to the world stage.
According to Lang on March 25, 1933, two days after “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” (1933) had been banned, he was summoned to the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda to meet with Josef Goebbels. Goebbels explained the reason for the ban (the Nazi party slogans are fed into the mouth of the villain at the film's conclusion) and apologized to Lang. He then shocked Lang by offering him the position of production supervisor at the UFA studios, where his first film would be a biography of Wilhelm Tell. Lang claims he suspected a trap and attempted to throw off Goebbels by telling him, "My mother had Jewish parents," to which Goebbels responded, "We'll decide who's Jewish!" Lang then expressed interest in the position and said he needed some time to think it over. He describes how he looked at a clock and how during the entire meeting all he could think about was leaving as soon as possible so he could get to the bank and flee with all of his money. Lang says he didn't get there in time so he sold his wife's jewelry, boarded a train to Paris that same evening, leaving most of his money and personal possessions behind, along with his wife, Thea von Harbou, who divorced him later that year and went on to write and direct films for Nazi propaganda. This story is possibly exaggerated by Lang for dramatic effect because there is evidence he left weeks after that.
Hollywood producer David O. Selznick brought Lang to Hollywood, signing him up with MGM for one movie only, ‘Fury’ (1936).
He learned to speak French and English as an adult in addition to his native German.
He once threw an actor down the stairs to help him look battered and bruised.
Lang specialized in grim allegories of crime, his world populated by criminals, psychopaths, prostitutes and maladjusted personalities.
Both in Germany and the United States, he was one of the most personally disliked directors around, a fact that hurt him at times in Hollywood because some actresses and actors would refuse to work with him.
In retirement Lang returned to the USA, living out his final years planning projects that never came to fruition, buying primitive African art and becoming an icon for a younger generation of film makers.
He is interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, in the Enduring Faith section, just to the right of plot #3818, two in from the curb.
Die Nibelungen (1924)
The Big Heat (1953)
Submit Interesting Facts