Name at birth: Friedrich Christian Anton Lang
Filmmaker Fritz Lang had a long career in Berlin and Hollywood, from the silent era to the 1960s. His best known films include 1927's dystopian vision Metropolis, 1931's dark thriller M and the German films featuring criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse. Fritz Lang was born and educated in Vienna, where his early ambition was to be a painter. A veteran of World War I, he became involved in the theater after being discharged from the Austrian army in 1916, then went to Berlin to work as a story editor in the new industry of making movies. Lang was a director by 1919, and had early success with Die Spinnen (The Spiders, 1919-20) and, especially, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, 1921). The silent film Metropolis was the most expensive film in Germany's history at that point and a box office failure, but is now considered a cinema classic for its visual mix of Realism and Expressionism. Lang's M was written with his longtime collaborator and wife, Thea von Harbou, and made the career of Peter Lorre as a legendary screen villain. Dodging Adolf Hitler's Nazism, Lang went to Hollywood in 1934, where he made nearly 20 movies, including You Only Live Once (1937, starring Henry Fonda), Rancho Notorious (1952, starring Marlene Dietrich) and The Big Heat (1953). Lang returned to Germany in the late 1950s, and his final film was Die tausend Augen des Dr. Mabuse (The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, 1960), a third update to the series that included Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, 1933). He retired to Beverly Hills in the 1960s and died in 1976.
Fritz Lang and writing partner Thea von Harbou were married in 1924 and divorced in 1934, after Lang left Germany and Harbou stayed behind to make films for the Third Reich.