Fritz Arno Wagner (5 December 1889 – 18 August 1958) is considered one of the most acclaimed German cinematographers from the 1920s to the 1950s.He played a key role in the Expressionist film movement during the Weimar period and is perhaps best known for excelling "in the portrayal of horror" according to noted film critic Lotte H. Eisner.
Born in Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig, Germany, Wagner received his training at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.In 1910, while still attending the University of Leipzig, he managed to secure a job as a clerk at the Pathé film company. In 1912, he became both secretary and chef at the Pathé offices in Vienna and later in Berlin.
Interested in cinematography he became a newsreel cameraman in 1913 and was stationed in New York for Pathé Weekly where he reported on the Mexican Revolution. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, he returned to Germany to enlist in his country's elite Hussar cavalry whilst still filming war reports.However, after being wounded, he decided to take the job of stills photographer and then 2nd cameraman at Projektions-AG Union PAGU. In 1919, he went to work as a primary cameraman for Decla-Bioscop.
Along with Karl Freund, Wagner became Germany's leading cinematographer of the 1920s and 1930s, a master of the dark, moody lighting that characterized the expressionist movement.He worked with some of Germany most prominent directors, including Ernst Lubitsch on Madame Du Barry (1919), F.W. Murnau on The Haunted Castle (1921), The Burning Soil (1922) and his classic Nosferatu (1922), and G.W. Pabst on four features, The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927), Westfront 1918 (1930), Comradeship (1931) and The Threepenny Opera (1931) based on the Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill musical. He also collaborated with Fritz Lang on four films, Destiny (1921), Spies (1928), M (1931) and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1932).
After the Nazis took over in 1933, causing many of the country's leading film directors to flee Germany for the U.S. (including his main collaborators: Murnau, Pabst and Lang) Wagner's career began to decline. To make ends meet he abandoned his unique style and turned to making glossy costume epics and musicals for The Ministry of Propaganda at Universum Film AG [Ufa] where he had once worked under Erich Pommer.After WWII, he worked for a couple of years as a director of photography of documentaries and newsreels before returning to feature films for the DEFA production company at Studio Babelsberg.
On 18 August 1958, Wagner died in Göttingen in an automobile accident (as his colleague Murnau had 27 years earlier) whilst shooting the comedy Ohne Mutter geht es nicht (It Doesn't Work Without a Mother) for director Erik Ode. [ unreliable source? ] He is buried at the Waldfriedhof Dahlem am Hüttenweg cemetery in Berlin.
In Shadow of the Vampire , a fictional film about the making of Nosferatu, Wagner is portrayed by Cary Elwes, who also played Lord Arthur Holmwood in the 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Shadow of the Vampire is a 2000 metafiction horror film directed by E. Elias Merhige, written by Steven Katz, and starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe. The film is a fictionalized documentary account of the making of the classic vampire film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, directed by F. W. Murnau, during which the film crew began to have disturbing suspicions about their lead actor.
Kameradschaft is a 1931 dramatic film directed by Austrian director G. W. Pabst. The French-German co-production drama is noted for combining expressionism and realism.
David Haspel Shepard was a film preservationist whose company, Film Preservation Associates, is responsible for many high-quality video versions of silent films. Some come from the Blackhawk Films library and others from materials owned by private collectors and film archives around the world.
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, also called The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse, is a 1933 German crime-thriller film directed by Fritz Lang. The movie is a sequel to Lang's silent film Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) and features many cast and crew members from Lang's previous films. Dr. Mabuse is in an insane asylum where he is found frantically writing his crime plans. When Mabuse's criminal plans begin to be implemented, Inspector Lohmann tries to find the solution with clues from gangster Thomas Kent, the institutionalized Hofmeister and Professor Baum who becomes obsessed with Dr. Mabuse.
Guido Seeber was a German cinematographer and pioneer of early cinema.
Carl de Vogt was a German film actor who starred in four of Fritz Lang's early films. He attended the acting school in Cologne, Germany. Together with acting he was also active as a singer and recorded several discs. His greatest hit was "Der Fremdenlegionär". An extremely successful actor in his early career, he died in relative obscurity in 1970.
Alfred Peter Abel was a German film actor, director, and producer. He appeared in more than 140 silent and sound films between 1913 and 1938. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang's 1927 film, Metropolis.
Bernhard Goetzke was a German stage and film actor. He appeared in 130 films between 1917 and 1961.
Lil Dagover was a German actress whose career spanned between 1913 and 1979. She was one of the most popular and recognized film actresses in the Weimar Republic.
Georg John was a German stage and film actor.
Julius Falkenstein was a German stage and film actor of the silent era. He appeared in 184 films between 1914 and 1933. Falkenstein was Jewish, but secured a special permit to continue making films following the Nazi rise to power in 1933. He died of natural causes the same year, having made only one further film.
László Schäffer, was a Hungarian cinematographer. Born in Uzhhorod, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary, currently a part of the Ukraine, he worked mostly in Germany in the 1920s.
Paul Richter was an Austrian film actor. He owed his great popularity in German films of the silent era largely to the directors Joe May and Fritz Lang.
Erich John Waschneck was a German cameraman, director, screenwriter, and film producer.
Günther Krampf was an Austrian cinematographer who later settled and worked in Britain. Krampf has been described as a "phantom of film history" because of his largely forgotten role working on a number of important films during the silent and early sound era. Only two of Krampf's films The Student of Prague (1926) and The Ghoul (1933) were expressionist, as he generally used a naturalistic style.
Carl Balhaus was a German stage and film actor. After the Second World War he worked as director for the East German state-owned studio DEFA. He was an uncle of the Academy Award nominated cinematographer Michael Ballhaus.
Nero-Film AG was a German film production company founded in 1925 and based in Berlin during the Weimar era.
Curt Courant was a German cinematographer who worked on over a hundred films during the silent and early sound eras. Courant worked in several European countries, collaborating with figures such as Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang. As he was of Jewish ancestry, Courant was forced to leave Germany in 1933 and go into exile following the Nazi takeover of power. Courant worked at several of the leading British studios during the mid-1930s. He is the father of Willy Kurant who also became a cinematographer.
Heinrich Gotho was an Austrian film actor. Born in Dolina, he started his acting career at some provincial theatres until he found an engagement at the Neues Volkstheater in Berlin. The character actor appeared in over 50 films between 1922 and 1933, mostly in smaller roles. He notably appeared in numerous films by director Fritz Lang, among them Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922), Metropolis (1927) and M (1931). Gotho was forced to retire from film acting in 1933; as a Jew he could no longer work in Nazi Germany. He died in 1938 in the Jewish Hospital of Berlin-Wedding.
Marc Sorkin or Mark Sorkin (1902–1986) was a Russian-born film editor and director. He worked with Georg Wilhelm Pabst on a number of films as editor or assistant director.