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Famous Like Me > Director > M > F.W. Murnau

Profile of F.W. Murnau on Famous Like Me

Name: F.W. Murnau  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 28th December 1888
Place of Birth: Bielefeld, North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Profession: Director
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
F W Murnau

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (December 28, 1888 – March 11, 1931) was one of the most influential directors of the silent film era.

He was one of a number of German film directors to take part in the expressionist movement that took root in German cinema during the 1920s, and he directed a number of movies that were influential and remain widely seen among film scholars today. Much of Murnau's output from the silent era has been lost, and only a few of his films are extant; film scholars acknowledge them as masterpieces.

Birth and early years

He was born as Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe in Bielefeld, Germany. He attended the University of Heidelberg and studied art history. He took the name "Murnau" from a town in Germany. He was a combat pilot during World War I and directed his first film Der Knabe in Blau in 1919.


Murnau's most famous film is Nosferatu, a 1922 adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula that caused Stoker's estate to sue for copyright infringement. Murnau lost the lawsuit and all prints of the film were ordered destroyed, but bootleg prints were stored and preserved over time, so that Nosferatu is widely available in the present era. The film inspired Werner Herzog to remake the film in 1979.

Last Laugh

Nearly as important as Nosferatu in Murnau's filmography was The Last Laugh (1925), written by Carl Mayer and starring Emil Jannings. Often voted second greatest film of all time by international critics' polls, the film introduced the subjective point of view camera, where the camera "sees" from the eyes of a character and uses visual style to convey a character's psychological state. It also anticipated the cinema verite movement in its subject matter.


Murnau emigrated to Hollywood in 1926, where he joined the Fox Studio and made the 1920s-era fable Sunrise - a movie often cited by film scholars as one of the greatest films of all time. It was a financial success and it received several Oscars at the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1927. It lost the award for Best Picture to the movie Wings. Murnau's next two pictures, Four Devils and City Girl, were modified to adapt to the new era of sound film and they were not well received. No copy of Four Devils now exists. Their poor reception disillusioned Murnau, and he quit Fox to journey for a while in the South Pacific.


Together with documentary pioneer Robert Flaherty Murnau travelled abroad to realize the film Tabu. But Flaherty left after artistic disputes with Murnau who had to finish the movie on his own. Because of images of bare-breasted "native" Polynesian women the movie was censored in the US.


Murnau did not live to see the premiere of his last film, he died in an automobile accident in Santa Barbara, California in 1931. He was entombed in Berlin. Robert Flaherty, Emil Jannings and Greta Garbo attended the funeral, and Fritz Lang delivered the funeral speech.


A fictionalized account of the making of the film Nosferatu was Shadow of the Vampire by director E. Elias Merhige.


  • Der Knabe in Blau (The Blue Boy) (1919)
  • Der Januskopf (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde / The Head of Janus) (1920)
  • Abend - Nacht - Morgen (1920)
  • Satanas (1920)
  • Sehnsucht (Desire) (1920)
  • Der Gang in die Nacht (Journey Into the Night) (1920)
  • Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin (The Hunchback and the Dancer) (1920)
  • Schloe Vogeloed (Haunted Castle)(1921)
  • Marizza (1922)
  • Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922)
  • Phantom (1922)
  • Der Brennende Acker (The Burning Soil) (1922)
  • Die Austreibung (The Expulsion) (1923)
  • Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) (1924)
  • Die Finanzen des Großherzogs (The Grand Duke's Finances) (1924)
  • Herr Tartüff (Tartuffe) (1926)
  • Faust (1926)
  • Sunrise (1927)
  • Four Devils (1928)
  • City Girl / Our Daily Bread (1930)
  • Tabu (A Story of the South Seas) (1931)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article F.W. Murnau