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Fritz Arno Wagner

Fritz Arno Wagner

German cinematographer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German cinematographer
A.K.A. Wagner
Countries Germany
Occupations Cinematographer Film director
Gender male
Birth 5 December 1889 (Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig)
Death 18 August 1958 (Göttingen)
Star sign Sagittarius
The details
Biography

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.

Background

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.

Career as cinematographer

An iconic scene of the shadow of the vampire climbing up a staircase from F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (1922)

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.

Peter Lorre gazing into a shop window in Fritz Lang's "M" (1931). Lang and Wagner used glass and reflections throughout the film for expressive purposes.

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.

Death

On 18 August 1958, Wagner died in Göttingen in a tragic 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. He is buried at the Waldfriedhof Dahlem am Hüttenweg cemetery in Berlin.

Portrayals

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

Partial filmography

  • As a cinematographer
  • The Closed Chain (1920)
  • Intrigue (1920)
  • Playing with Fire (1921)
  • Destiny (1921)
  • The Haunted Castle (1921)
  • Nosferatu (1922):
  • The Earl of Essex (1922)
  • The Song of Songs (1922)
  • The Burning Soil (1922)
  • Warning Shadows (1922)
  • Between Evening and Morning (1923)
  • Leap into Life (1924)
  • Chronicles of the Gray House (1925)
  • Peter the Pirate (1925)
  • The Telephone Operator (1925)
  • Three Cuckoo Clocks (1926)
  • The Pink Diamond (1926)
  • A Modern Dubarry (1927)
  • At the Edge of the World (1927)
  • The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927)
  • Spies (1928)
  • Spy of Madame Pompadour (1928)
  • The Last Fort (1928)
  • Waterloo (1929)
  • Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
  • Napoleon at Saint Helena (1929)
  • Chasing Fortune (1930)
  • Scandalous Eva (1930)
  • Fire in the Opera House (1930)
  • Dolly Gets Ahead (1930)
  • Westfront 1918 (1930)
  • Comradeship (1931)
  • Ronny (1931)
  • M (1931)
  • The Threepenny Opera (1931)
  • Tannenberg (1932)
  • Tell Me Tonight (1932)
  • The Song of Night (1932)
  • Things Are Getting Better Already (1932)
  • The Beautiful Adventure (1932)
  • The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
  • Spies at Work (1933)
  • Love, Death and the Devil (1934)
  • Playing with Fire (1934)
  • The Devil in the Bottle (1935)
  • Black Roses (1935)
  • Savoy Hotel 217 (1936)
  • The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes (1937)
  • The Broken Jug (1937)
  • Robert Koch (1939)
  • A Hopeless Case (1939)
  • Enemies (1940)
  • The Court Concert (1948)
  • Girls Behind Bars (1949)
  • Doctor Praetorius (1950)
  • The Girl from the South Seas (1950)
  • Torreani (1951)
  • A Very Big Child (1952)
  • The Prince of Pappenheim (1952)
  • The Cousin from Nowhere (1953)
  • The Rose of Stamboul (1953)
  • The Country Schoolmaster (1954)
  • Clivia (1954)
  • The Great Lola (1954)
  • Consul Strotthoff (1954)
  • The Ambassador's Wife (1955)
  • A Thousand Melodies (1956)
  • The Girl Without Pyjamas (1957)
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References
http://catalogo.bne.es/uhtbin/authoritybrowse.cgi?action=display&authority_id=XX4866371
http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb140238331
http://data.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb140238331
http://home.comcast.net/~flickhead/LangM.html
http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/no2002097399
http://isni.org/isni/0000000080607582
http://mubi.com/cast_members/1325
http://theartofmemory.blogspot.com/2007/06/fritz-arno-wagner-cinematographer-13.html
http://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2009/12/30/the-love-of-jeanne-ney-no-89/
http://www.allmovie.com/artist/fritz-arno-wagner-115697
http://www.allmovie.com/artist/fritz-arno-wagner-115697/filmography
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