Fritz Arno Wagner
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.
Career as cinematographer
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 at the Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft [DEFA] production company at Studio Babelsberg.
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.
- As a cinematographer
- 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)
- 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)
- The Last Fort (1928)
- Waterloo (1929)
- Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
- Napoleon at Saint Helena (1929)
- Chasing Fortune (1930)
- Westfront 1918 (1930)
- Comradeship (1931)
- Ronny (1931)
- M (1931)
- The Threepenny Opera (1931)
- Tannenberg (1932)
- The Beautiful Adventure (1932)
- The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
- Black Roses (1935)
- Savoy Hotel 217 (1936)
- The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes (1937)
- The Broken Jug (1937)
- Robert Koch (1939)
- Enemies (1940)
- Doctor Praetorius (1950)
- The Cousin from Nowhere (1953)
- The Rose of Stamboul (1953)
- The Country Schoolmaster (1954)
- The Ambassador's Wife (1955)
- A Thousand Melodies (1956)
- The Girl Without Pyjamas (1957)
- The concise Cinegraph: encyclopaedia of German cinema By Hans-Michael Bock and Tim Bergfelder (2009)
- "Fritz Arno Wagner". The New York Times.
- Brennan, Sandra. "Overview: Fritz Arno Wager". Allmovie. Retrieved 8 November 2009.
- "Fritz Arno Wagner". IMDB.
- "Fritz Arno Wagner: Filmography". Allmovie. Retrieved 8 November 2009.