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F. W. Murnau Biography, Early years, Career, Personal life, Death, Legacy, Filmography, Net Worth, FAQs.

F. W. Murnau’s Biography

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, originally named Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe, was a renowned German film director, producer, and screenwriter, born on December 28, 1888, and passing away on March 11, 1931. His contributions to the silent film era earned him widespread acclaim, establishing him as one of cinema’s most influential figures.

Murnau’s fascination with film began in his childhood, leading him to study philology and art before being recruited by director Max Reinhardt to his acting school. Serving in the Imperial German Army during World War I, Murnau displayed remarkable resilience, surviving multiple crashes unscathed.

In 1919, Murnau debuted as a director, but it was his 1922 film “Nosferatu,” an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” that propelled him to international recognition, despite copyright challenges. This masterpiece of German Expressionist cinema solidified his reputation as a visionary director. He further showcased his talent with films like “The Last Laugh” (1924) and an interpretation of Goethe’s “Faust” in 1926.

Murnau’s move to Hollywood in 1926 marked a significant phase in his career. Joining Fox Studio, he crafted notable works such as “Sunrise” (1927), celebrated as one of the greatest films of all time by critics and filmmakers alike.

Travelling to Bora Bora to collaborate with documentary film pioneer Robert J. Flaherty on “Tabu” (1931), Murnau faced disputes that led him to complete the film independently. Sadly, just before the successful premiere of “Tabu,” Murnau passed away in a California hospital following a car accident.

Despite his prolific career, many of Murnau’s films are lost to time, with only a fraction surviving in their entirety. Yet, his legacy endures through the remaining works, which continue to inspire generations of filmmakers.

F. W. Murnau’s Early years

Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe, later known as F.W. Murnau, was born in Bielefeld but spent his early years in Kassel. He grew up in a blended family with two brothers, Bernhard and Robert, and two stepsisters, Ida and Anna. His father, Heinrich Plumpe, owned a cloth factory in northwest Germany, and his mother, Otilie Volbracht, was Heinrich’s second wife.

Even as a young child, Murnau showed a keen interest in literature and theater. His family’s villa often served as a stage for plays directed by him. By the age of 12, he had already delved into the works of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, and Ibsen.

Taking the name “Murnau” from a town near Lake Staffel, where he once lived, Friedrich was known for his icy demeanor and intense passion for film. Accounts of his height vary, with some sources claiming he was nearly 210 cm (7 ft) tall, while others suggest a more modest 193 cm (6 ft 4).

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Murnau pursued studies in philology at the University of Berlin before delving into art history and literature at Heidelberg. It was during this time that director Max Reinhardt noticed him at a student performance and invited him to join his acting school. Murnau formed friendships with notable figures such as Franz Marc, Else Lasker-Schüler, and Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele.

During World War I, Murnau served as a company commander on the eastern front before joining the Imperial German Flying Corps, where he flew missions in northern France. Remarkably, he survived eight crashes without sustaining severe injuries. However, after landing in Switzerland, he was arrested and interned for the rest of the war.

Even in captivity, Murnau’s creative spirit thrived, as he became involved in a prisoner theater group and even wrote a film script.

F. W. Murnau’s Career

After World War I, Murnau returned to Germany and co-founded his own film studio with actor Conrad Veidt. His debut feature film, “The Boy in Blue” (1919), drew inspiration from a Thomas Gainsborough painting and explored themes of dual personalities. He further delved into this theme in “Der Janus-Kopf” (1920), starring Veidt and featuring Bela Lugosi, akin to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

Murnau’s most renowned work, “Nosferatu” (1922), adapted from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” starred Max Schreck as the iconic vampire Count Orlok. Despite facing legal challenges and bankruptcy from Prana Film, the release of “Nosferatu” garnered a cult following, becoming an early example of cult cinema.

He also directed “The Last Laugh” (1924), written by Carl Mayer, which introduced the subjective point-of-view camera technique and utilized the “unchained camera” method, influencing cinematic styles. Unlike his other works, “The Last Laugh” incorporated elements of Kammerspielfilm with Expressionist undertones, focusing on themes of social injustice.

Murnau’s final German film, “Faust” (1926), drew from traditional folklore and Goethe’s version of the Faust tale. Notable for its innovative sequences and original film scores, “Faust” showcased Murnau’s artistic prowess.

In 1926, Murnau relocated to Hollywood, where he directed “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” (1927), often hailed as one of the greatest films of all time. Although not a commercial success, “Sunrise” received critical acclaim and earned multiple Academy Awards. Murnau’s subsequent films, “4 Devils” (1928) and “City Girl” (1930), struggled with the transition to sound cinema.

Disillusioned by their poor reception, Murnau left Fox Studios and embarked on a journey to the South Pacific with Robert J. Flaherty to film “Tabu” (1931). Following artistic disputes, Flaherty departed, leaving Murnau to complete the film. Despite facing censorship in the United States, “Tabu” remains a testament to Murnau’s artistic vision, shot partly as a talkie before being restored as a silent film, his preferred medium.

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F. W. Murnau’s Personal life

During World War I, Murnau enlisted in the German air force as a radio operator in 1916. In December 1917, he was forced to make an emergency landing in Switzerland, where he was interned until the war’s end.

Murnau was openly gay. His friend and lover, the poet Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele, also served in the war but tragically lost his life on the eastern front in 1915. This profound loss deeply affected Murnau, influencing themes of sacrifice, loss, and the brutality of war in his cinematic work. Ehrenbaum introduced Murnau to the works of expressionist artists like Franz Marc and Else Lasker-Schüler.

In Hollywood, Murnau developed a close relationship with the young actor David Rollins. Reportedly, Murnau was infatuated with Rollins and invited him to his home. In late 1927, Murnau persuaded Rollins to pose nude, using the pool and garden of the Wolf’s Lair castle in Hollywood as a backdrop. Rollins later expressed surprise at the request but felt comfortable enough with his body to agree to Murnau’s proposal.

F. W. Murnau’s Death

On March 10, 1931, just a week before the premiere of his film Tabu, Murnau embarked on a journey along the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles, California, riding in a rented Packard touring car. Unfortunately, tragedy struck when a truck suddenly veered into their lane. Murnau’s valet, Eliazar Garcia Stevenson (September 2, 1900 – October 4, 1985), swerved to avoid the collision, causing the car to overturn upon hitting an embankment. All occupants were ejected from the vehicle in the crash. Murnau sustained a severe head injury and passed away the following day at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

A memorial service was conducted for Murnau at the Hollywood Lutheran Church on March 19, 1931. His body was later transported to Germany, where he was laid to rest in Stahnsdorf South-Western Cemetery near Berlin on April 13. Among those paying their respects at his second funeral were notable figures such as Robert J. Flaherty, Emil Jannings, and Fritz Lang, who delivered a moving eulogy. Greta Garbo, deeply affected by Murnau’s passing, had a death mask of him made, which she kept on her desk during her time in Hollywood.

In a disturbing turn of events, Murnau’s grave was vandalized in July 2015, with the remains disturbed and the skull removed by unknown individuals. Traces of wax found at the scene led to speculation about possible ritualistic or occult motives behind the disturbance. Sadly, the skull has not been recovered to this day. Due to this and other incidents, the cemetery authorities were considering sealing the grave to prevent further desecration.

F. W. Murnau’s Legacy

American author Jim Shepard drew inspiration from Murnau’s life and films for his 1998 novel Nosferatu, which originated as a short story in his 1996 collection Batting Against Castro.

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In 2000, director E. Elias Merhige released Shadow of the Vampire, a fictionalized account of the making of Nosferatu, with John Malkovich portraying Murnau. The film depicts Murnau’s extreme dedication to authenticity, going as far as hiring a real vampire, played by Willem Dafoe, to portray Count Orlok.

The fifth season of American Horror Story, titled Hotel (2015), briefly mentions Murnau’s journey to the Carpathian Mountains in the 1920s while researching for Nosferatu. In the series, he encounters a vampire community and eventually becomes one himself, leading to encounters with historical figures like Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova.

The 2020 film Vampires vs. the Bronx pays homage to Murnau through “Murnau Properties,” a company featured in the film with a logo depicting Vlad the Impaler. This fictional company, owned by vampires, aims to take over the Bronx through property acquisitions and blood acquisitions.

Additionally, the short film F.W.M. Symphony (AT 2022) revolves around the theft of Murnau’s skull from his tomb in Berlin in 2015. The stolen skull becomes a focal point in a narrative blending fictional and historical elements.

F. W. Murnau’s Filmography

Original TitleEnglish TitleYearNotes
Der Knabe in BlauThe Boy in Blue / Emerald of Death1919Lost film, minor fragments survive
Satanas1920Lost film, minor fragments survive
Der Bucklige und die TänzerinThe Hunchback and the Dancer1920Lost film
Der Janus-KopfDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde / The Head of Janus1920Lost film
Abend – Nacht – MorgenEvening – Night – Morning1920Lost film
SehnsuchtDesire: The Tragedy of a Dancer1921Lost film
Der Gang in die NachtJourney into the Night1921
Schloß VogelödThe Haunted Castle / Castle Vogeloed1921
Marizza, genannt die Schmuggler-MadonnaMarizza, called the Smuggler Madonna1922Mostly lost, one reel survives
Der brennende AckerThe Burning Soil1922
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des GrauensNosferatu, a Symphony of Horror1922
Phantom1922
Die AustreibungThe Expulsion1923Lost film
Comedy of the Heart1924Writer only
Die Finanzen des GroßherzogsThe Finances of the Grand Duke1924
Der letzte MannThe Last Laugh1924
Herr TartüffTartuffe1926
Faust1926Last German film
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans1927Won one Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Picture
4 Devils1928Generally regarded as one of Murnau’s best works and is a highly sought-after lost film
City Girl1930
Tabu: A Story of the South Seas1931Posthumous release (Died one week before New York premiere)

F. W. Murnau’s NET WORTH

F.W. Murnau, born on December 28, 1888, in Bielefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, was a prominent German director, writer, and producer. He pursued studies in art and literature history at the University of Heidelberg before serving as a combat pilot during World War I. Murnau gained widespread recognition for his influential silent films, notably “Nosferatu” and “Sunrise,” which played pivotal roles in shaping the language of cinema.

Who is it?Director, Writer, Producer
Birth DayDecember 28, 1888
Birth Place Bielefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Germany
F.W. Murnau age131 YEARS OLD
Died OnMarch 11, 1931(1931-03-11) (aged 42)\nSanta Barbara, California, United States
Birth SignCapricorn
OccupationFilm director
Years active1919–1931
Height6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)

F.W. Murnau, a celebrated Director, Writer, and Producer hailing from Germany, is estimated to possess a net worth ranging from $100,000 to $1 million in the year 2024. Murnau’s remarkable abilities and contributions to the film industry have earned him both critical acclaim and financial success. Regarded as one of the pioneering figures of German expressionist cinema, Murnau’s innovative approach to filmmaking has left an indelible mark on the art form. Through his notable works such as “Nosferatu” and “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans,” Murnau’s artistic vision continues to serve as a wellspring of inspiration for generations of filmmakers.

FAQs About F. W. Murnau

  • When is F. W. Murnau’s birthday?
  • F. W. Murnau’s birthday falls on December 28, 2024 (Saturday).
  • What is the birth date of F. W. Murnau?
  • The birth date of F. W. Murnau is December 28, 1888.
  • What is the date of birth of F. W. Murnau?
  • The date of birth of F. W. Murnau is December 28, 1888.
  • Is 28-Dec-1888 the birth date of F. W. Murnau?
  • Yes, December 28, 1888, is the birth date of F. W. Murnau.
  • When is F. W. Murnau’s next birthday date?
  • F. W. Murnau’s next birthday date is December 28, 2024 (Saturday).
  • When was F. W. Murnau born?
  • F. W. Murnau was born on December 28, 1888.
  • When did F. W. Murnau die?
  • F. W. Murnau died on March 11, 1931.
  • At what age did F. W. Murnau die?
  • F. W. Murnau died at the age of 42. (1888 – 1931)

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