Director Fritz Lang
Director Fritz Lang came to America, from Germany, in 1934. The story he liked to tell, which may be true or which he may have told because it made for a good story, is that Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich’s Minister of Propaganda, met with him to talk about Lang making movies for the Third Reich. Lang said he accepted the offer but that, following the meeting, he caught the next train to Paris, eventually making his way to America.
Once in America Lang began working within the studio system in Hollywood. An autocrat, used to having his way in all things movie-wise, Lang quickly made enemies and burned bridges left and right. After all, in Germany he was “the man” with access to big budgets and casts of thousands. He was frustrated with the constraints placed upon him by American studios and what he perceived to be the overly simplistic nature of American story telling in movies.
Two of Lang’s best American films, available from Netflix, are “The Woman in the Window” (1944) and “Scarlet Street” (1945) each made outside of the studio system. In fact “Scarlet Street” was made for Diana, a company Lang formed with actress Joan Bennett, her husband, producer Walter Wanger, and screenwriter Dudley Nichols. Both films, in addition to having been directed by Lang, and photographed by cinematographer Milton R. Krasner, had the same cast: Bennett, Edward G. Robinson and Dan Duryea.
“The Woman in the Window,” although a fine movie in its own right, can almost be seen as a dry run for “Scarlet Street.” In each story Robinson plays a restless, married middle aged man who becomes involved with a beautiful, much younger, woman (Bennett) with disastrous results, while Dan Duryea plays the heavy.
While “The Woman in the Window” and “Scarlet Street” certainly overlap, the latter is not a remake of the former. “Scarlet Street” is, however, a remake of French director Jean Renoir’s 1931 film “La Chienne.”
While I find “Scarlet Street” to be the more hard hitting of the two, both films are well worth watching in the order in which they were made. The two films demonstrate a progression not only of screenwriting and directing, but of psychological insight and depth.
Sadly, after making “Scarlet Street,” and true to form, Lang had a falling out with Wanger which resulted in the dissolution of their company, Diana. “Scarlet Street” was the only Diana film made. Lang had, once again, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.