F. W. Murnau

Film director

1888 – 1931


Who was F. W. Murnau?

Friedrich Wilhelm "F. W." Murnau was one of the most influential German film directors of the silent era, and a prominent figure in the expressionist movement in German cinema during the 1920s. Born in Bielefeld, Murnau was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Ibsen plays he had seen at the age of 12, and made friends with director Max Reinhardt. Murnau also served as a company commander at the eastern front during World War I, surviving several crashes without any injuries.

Murnau's best known work was his 1922 film Nosferatu, an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Although not a commercial success due to copyright issues with Stoker's novel, the film was considered a masterpiece of Expressionist artwork. He was also known for his work with the 1924 film The Last Laugh and his interpretation of Goethe's Faust. He later emigrated to Hollywood in 1926, where he joined the Fox Studio and made three films, including Sunrise, Four Devils and City Girl.

Murnau travelled to Bora Bora to make the film Tabu in 1931 with documentary film pioneer Robert Flaherty, who left after artistic disputes with Murnau who had to finish the movie on his own. A week prior to the opening of the film Tabu, Murnau died in a Santa Barbara hospital from injuries he received in an automobile accident that occurred along the Pacific Coast Highway near Rincon Beach, south of Santa Barbara.

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Dec 28, 1888
Also known as
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe
  • F.W. Murnau
  • Murglie
  • Dr. F.W. Murnau
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
  • Germany
  • Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg
Lived in
  • Bielefeld
Mar 11, 1931
Santa Barbara

on July 23, 2013


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