Murnau, Friedrich Wilhelm

Murnau, Friedrich Wilhelm


(pseudonym of F. W. Plumpe). Born Dec. 28, 1889, in Murnau, near Bielefeld, Westphalia, Germany; died Mar. 11, 1931, in Hollywood, Calif. German film director.

Murnau studied at the theatrical school of M. Reinhardt, later directing and performing in theatrical productions. His first films were close to expressionism in theme, character treatment, and external means of expression. Murnau gained recognition for his films Der Januskopf (1920; released in the USA as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; based on a work by R. L. Stevenson) and Nosferatu (1922; based on B. Stoker’s Dracula), as well as for his films featuring the prominent actor E. Jannings: Tartuffe (1925; based on Moliére’s play) and Faust (1926; based on Goethe’s drama). Murnau’s best work was Der letzte Mann (1925; released in the USA as The Last Laugh).

In 1926, Murnau went to Hollywood, where he made the films Sunrise (1927; based on H. Sudermann’s play) and Tabu (1931; codirected with R. Flaherty). He died in an automobile accident.


Komarov, S. Istoriia zarubezhnogo kino [2nd ed.]. Moscow, 1965.
Eisner, L. F. W. Murnau. Paris, 1964.