Revaluation of Fritz Langs American Films
Some artists are destined to leave their own countries and languages for political and ethical reasons. A film director, Fritz Lang, was one of these famous artists in exile.
Lang, whose German films including Metropolis (1926) and M (1931) are highly regarded, is also well-known for his dramatic personal history. As many biographers have stated,*E1 Lang was offered the leadership of the entire German film industry by the Nazi propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels, in 1933. Lang refused because he was partly Jewish. He escaped to Paris on the night train at once, leaving behind his wife (a devout Nazi) and all his properties. He later emigrated to Hollywood in 1934, where he was already known as a top German film director. Lang committed himself to not using his own language and made 22 American films until 1957.
The majority of film researchers have admired only Langs German films and hardly discussed his American ones, alleging they were tainted by commercialism. Nevertheless, it is too hasty to conclude that such a marvelous artist as Lang terminated his most prolific period only due to changes in his working environment. This essay will study Langs American films so as to prove the significance of his filmmaking in Hollywood.
I will draw a distinction between my argument and that of some neutral critics that Langs American films reflected the remarkable techniques of his German years. I would rather state that Langs films reached their ripest and most thorough stage in Hollywood, not in Germany, as Clash by Night (1952) verifies. This film has scarcely been discussed among Lang scholars: not only the anti-Hollywood writers but also the ones who, to some degree, value Langs American films.*E2 Nonetheless, this melodrama proves Langs mature approach to human nature.
In Germany, Lang depicted personal conflicts through two opposing terms: the criminals uncontrollable compulsion and greed, and the locals compelling indictment against them. In Metropolis (1926), he manifested the conflict and reconciliation between the ruling class and the workers surrounding a woman android. In M (1931), there was the mob violence revolving around the child murderer. In the United States, on the other hand, he portrayed all the characters as large as life. In Clash by Night, he dealt with a risque subject (adultery) in a realistic and tasteful manner; people are individuals and their desires are illustrated in a series of routine signs, such as beer and perfume.
In this respect, it can be argued that Clash by Night proves that Lang made a dramatic breakthrough in his filmmaking: from a pessimistic, artificial art to a vivid, natural one. It is wonderful that he successfully developed his capacities at the end of such a harsh experience as exile. In order to validate the argument above, this essay will analyze Langs masterpieces from his German to his American years, and figure out the remarkable structure and theme of each work.
A Cinematic Sign, 22
1936 was a memorable year for Lang. Fury, his first Hollywood film after he moved to America, lived up to expectations. For the theme of the film, Lang employed the key features of his German films: lynch law, justice, and revenge. At the same time, the film revealed a new tendency, which would later distinguish his American films from his German ones.
Before I discuss the film, I will give a summary of Fury. A simple and honest American (Spencer Tracy) is suddenly arrested under suspicion of kidnapping in a small town where he has stopped off during his trip. What is worse, an angry mob lynches Tracy and burns down the police station where he has been kept in detention.
The story of the first half reflects the serious social problems of the United States of the time, such as increasing lynchings and kidnappings with enormous demands for ransom.*E3 The film also recalls the plot of M, but in the second half Lang depicted the innocent mans revenge in a way distinct from his German method.
Spencer Tracys character miraculously survives, but he deliberately lets no one, not even his grieving girlfriend, know of his existence. It is because he wants the mob of 22 people to get the death sentence for his murder. He hides and looks forward to hearing the judgment laid upon them. Although he initially has no hesitation in taking revenge on them, he begins to feel guilty when he comes across a symbolic sign at a bar. It is the most unexpected moment in the film not only for Tracys character and the spectators who have identified with him, but also for the people who have analyzed the film in terms of film history.
The sign is found in a pad calendar at the bar counter. The hero first sees the number 20 printed in black on the white sheet of the calendar, which means it is the 20th of November. The bartender then realizes that it is after midnight and he tears off two sheets (20 and 21) by mistake, such that the number 22 is abruptly visible to the heros (and the spectators) eyes. Twenty-two is exactly the number of the criminals who are about to be sent to the electric chair.
Tracys character, shocked by the coincidence, decides to reveal his identity (as if complying with the Hollywood ethic that no good American or movie star should commit a crime). It is, indeed, a curious coincidence in terms of film history, not just in the context of the films imaginary world. The number 22 actually foretold Langs later filmmaking. As I have mentioned, Lang was to direct a total of 22 films in America from his first film Fury to Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956), with which he put a period to his long exile.
We should also discuss 22 in terms of the films dramatic context. The coincidental number shakes the protagonist who is experiencing a mental crisis, delivering his mixed feelings to the spectators. As exemplified by 22, Lang frequently made use of such cinematic signs in America, as well as in Germany. It is significant, though, that Lang produced a greater effect on the spectators in America by changing the way that these signs were presented. This is what distinguishes Langs American films from his German ones, and what indicates that he finally became a full-fledged artist in the United States. The final section will discuss the issue above through a close analysis of Langs last American film, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Meanwhile, we should find out how abstract the cinematic signs of his early films were.
The Abstract Signs
If Fury (1936) is categorized as a lynching film, in which a mob of citizens punish an innocent man without a legal trial, M (1931), one of Langs most celebrated films, should fall into that category too.
What frames M is the amazing network woven among the local people. They pursue and get the psychotic murderer of little girls (Peter Lorre) through the network, and furthermore, sentence him to death in a sort of kangaroo court. The network includes the members of the local underworld and is far better organized than the police. Consequently, the murderer is tracked down not by the police but by the locals. Their well-organized network reminds us of the syndicate that Lang depicted in his early film, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922). Dr. Mabuse, a criminal mastermind, has a greater interest in taking control of a network of classified information than in robberies. Even if he conducts a burglary, his intent is obviously to manipulate the stock exchange. What concerns Mabuse most is how he can take advantage of the network and manipulate other people just like dominoes.
The network of classified information is usually maintained by an exchange of abstract signs. In the case of M, the sign is M (for Murderer). A young man discovers the criminal and leaves the sign on his back lest the suspect should disappear in the crowd. The young man pretends to push his way through the crowd and presses his palm, on which he has chalked M, against Lorres back as if pressing a rubber stamp. M discriminates the suspect from the crowd. Lorre turns into a kind of scapegoat and eventually finds himself trapped in the network, all the members of which are aware of the sign.
M does not terrify spectators because of the murderer, who wishes to stop killing innocent girls but is constantly overpowered by his uncontrollable compulsion, or because of the local people who lynch him. The film frightens us because it realizes the nightmare hidden in the information-oriented society. Lorres character is ultimately caught in the meshes of the sign M, through which the members of the network fully exchange information. The sign is so effective and manipulative that even a ghastly murderer is trapped.
This essay, however, will not make a comparison between the manipulative aspects of the society of M and German society of the time. The observations above rather note that Lang frequently employed ominous signs in his films, as exemplified by M and 22. For another example, in Human Desire (1954), it is F: a grisly murder takes place behind the door of compartment F of a train. In Secret Beyond the Door (1947), 7 marks the door of the paranoid husbands room, which he does not even allow his wife to enter.
These signs (M, 22, F, and 7) are still abstract, since they carry no significance literally. They insinuate something ominous such as a murderer or the number of people in a mob, but they actually mean nothing out of the dramatic context. In other words, these signs become substantial only when they are recognized by a group of characters who want to read their latent meanings.
In Langs later films, coinciding with his move to the United States, the above series of abstract signs changes into more tangible ones occupying intricate patterns. Nevertheless, in a period of transition, there was a film which consisted of a series of further abstract signs: Scarlet Street (1945). The next chapter, therefore, will discuss this fascinating film with regard to its cinematic signs.
The signs that I discussed in the previous section are only recognizable to some characters, but are simple enough to make sense to all spectators. In Scarlet Street, however, the sign is no longer obvious. The recurrent sign is so subtle and intricate that even the spectators cannot easily identify it.
Scarlet Street is a sort of companion piece to the prior film, The Woman in the Window (1944). Scarlet Street is, as it were, the Hollywood (Langs) version of Der Blaue Engel (dir: Josef von Sternberg, 1930) in its story and style. Lang cast Joan Bennett in place of Marlene Dietrich, who in the original film was a femme fatale who seduces a naive middle-aged man into his downfall. As the man enslaved to the sensual Bennett, Edward G. Robinson (a veteran Hollywood actor) gave a brilliant performance.
In the film, we come across the cinematic sign when Robinson, lured by the bad woman, commits a crime for the first time. He betrays his employer and steals money from the office, where he has been working as a cashier for years. Robinson takes charge of the cash box in a small, glass room of the office. There is an opening in the glass wall to receive cash, above which CASHIER is marked at the level of a mans height.
The sign appears through the word on the glass. In the tranquil lighting of wintertime, the single letter S of CASHIER casts a shadow on the pathetic mans forehead, as he distorts his face in agony while still committing the theft for Bennett. The marvelous lighting techniques of Milton Krasner, the director of photography, show the shadowy sign as if the cashier was branded with the initial S at the moment of the crime. Furthermore, S appears twice in the film lest any of the spectators should miss the sign. Hereafter, I will call the series of such signs SS.
SS is clearly significant with respect to the Hollywood film techniques of the time. German exiles including Lang brought in Expressionist lighting techniques which were soon featured in film noir, a new Hollywood genre. As a result, You Only Live Once (1937), Langs second film in America, became one of the models for film noir. SS also represents Langs striking use of lighting.
Now let us consider the difficult question of SS in its dramatic context. Robinson is a Sunday painter, whose simple miniatures remind us of Henri Rousseau. Despite his wifes belittlement, his paintings come to fetch high prices and he becomes known in the art circles. SS is located in one of his paintings. It is in a portrait of a young woman standing still under a street lamp in a desolate place, which appears to visualize the title, Scarlet Street. The painting apparently recalls film noir, and equally implies the candid mans doomed encounter with a deadly woman.
The painting shows a large snake wound around the steel post of a railway, which rises to the right of the woman. The snake is illustrated out of perspective and conspicuously forms an S. Needless to say, the painting is the Greenwich Village version of the Lost Paradise, with Eve (the bad woman), who tempts Adam (the cashier), and the snake, the root of all evil. The cashier is accordingly branded with S (for Sinner and Serpent) in the forehead, when he commits a crime for the first time in his life (in other words, when he eats the forbidden fruit). (In fact, criminals used to be branded in the forehead as punishment.) S appears twice in the film and naturally refers to the initials of the film: SS for Scarlet Street. As SS also suggests the scarlet letter, the sign might be interpreted in multiple ways.
The central issue SS presents is the fact that Lang developed the potentialities of cinematic signs in his films as the years went on. This is what differentiates between his American and German films. In M, a series of signs, however abstract, are clearly recognized by some of the characters and all of the spectators (because the sign is made for the purpose of discriminating and entrapping the murderer). On the other hand, in Scarlet Street, each sign is very carefully abstract. Furthermore, a series of abstract signs are so elaborately associated with each other and carry such various implications so that only a section of the spectators can grasp their full significance.
Scarlet Street was the film in which cinematic signs degree of abstraction reached its peak. Afterward, Lang made a turn in his style of signs, from abstract to tangible (routine/common) ones. At the same time, the degree of association between each sign was to reach its highest point. The following section will discuss Clash by Night and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt in order to verify the argument above.
The Moment that the Heroine Backs Down on Her Desire
As I have mentioned, Clash By Night (1952), Langs completely ignored family melodrama, should be listed as one of the most brilliant films of his American years.
The film climaxes at the moment when the heroine (Barbara Stanwyck) backs down on her lust and reforms herself. Just as Spencer Tracys character finally gives up his quest for revenge on the mob of 22 citizens and stops them from being sent to the electric chair in Fury (1936), Stanwyck decides to return to her husband the moment that she runs away with her young lover.
The heroine is a fallen woman. After a furious quarrel with her husband, she leaves him for another man whom she has adored. But she still feels empty. She realizes that there will be no hope in her new life with the man and she changes her mind. Her husband is dull, but at the same time, tolerant. For all her uncontrollable desire, the heroine goes back to her married life in the end. This is seemingly a false happy ending in compliance with the Production Code of the time. Although the film was initially produced as an adultery story, it was cited by the PCA (the Production Code Administration), which required of the film that the sanctity of the institution of marriage should be upheld at all times.*E4
Nevertheless, the moment that the heroine backs down on her desire is crucial with reference to cinematic signs, especially when compared with the use of signs in Fury. There is no longer a sign like 22 in Clash by Night. In fact, Langs dramatic turn in the style of signs owed a great deal to the brilliant performance of Barbara Stanwyck, a top Hollywood actress.*E5
A woman like the heroine in Clash by Night was typical of Stanwycks main roles. From the 1930s to the 1950s, she always performed as a woman who first put her desire in front of anything else, but ultimately reforms herself for her family (her children and husband), as is the case in Stella Dallas (dir: King Vidor, 1937), Christmas in Connecticut (dir: Peter Godfrey, 1945), and All I Desire (dir: Douglas Sirk, 1953). With the exception of Double Indemnity (dir: Billy Wilder, 1944), in which she took the role of a femme fatale, it is not too much to say that Stanwyck herself represented the Hollywood melodrama for decades.
The crucial moment in Clash by Night thus did not necessarily have to be illustrated by abstract signs like 22 or M. It was fully manifested when Stanwyck unexpectedly lowered her high-pitched nasal voice and looked absentmindedly into the air. She marvelously expressed the turning point by means of her voice and eyes (tangible signs). Lang came across this miraculous actress, and his film, for the first time, gained the fascination most narrative films basically held.
In parallel with Stanwycks substantial acting, Clash by Night features a series of routine signs instead of abstract ones. Nicholas Musuraka, the director of photography, displayed his outstanding technique by filming several scenes associated with foam-flecked water: the dark waves beating upon Monterey Bay; Marilyn Monroe standing on her head by having her boyfriend hold her ankles so she can get salt water out of her ears; the beer foam leaking out of a broken bottle which a middle-aged man, carrying piles of beer bottles in his arms, has dropped on the roadside; the husband upset by his wife still going out after midnight and searching her belongings, only to pour her perfume all over his hand; and him desperately washing his hands in the kitchen to get rid of the scent.
A series of these scenes, together with their rhythmic movement, which the films title suggests, as well as Stanwycks great contribution, successfully complete a story of personal conflicts between each persons uncontrollable desire and assumed responsibility.
Each of the characters is associated with foam-flecked water, whereby they
are shown to be confused or embarrassed, revealing several aspects of their
lives. They are ordinary people who experience joy and grief in their everyday
lives, as a result of which they start a new life. In Clash by Night,
Lang portrayed all the characters as large as life, something unprecedented
in his career.
In his German films, the characters were always portrayed, as it were, larger than life: the people manipulated by the social system, the criminal who discovered himself in controlling information, and the people under chronic stress and mass hysteria. It can be argued that Langs move from Germany to America coincided with the period in which Lang turned his direction from allegorical Expressionism to psychological realism. Lang, at last, accomplished a new human story in Clash by Night.
A Courtroom Drama
Now that we have made a study of several films of Langs, it is time that we should discuss the film at issue, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956), in terms of the comparison between abstract and tangible (routine/common) signs.
What awes us about the film is that the structure itself reflects the theme. The spectators are accordingly required to think about the key issue that the film represents (as if they were one of the members of the imaginary world); they are no longer mere observers.
The central issue of this courtroom film is the question about clear evidence and judgment. As a result of the accumulated evidence, we form a judgment beyond a reasonable doubt. The film then questions us spectators if we really made a decision that was based on a careful consideration of the facts. In a wider context, it also asks us what watching a film signifies.
In the film, all the incriminating evidence is displayed on screen. The spectators are given the full amount of information and are supposed to recognize all the evidence presented to the court (the screen), as opposed to the ignorant jury. Do the spectators, however, really grasp all of it?
The question might be an advanced form of the theme of Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922), which showed Mabuses uncontrollable desire to take control of the world-wide network. In Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, we see how gigantic ambition, which Lang depicted in the character of Dr. Mabuse, is transfigured in the democratic environment that modern America has stood for.
Let us read the film in detail. The protagonist (Dana Andrews) is a journalist who protests against the present system of jurisprudence in which suspects pay the extreme penalty on circumstantial evidence. He bravely declares himself a murder suspect in order to effectively point out the flawed system. He gains the information from the media and makes all the circumstantial evidences establish his guilt. For instance, he leaves a lighter bearing the inscription of his name at the place where the murdered woman was found; he scatters the same face powder as the victims on the passenger seat of his car; simultaneously, he wipes off all the fingerprints inside the car; and he buys the same kind of coat that the witness has identified as the murderers. He, of course, has a cameraman take photos of each piece of circumstantial evidence, so as to prove his innocence later.
Before long, Andrews is naturally arrested on suspicion of murder and taken into custody, where upon he finds himself in trouble. All of a sudden, the cameraman is killed in an accident and all the photos are burnt to ashes. He no longer has anything (or anyone) to verify his innocence. The unexpected development of the first half of the film is still a repetition of Fury, another courtroom film. Nevertheless, the latter part will take the spectators by surprise on two levels: inside and outside the imaginary world.
Firstly, the spectators are startled by the ending, in which Andrewss character turns out to be the real murderer despite his claim of innocence. He has committed a double perjury, which startles the spectators since they have identified with him for more than an hour. The shock they undergo inside the imaginary world, though, is probably not as much as with Psycho (dir: Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). In that film, the heroine is killed before the first half of the film is over.
What appalls the spectators in Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, in fact, is set outside the imaginary world. It is when they come to realize that they (might) have missed a fatal fact with regard to Andrews. The protagonist cannot identify a piece of circumstantial evidence presented to the court, a fact which puzzles him. He has been over-confident that he had all the information in the palm of his hand. It is crucial, therefore, whether or not the spectators can recognize the evidence, instead of the protagonist. In other words, the film tests the spectators on their powers of observation. They are, indeed, meant to be more aware of every piece of evidence than any of the characters on the screen, to such a degree that they can even point out the flawed judicial system on behalf of the journalist. In this court drama, it is ultimately the spectators who should pass judgment on the protagonist.
The Invisible Sign
As I have mentioned in an other essay,*E6 spectators in the Hollywood cinema are sort of faithful followers of a forcible speaker (protagonist). They go through whatever the protagonist experiences in the imaginary world and do nothing more. The majority of ordinary films are established on this framework. In this regard, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is an exceptional film.
In the film, the protagonist is satisfied with his control over his circumstances. It is thus vital whether or not the spectators knowledge exceeds that of the protagonists, however happily they have identified with him. If they recognize the thing that he misses, it means that they transcend the knowledge given in the framework. It is the moment that they go beyond the imaginary world and will find themselves grasping the film both inside and outside of its world.
Let us see the circumstantial evidence that the protagonist overlooks. It appears at the moment that Andrewss character has a little rest in his garage and has devised another piece of evidence. The cameraman, as usual, has taken photos. The cameraman, then, lights his pipe with a match and presses the hole of the pipe with the match box, which he quickly throws away behind him. The match box will turn out to be fatal to Andrews, who is not careful enough to make evidence of the pipe. A witness has testified that the murderer was smoking a pipe.
It is a critical matter that not only the protagonist but also most of the spectators fail to recognize what the cameraman leaves in the garage. The spectators miss the moment, mainly because it is a common sequence in the film. There have already been more than ten smoking scenes, in fact, up until that moment. Some people always smoke and smoking is also typical of film noir. Cigarette smoke, as well as dark shadows, is actually indispensable to the iconography of film noir.*E7 The spectators, thus, take the scene for granted and barely grasp the situation. Besides, the smoking cameraman is framed in a medium shot only for a few seconds; furthermore, the non-pipe-smoking spectators cannot make out what he does, let alone what is marked on the match box. In brief, the box can be considered invisible to their eyes.
The match box will unexpectedly turn out in favor of the prosecution. The rectangular box, with which the cameraman pressed his lit pipe, bears a round and black burnt mark in its center. It looks like a black Rising Sun flag. The prosecution brands the black circle of the match box as an incriminating piece of evidence in the following way.
1. According to the witness, the murderer was smoking a pipe.
2. The suspect (the protagonist) has testified under oath that he is not a pipe smoker.
3. Nonetheless, the match box bearing the burnt mark has been found in the suspects garage, which proves his pipe-smoking habit.
4. Consequently, he is presumed to perjure himself.
The statement above is a mere conjecture, which is not beyond a reasonable doubt at all. The match box, however, adds to the circumstantial evidences against the protagonist. Different from the evidence that Andrews intentionally devised (e.g., the lighter, the face powder, and the coat), the box has slipped from his grip, ironically to accuse him.
It should be noted that the spectators must recognize the smoking sequence in the garage. Otherwise, they, as well as the naive jury, cannot prove that the incriminating evidence (which the prosecution patronizingly demonstrates to them) is totally groundless. The spectators are required to be careful not to overlook the cameramans action, however familiar and routine it looks. (Smoking sequences are actually common on two levels: as I have mentioned, they are frequent in the imaginary world and are routine in the genre called film noir. The film partially fulfills the function of film noir and thus has several smoking sequences.)
If the spectators remember the sequence, they immediately can offer evidence against the prosecution whose statements are, by no means, beyond a reasonable doubt. (Now that the cameraman is dead, they are the only witness for the defense.) While the black circle of the match box is branded as incriminating evidence, it certainly proves (to them) to be false evidence. It is, though, very likely that the spectators overlook the sequence.*E8 In that case, they cannot help but admit that they have failed to read a series of invisible (which means, routine, common, and tangible) signs that Lang has elaborated in the process of the film. They can no longer allege that they have adequately appreciated Langs film, since they have not reacted readily to all the information he has given them. They, in a sense, find themselves left out of the games that Lang played in his lifetime.
Now we should get to the point. The ending of the film startles the model spectators because they have believed in Andrewss innocence as a result of their observations of him. They have identified with him, but at the same time, they have kept an eye on him to such an extent that they believe he has been trapped in a frame-up of coincidence. In the court sequence during which the prosecution presents the match box as evidence, Andrewss character is totally vulnerable, however misguided the prosecution is. Nothing can disprove the match box. He has lost the cameraman and the photos which can prove his innocence, something which can be considered his misfortune. The match box, though, is entirely the result of his negligence. Through it, he has to admit, for all his knowledge of the case, that there have been several things invisible even to himself. It is also the moment that the spectators (who recognize the evidence, the invisible sign) become certain of Andrewss innocence. Simultaneously, they realize what motivated the protagonist to appeal for social justice: the flawed system of jurisdiction, which is obviously exemplified by the complacent prosecution in the court. They fully understand what he has, at the risk of his life, fought against. It is, therefore, very ironical that they are the ones who will be astonished by the unexpected ending: what I have called the shock set inside the imaginary world.
Based on the argument above, I would like to conclude the final section by offering a semiotic approach to the film. The match box, bearing a round and black burnt mark, provides various meanings for the characters (the cameraman, the protagonist, and the prosecution) and the spectators. In the first place, it is nothing but an empty match box thrown away by the cameraman. No one expects at the moment that it will turn out to be fatal . The box is naturally overlooked by the cameraman, the protagonist (who is supposed to observe the cameramans smoking), and even the majority of spectators (who are supposed to observe the whole sequence).
In the case of M, none of the network members or the spectators can miss the letter M. Likewise, neither Tracy nor any of the spectators fails to notice the number 22, the ominous sign, in Fury. On the other hand, in Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, the characters remain ignorant of the sign they (the protagonist and the cameraman) themselves have made.
A tangible sign (a round and black burnt mark) is transformed into an abstract one when it is found in the protagonists garage by other people. The sign is interpreted by the police as something which can possibly establish his guilt. It is shortly branded by the prosecution as incriminating evidence (like the letter M), at the same time as it paradoxically assures the model spectators of his innocence. In the process of the film, tangible sign comes to render a variety of abstract meanings. The framework, centered around the tangible sign, is far more advanced than that of Langs early films (M and Fury), in which a series of abstract signs are displayed simply.
In conclusion, I should like to state again that the significance of the spectators is proved when they recognize the invisible sign at issue. In Scarlet Street, Lang subtly established the processes by which the spectators recognize and interpret the cinematic sign in various ways. In Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, the sign is further expanded; it goes beyond the imaginary world and requires the spectators to correctly read it. The model spectators are accordingly meant to transcend the protagonists knowledge, for all their empathy toward him. They are, as it were, model judges. They have to keep a certain distance from the imaginary world and carefully observe each fact, so that they can eventually form a judgment beyond a reasonable doubt. From the beginning to the end, they must look at everything thoroughly; this is what the film signifies.
In the particular type of medium called cinema, the act of looking is the biggest issue. In Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Lang specified the perfect form of looking. This is when the refugee director, who spent his life in five nations (Austria, Germany, France, the United States, and West Germany), finally gave full play to his great potential.
This article is a revised version of one of the chapters included in my book What Is the Cinema? published by Misuzu Shobo in 2001.
*E1 Kurt Liese, Doitsu eiga no idaina jidai (Tokyo: Film
Art Co.), pp. 368-371; Otto Friedrich, Hollywood teikoku no kobo (Tokyo:
Bungei Shuppan), pp. 72-73, [City of Nets (New York: Harper & Row
Publishers, Inc., 1986),]. Their original source is assumed to be Peter Bogdanovich,
Fritz Lang in America (Studio Vista, 1967), p. 15, in which Lang gave
a detailed interview.
*E2 I regret to say, Clash by Night was not even referred to in Reynold Humphries, Fritz Lang: Genre and Representation in His American Films (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), in which Humphries makes a superb textual analysis of most of Langs American films.
*E3 Lang stated that the script of Fury was modeled upon an actual case of lynching which had taken place in California a few years before production. See Bogdanovich, Fritz Lang in America, p. 16.
*E4 Janet Bergstrom, The Mistery of the Blue Gardenia, in Joan Copjec, ed., Shades of Noir: a Reader (Verso, 1993), pp. 99-100. PCA required alterations in both the script and the film in July 1951, and took until March 1952 to censor them. The censorship procedure was relatively long for an independent production film.
*E5 Lang expressed great admiration for Barbara Stanwyck in Bogdanovich, Fritz Lang in America, pp. 80-82.
*E6 Mikiro Kato, Risotekina Kankyaku (The Model Spectators): Psychoanalysis, Misuzu: Oct., 1994 (Tokyo: Misuzu Shobo, 1994).
*E7 For the iconography of film noir, please refer to Kato, Film Noir no Hanzai Yori 1, 2 (The Whole Framework of Film Noir 1, 2), Subaru: Mar & May, 1990.
*E8 I gave a questionnaire to 10 of my students, whom I assume will become the film experts of the future, after they watched the film. The result was that only one student remembered the scene. Actually, I myself overlooked it when I first saw the film ten years ago.
(This essay is based upon the film seminar that I conducted at the Space Benguet Hall, Kyoto, on November 9, 1994.)