Born on this day in 1888: F. W. Murnau
German director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau was obsessed with cinema and stage plays from a very young age.
Murnau’s most famous film is Nosferatu, a silent version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Nosferatu was part of the school of German Expressionism, which was characterized by symbolism and style, sharp lighting, geometrically absurd angles, and low budgets. With a very small budget, Murnau meticulously storyboarded every scene in the film. He used a metronome to control the pace of the acting.
Nosferatu was an unauthorized version of Dracula. Despite many significant changes to the story, including the name of the vampire and the removal of certain characters, Stoker’s estate sued, and won. Production company, Prana Films, a company originally formed to create supernatural and occult films, only made Nosferatu because they filed for bankruptcy as a result of the lawsuit. All copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed, but luckily some had already been distributed to the United States, so a few prints survived.
Murnau has a lot of horror films besides Nosferatu to his credit. These include: The Head of Janus, The Hunchback and the Dancer, The Haunted Castle, and Faust.