Why Lang Quit Hollywood After Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt was director Fritz Lang’s last Hollywood film. The film noir was made simultaneously with another noir While the City Sleeps (read about that here).

Lang wasn’t particularly happy during the production because of the friction between him and producer Bert E, Friedlob.

While the director wasn’t a fan of Friedlob, he recognized that the producer’s connections and ownership of the rights to The Bloody Spur (which would become While the City Sleeps).

Lang would later comment that Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, his second venture with Friedlob, was made “under duress”.

Joan Fontaine could tell the director wasn’t his usual self. She said, “He was on his good behavior. It’s interesting, in the German character, where they can be bullies, they can then turn right around and be very obsequious.”

Most of the tension derived from Friedlob’s micromanagement which meant that he had an eagle eye on Lang’s expenses and shoot schedule.

They also disagreed on a final scene. Friedlob wanted an execution shown on screen, while Lang understood that the audience could imagine it. Rather than film something gruesome, the director shot the ending he wanted in defiance. Since Friedlob couldn’t direct himself, the ending remained.

Still the experience soured Lang even more, and he reportedly said to the Friedlob, “I don't want to have anything to do with you anymore or the American motion picture industry.”

Lang directed four more films in Germany before his death.

Looking back on Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Lang said, “I don't like it at all. I made it, let's face it, because I was bound by a contract… It was a great success. I don’t know why.”

While the experience may have tainted his view of the film, Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine’s performances (along with an certain surprise) make Beyond a Reasonable Doubt a thrilling noir.