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 knew he needed the producer’s connections and 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 on-set tension derived from Friedlob’s micromanagement. He kept an eagle eye on Lang’s expenses and shooting schedule.

There was also disagreement on the final scene. Friedlob wanted an execution shown on screen, while Lang felt that such a scene would be gruesome. So the director shot the ending that he wanted in defiance. Since Friedlob couldn’t direct himself, the ending remained.

While the film turned out well, the experience soured Lang to a point of no return. 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 left Hollywood and 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 a certain surprise) made Beyond a Reasonable Doubt a thrilling noir.