Lang's Furious American Debut

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Fury was German director Fritz Lang’s first American film and it was Spencer Tracy’s first major role. While the two didn’t always see eye to eye, they kept their focus on the end result.

Tracy said, “When Sylvia Sidney and I put in 21 hours a day on Fury, we did it because we knew that Lang had something; that it would be something worthwhile.”

1. It was inspired by a true story.

The idea for the film came from Norman Krasna who read about a lynching in San Francisco of a perpetrator who kidnapped a wealthy woman. Krasna wondered what would have happened if they had hanged the wrong man. Joseph L. Mankiewicz loved the idea and got the green light to make it happen from Louis B. Mayer (even though the studio head didn’t have faith in the idea). Mankiewicz chose Fritz Lang as the director of what was then called Mob Rule.

2. Spencer didn’t like multiple takes.

Tracy was known for giving his best performance in the first few takes of a scene. However, director Fritz Lang preferred multiple takes. In one scene, Tracy’s character had to eat peanuts and after doing this multiple times, he started to feel their effect. Just as he was saying his line, he couldn’t help but cough. Tracy joked that the director was trying to kill him with salted peanuts.

3. Sidney wanted the part bad.

Sylvia Sidney wanted to work with Lang and even took a pay cut so she’d be cast. However, the director wasn’t always the easiest to work with. “Fritz had a big ego, to put it bluntly. When he walked on the set, he was the master of the show. He wasn’t that tough on me… He was tough on men… Tracy had a very rough time with him.”

4. Lang wanted it to be realistic.

Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg was impressed by Lang’s artistic Metropolis, but for this film noir, the director didn’t want anything fancy. Rather, he wanted it to look like newsreels. Ruttenberg said, “Throughout, he strove to achieve a documentary realism in keeping with the subject.”

5. Lang hit an actor!

On accident, of course. The director blended in with the extras during the attack on the jailhouse scene. As the action heightened, Lang threw a bomb and accidently hit an extra in the head.