Shadow of the Vampire: The Real Dracula - F.W. MURNAU

F.W. MURNAU (Illustration) Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Famous People Film Geography Social Studies World History Legends and Legendary People

In a still-shot from F.W. Murnau's film, Nosferatu, we see Count Orlok (Murnau's version of Dracula) on board ship. As the vessel comes into port, Orlok (the vampire) is the only one still alive. Killing his victims, Orlok differs from Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is one of the ways in which Nosferatu's film makers tried to get around copyright restrictions (since they did not have permission, from the Stoker Estate, to make the silent-era movie).


F.W. Murnau (born Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe in Bielefeld, Germany in 1888) was one of the most acclaimed directors of the silent-movie era.

One of five children, (2 brothers and 2 sisters), he showed an early interest in the theatre. In 1910, the family name was changed to Murnau, for a lovely Bavarian town.  Following service as a German pilot during WWI, Murnau pursued his real passion: making movies.

Very little has been written about Murnau in English, although a 1998 novel, Nosferatu by Jim Shepard, is loosely based on his life. Several German Internet sites, however, provide important details of the man and his work.

The original silent film, Nosferatu Eine Symphonie des Grauens (translated as Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror), is available for online viewing. Among other things, we see Murnau’s version of Dracula (called "Count Orlok") arriving home by ship. English subtitles describe the scene: "The Master is coming! The master is here!"

"The master," of course, is the only one left on board. Everyone else, thanks to "The Master," is dead.

Following enormous success in Germany, with films like "Faust," Murnau was invited to make movies in Hollywood. Two other Germans, Fritz Lang and Georg Wilhelm Pabst, were already in America.

Murnau, however, believed he did not have enough control over his films when the Hollywood studios were involved. He soon went to the South Seas where he filmed Tabu.

One week before Tabu premiered in New York, Murnau was a passenger in a car bound for Monterey, California. It would be his last trip.

When the car was involved in an accident just south of Santa Barbara, Murnau was thrown-out and his head struck a pole. He died instantly, by the side of the road. He was 42 years old.

Totally absorbed with his craft of film-making, Murnau wanted his characters and movies to be as realistic as possible. It did not matter to him that audiences could not hear his characters speak. The images and shadows of people and scenes spoke for themselves.

None was heard more loudly than Max Schreck, who played Dracula.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jul 09, 2015

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"F.W. MURNAU" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 01, 2001. May 26, 2020.
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