20 June 2014

Selznick abandons Fritz Lang project

Austrian-born director Fritz Lang decided to make the move to Hollywood in the early 1930s. On 1 June 1934, Lang met with producer David O. Selznick in London (Selznick still worked for MGM at the time) and they agreed to make a film together. However, as their film would be about a crazed group overthrowing the government, the Department of Justice strongly objected to the film being made. In the end, Selznick saw no other alternative than to abandon the project.

The following correspondence took place between Will Hays and David Selznick. As President of the MPPDA (the organisation responsible for the creation of the Production Code), Hays advised Selznick not to proceed with his project. A few days later, Selznick answered Hays' letter saying he would drop the idea altogether. 


June 19, 1934.

Mr. David Selznick,
Culver City, California.

Dear David:

Following our conversation relative to the picture being considered for Mr. Fritz Lang: Mr. Pettijohn returned from Washington and I am enclosing his original office memorandum to me reporting his talk with the Department of Justice on this subject matter.

It is my reasoned judgment, in which Mr. Pettijohn concurs, that under all the circumstances it would not be wise to proceed with the contemplated picture and I so recommend.

With kindest personal regards, I am

Sincerely yours,


cc-Mr. Nicholas M. Schenck.

From left to right: David O. Selznick, Will Hays and Fritz Lang

Source: mppda digital archive


June 22, 1934.

General Will Hays
M.P.P. &D. of A., Inc.,
28 West 44th Street,
New York, New York.

Dear General Hays,

I am in receipt of a letter from Charlie Pettijohn stating the Department of Justice's violent objection to the picture idea suggested by Mr. Fritz Lang and proposed through me. I regret exceedingly that there is obviously no other course open to us but to drop the idea, although I think we could have done a real public service. 

Thank you for your co-operation in the matter.

Cordially yours,

David Selznick (signed)

*Note: Charlie Pettijohn who is mentioned in both letters, was the MPPDA's general counsel. Nicholas Schenck who is cc'd in Hays' letter was an important executive at MGM. And David Selznick addresses Will Hays as General, presumably because Hays had been U.S. Postmaster General in the early 1920s. 

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