Born in Dusseldorf just after the end of World War II, German film director Wim Wenders grew up with an insatiable appetite for American movies. Not all that interested in big-budget products, he, instead, developed a fascination with B-movies, notably melodramas and Westerns. After studying Medicine and Philosophy in his native country, Wenders took up art in Paris (a mecca for viewing American films), and then returned to his homeland to attend Munich's Academy of Film and Television. Like many of his French movie-fan brethren, Wenders began his career writing film criticism before directing a few short subjects of his own, and, in 1970, he and several other young filmmakers formed a production-distribution firm, Filmverlag Der Autoren. Summer in the City (1970) was Wenders' first feature film, but it was his 1973 adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter that first brought him attention outside of Germany. The film included many accomplishments, most notably coaxing a superb performance from Senta Berger as Hester Prynne, and managing to make the landscapes of Spain resemble 17th century New England.
At this point, Wenders began his road movie cycle, inspired by such American pictures as Easy Rider (1970) and Two-Lane Blacktop (1971). Three films in this genre followed in quick succession: Alice in the Cities (1974), The Wrong Move (1975), and Kings of the Road (1976). For his first English-language picture, The American Friend (1977), Wenders cast three of his American movie idols: actor Dennis Hopper (director/star of Easy Rider) and "cult" directors Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) and Samuel Fuller (The Steel Helmet). Wenders would later co-direct Lightning Over Water (1980) with Ray.