Charles B. Lang - Writer

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Cinematographer. Nationality: American. Born: Charles Bryant Lang, Jr., in Bluff, Utah, 27 March 1902. Education: Attended Lincoln High School, Los Angeles; studied law briefly, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Career: 1919–22—laboratory assistant, then assistant cameraman, Realart Studio; still photographer, Preferred Picture Corporation, then with Paramount from mid-1920s until 1951 (director of photography, 1929–51), then freelance. Awards: Academy Award, for A Farewell to Arms , 1932–33; Life Achievement Award, Society of American Cinematographers, 1991. Died: Of pneumonia, in Santa Monica, California, 3 April 1998.

Films as Cinematographer:


Ritzy (Rosson)


The Shopworn Angel (Wallace)


Innocents of Paris (Wallace); Half-Way to Heaven (Abbott) (co)


Behind the Make-Up (Milton); Seven Days Leave ( Medals ) (Wallace); Street of Chance (Cromwell); Sarah and Son (Arzner); For the Defense (Cromwell); The Light of Western Stars (Brower and Knopf); Shadow of the Law (Gasnier); Anybody's Woman (Arzner); Tom Sawyer (Cromwell); The Right to Love (Wallace)


Unfaithful (Cromwell); The Vice Squad (Cromwell); Caught (Sloman); Forbidden Adventure ( Newly Rich ) (Taurog); The Magnificent Life (Viertel); Once a Lady (McClintic)


No One Man (Corrigan); Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Wallace); Thunder Below (Wallace); Devil and the Deep (Gering); He Learned about Women (Corrigan); A Farewell to Arms (Borzage)


She Done Him Wrong (L. Sherman); A Bedtime Story (Taurog); Gambling Ship (Gasnier and Marcin); The Way to Love (Taurog); Cradle Song (Leisen)


Death Takes a Holiday (Leisen); We're Not Dressing (Taurog); She Loves Me Not (Nugent); Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (Taurog)


The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (Hathaway); Mississippi (Sutherland); Peter Ibbetson (Hathaway)


Desire (Borzage)


Souls at Sea (Hathaway) (co); Angel (Lubitsch); Tovarich (Litvak)


Doctor Rhythm (Tuttle); You and Me (F. Lang); Spawn of the North (Hathaway)


Zaza (Cukor); Midnight (Leisen); The Gracie Allen Murder Case (Green); The Cat and the Canary (Nugent)


Women without Names (Florey); Adventure in Diamonds (Fitzmaurice); Buck Benny Rides Again (Sandrich); Dancing on a Dime (Santley); The Ghost Breakers (Marshall); Arise, My Love (Leisen)


The Shepherd of the Hills (Hathaway); Nothing but the Truth (Nugent); Sundown (Hathaway); Skylark (Sandrich); The Lady Has Plans (Lanfield)


Are Husbands Necessary? (Taurog); The Forest Rangers (Marshall) (co)


So Proudly We Hail (Sandrich); True to Life (Marshall); The Uninvited (L. Allen); No Time for Love (Leisen)


Standing Room Only (Lanfield); I Love a Soldier (Sandrich); Practically Yours (Leisen); Here Comes the Waves (Sandrich)


The Stork Club (Walker)


Miss Susie Slagle's (Berry); Blue Skies (Heisler) (co); Cross My Heart (Berry)


Desert Fury (L. Allen) (co); The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Mankiewicz); Where There's Life (Lanfield)


A Foreign Affair (Wilder); Miss Tatlock's Millions (Haydn); My Own True Love (Bennett)


Rope of Sand (Dieterle); The Great Lover (Hall)


Fancy Pants (Marshall); Copper Canyon (Farrow); Branded (Maté); September Affair (Dieterle); The Mating Season (Leisen)


Ace in the Hole ( The Big Carnival ) (Wilder); Peking Express (Dieterle); Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (Koster) (co); Red Mountain (Dieterle); Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick ( Marshmallow Moon ) (Binyon)


The Atomic City (Hopper); Sudden Fear (Miller)


Salome (Dieterle); The Big Heat (F. Lang); It Should Happen to You (Cukor)


Sabrina ( Sabrina Fair ) (Wilder); Phffft! (Robson)


The Man from Laramie (A. Mann); Female on the Beach (Pevney); Queen Bee (MacDougall)


Autumn Leaves (Aldrich); The Solid Gold Cadillac (Quine); The Rainmaker (Anthony); Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (J. Sturges)


Loving You (Kanter); Wild Is the Wind (Cukor) (co)


The Matchmaker (Anthony); Separate Tables (Delbert Mann); Last Train from Gun Hill (J. Sturges)


Some Like It Hot (Wilder)


Strangers When We Meet (Quine); The Magnificent Seven (J. Sturges); The Facts of Life (Frank); One-Eyed Jacks (Brando)


Blue Hawaii (Taurog); Summer and Smoke (Glenville)


A Girl Named Tamiko (J. Sturges); How the West Was Won (Hathaway, Marshall, and Ford) (co)


Critic's Choice (Weis); The Wheeler Dealers ( Separate Beds ) (Hiller); Charade (Donen); Paris When It Sizzles (Quine)


Father Goose (Nelson); Sex and the Single Girl (Quine)


Inside Daisy Clover (Mulligan)


How to Steal a Million (Wyler); Not with My Wife, You Don't! (Panama)


Hotel (Quine); The Flim-Flam Man ( One Born Every Minute ) (Kershner); Wait until Dark (Young)


A Flea in Her Ear (Charon); The Stalking Moon (Mulligan)


How to Commit Marriage (Panama); Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (Mazursky); Cactus Flower (Saks); A Walk in the Spring Rain (Green)


Doctors' Wives (Schaefner)


The Love Machine (Haley)


Butterflies Are Free (Katselas)


Forty Carats (Katselas)

Other Films:


Are You a Failure? (Forman) (asst); The Virginian (Forman) (asst)


The Golden Princess (Badger) (asst)


The Night Patrol (Smith) (2nd cam)


Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography (Glassman and McCarthy) (as himself)


By LANG: articles—

"Some Thoughts on Low-Key Lighting," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), August 1994.

On LANG: articles—

Wayne, Palma, in Saturday Evening Post (Philadelphia), 22 July 1933.

Rowan, Arthur, on Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), July 1957.

Gavin, Arthur, on Wild Is the Wind in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), January 1958.

Lightman, Herb A., on Last Train from Gun Hill in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), September 1959.

Scot, Darrin, in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1961.

Lightman, Herb A., on Charade in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), May 1964.

Films in Review (New York), October 1970.

Film Comment (New York), Summer 1972.

Focus on Film (London), no. 13, 1973.

American Cinematographer (Hollywood), March 1974.

American Cinematographer (Hollywood), August 1975.

American Cinematographer (Hollywood), December 1990.

Obituary, in Variety (New York), 27 April 1998.

* * *

One of Hollywood's most famous cinematographers, Charles B. Lang labored long and hard in the Golden Age of Hollywood, receiving credit on more than 150 feature films. When the roster of the great camera operators in Hollywood history is drawn up, Charles B. Lang will belong in the top ten. His style is most closely associated with his romantic black-and-white technique, awash with translucent light, which emerged in the 1930s with such films as A Farewell to Arms , Desire , and Angel . Yet, like all the cinematographers of his era, he worked on films from all genres, in all visual styles.

Cinematographers, like all Hollywood employees during the 1930s and 1940s, were signed to long-term, binding contracts. Thus the bulk of their work was associated with one studio. Charles B. Lang toiled for Paramount Pictures from 1929 to 1951, almost the complete length of the Golden Age of the Hollywood studio system. As such he fulfilled his promise as a cinematographer early on, since Paramount, then under the influence of Ernst Lubitsch and Josef von Sternberg, was the home of great photographers of black-and-white cinema.

But as required by changing studio personnel and dictates, Lang adapted to the harsher film noir style of the 1940s. The Big Heat , directed by Fritz Lang in 1953, remains one of the most important examples of the late film noir period. It creates a beauty in the American suburbs and contrasts the jagged edges of the changing American urbanscape. The Big Heat represents an example of black-and-white cinematography at its best. The film would have been far poorer without Lang's work. Finally there have been his color films. Here Lang moved outdoors to film such Westerns as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and One-Eyed Jacks . Again he adapted to a changing Hollywood; he produced many beautiful color motion pictures.

The quality of Lang's work was recognized by his peers. He was among the most honored of Hollywood's cameramen. He won his first Academy Award for cinematography in 1933 with A Farewell to Arms , and was nominated no less than 16 times for films which included The Right to Love ; Arise, My Love ; So Proudly We Hail ; The Ghost and Mrs. Muir ; A Foreign Affair ; Sudden Fear ; and Some Like It Hot .

As part of the Hollywood system from 1922 to 1973, Lang worked on many a mediocre film. But his name on the credits of any film usually guaranteed an interesting visual effort. His greatest work created a complexity of visual delight that students of film will continue to appreciate far off into the future. This is especially true for his work with the directors Billy Wilder and Fritz Lang.

—Douglas Gomery

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