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Memphis, Tennessee
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Memphis, Tennessee

Walter Lang was a well-known American film director who directed a series of beautiful colorful musicals for Fox Studios in the 1940s. Little is known about his early life, except that he fought in the US Army in France during WWI. When he returned, he accepted a job at a film production firm and gradually developed an interest in directing. When Dorothy Davenport asked him to direct her own production of ‘The Red Kimono,’ he jumped at the chance. He went on to make another twelve silent pictures after that. As a result, Walter Lang was already a well-known filmmaker by the time sound arrived. Despite this, he did not find a good role until the mid-1930s, when he was hired by 20th Century Fox. Lang began generating hits, many of which were musicals, when they gave him with superb screenplays and top-notch actors. Meanwhile, he had taken a quick trip to Paris in the hopes of making a name for himself as a painter, but he had failed miserably. Despite being regarded as one of Hollywood’s finest filmmakers, he developed a passion for painting, which he rekindled after leaving from the field. He was a meticulous gentleman who was well-liked by his peers.

Childhood and Adolescence

Walter Lang was born in Memphis, Tennessee on August 10, 1896. Little is known about his early life, except that he fought in the US Army in France during WWI. He got a clerical position in a film production business in New York when he returned to the US at the end of the war.

Soon after, he developed an interest in film direction and began observing filmmakers at work. He was then promoted to Assistant Director and began working for other directors in small businesses. He didn’t have his first chance to direct his own film until 1925.

Career of Walter Lang

Dorothy Davenport hired Lang to direct her performance of “The Red Kimono” in 1925. The silent picture was based on the real-life experiences of a prostitute. Davenport was successfully sued by the prostitute for a large sum of money as a result of it.

Lang, on the other hand, continued to make pictures and was able to complete a dozen more silent features over the next four years. The final of these films, ‘The Spirit of Youth,’ was released in 1929. ‘Hello Sister,’ his debut Pre-Code film, was released on February 15, 1930. He also directed ‘Cock O’ the Walk,’ ‘The Big Fight,’ ‘The Costello Case,’ and ‘The Brothers’ in the same year. ‘The Brothers,’ released by Columbia Pictures, a minor studio at the time, was one of them. ‘Command Performances,’ ‘Hell Bound,’ and ‘Women Go On Forever’ were all released in 1931.

He was tired of working for tiny businesses and decided to travel to France to try his hand at painting. He spent some time in Paris’s Montparnasse Quarter, but quickly concluded he wasn’t cut out to be a painter. As a result, he returned to the United States and made his second feature, ‘No More Orchids,’ with Columbia Pictures. On November 25, 1932, the film was released. Film starred Carole Lombard as Ann Holt, but it did not do well at the box office. Despite this, Lang continued to make films.

Following ‘No more Orchids,’ other notable but not particularly successful films included ‘Meet the Baron’ (1933), ‘The Party’s Over’ (1934), and ‘Love before Breakfast’ (1936). In fact, he did not achieve significant success until he was hired by 20th Century-Fox in the mid-1930s.

In 1937, he made his Fox debut with the comedy film ‘Wife Doctor and Nurse.’ He went on to make 34 pictures with the same business over the next four decades. For the first time, Lang had the opportunity to work with top-tier actors and write terrific scripts at Fox.

His fourth film with Fox, ‘The Little Princess,’ was his first significant smash. The film, which had a budget of $1 million and starred Shirley Temple as a child artist, was released in 1939. Another of his notable pictures was ‘The Blue Bird,’ which was released in 1940. Despite being a box office flop, it received two Academy Award nominations and is now available on VHS and DVD. ‘Tin Pan Alley’ was Lang’s second significant masterpiece. This monthly musical starred Alice Faye, Betty Grable, John Payne, and Jack Oakie and was released on November 29, 1940.

Alfred Newman composed the music for the picture, for which he won his first Academy Award. It was a huge hit at the box office.  On June 18, 1941, he released his third film, ‘Moon Over Miami,’ which was even more successful. It was a musical film about two sisters (Betty Grable and Carole Landis) who go husband hunting in Miami. Don Ameche played the male lead, and Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger composed the film’s original music.

Following that, he directed two more musicals, ‘Weekend in Havana’ (1941) and ‘Song of the Island’ (1942), all of which were critical and commercial successes. Following that, he directed ‘The Magnificent Dope,’ a non-musical comedy. It was premiered on July 1, 1942, and starred Henry Fonda, Lynn Bari, and Don Ameche.

Following that, he returned to musicals and directed ‘Coney Islands.’ The film starred Betty Gable as Kate Farley and was released on June 11, 1943. It was also a huge success. It earned $3.5 million in US rental after a $1.62 million expenditure.

Walter Lang then went on to make additional blockbuster movies. The movie ‘Greenwich Village,’ which was released on September 27, 1944, grossed $1,850,000 at the box office. ‘State Fair,’ his third feature, was released on August 29, 1945, and grossed $4 million in the United States and Canada.

He had two films released in fast succession in 1946. On February 25, ‘Claudia and David’ was released, followed by ‘Sentimental Journey’ on March 6. Despite the fact that the latter film received mixed reviews, it was a box office success. ‘Mother Wore Tights,’ his second feature, was released in September 1947. With this film, Gable, who had been dominating the box office since the early 1940s, achieved her greatest success.

He has two pictures released in 1948. ‘Sitting Pretty,’ for example, was the year’s biggest comedic smash. It’s about a man named Mr. Belvedere, who is hired to watch three rambunctious kids who have ejected all prior babysitters. ‘When My Baby Smiles at Me,’ his second film, was likewise a tremendous smash. ‘You’re My Everything’ (1949) and ‘Cheaper by Dozen’ (1950) followed (1950). ‘Cheaper by Dozen,’ about a family with twelve children, was a box office smash, grossing $4,425,000. It was followed by a spoof titled ‘Jackpot,’ which was also a hit (1950).

He produced ‘On the Riviera,’ a successful backstage musical, in 1951. The next year, he directed ‘With a Song in My Heart,’ a biographical film about actress and singer Jane Froman that received critical acclaim. ‘Call Me Madam’ (1953) and ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ (1954) followed (1954). Lang’s masterpiece, ‘The King and I,’ was released in 1956. It was a critical and economic triumph, receiving nine Academy Award nominations and winning five of them.

It was followed by ‘Desk Set,’ which was distributed in the UK as ‘His Other Woman.’ On Rotten Tomatoes, this 1957 comedy starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepbur currently has a perfect score. Then, in 1959, he released ‘But Not For Me.’ It was distributed by Columbia Pictures, unlike his earlier pictures. He returned to 20th Century Fox for ‘Can Can,’ though. Unfortunately, this musical spectacle failed to recoup its production costs at the box office.

Following that, Lang made ‘The Marriage Go Round,’ a lighthearted and amusing film (1961). Then he made his final feature, ‘Snow White and the Three Stooges,’ in 1962. Because it was a comedy-fantasy aimed exclusively at youngsters, the company was unable to recoup its $3,500,000 production costs.

Major Projects of Walter Lang

Some of Lang’s more notable works are ‘The Little Princess’ (1939), ‘Tin Pan Alley’ (1940), ‘Moon Over Miami’ (1941), ‘Coney Island’ (1943), and ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ (1954). The story of a strong-willed, widowed schoolteacher Anna Leonowens, who travels in Bangkok from Wales with her young son Louis to train King Mongkut’s many children, is told in his best work, ‘King and I’ (1956). With a $4.55 million budget, it grossed $21.3 million at the box office and received plaudits from critics.

Achievements & Awards

Lang was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in “King and I,” but he did not win. Despite this, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6520 Hollywood Blvd for his contributions to the film business.

Personal History and Legacy

Lang married Madalynne Field, a former actress and Carole Lombard’s close friend, in 1937. She used to be Carole’s secretary a lot before she married. Richard Lang, their son, went on to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a well-known filmmaker. Walter Lang died on February 7, 1972, in Inglewood, California, and was interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Walter Lang is not available.


Lang directed six Oscar-winning actors: Clifton Webb (Sitting Pretty), Dan Dailey (When My Baby Smiles at Me), Susan Hayward and Thelma Ritter (With a Song in My Heart), Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr (With a Song in My Heart) (The King and I).