Magazine article American Cinematographer

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Magazine article American Cinematographer

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ASC Lifetime Achievement Goes to Lang

Charles B. Lang, Jr., ASC, will receive the 1991 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Cinematographers, it has been announced by the Awards Committee.

Lang earned 18 Oscar nominations for cinematography, an unprecedented achievement. No one else in the history of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has received that many nominations in that category.

"Charles Lang helped define cinematography as an art form through his innovative use of light and shadows, composition and diffusion," says Leonard J. South, ASC president. "With the powerful example of his work, Charles Lang has been a source of inspiration for generations of Cinematographers."

Lang started his career in 1920, following in his father's footsteps in the film lab at Realart, a small Hollywood studio. Several years later, Realart became part of Paramount Studios. Soon afterward, Lang went to work as a camera assistant to cinematographer Guy Wilky, ASC.

Lang's first credit as a cameraman was for shooting exterior scenes in a 1927 silent film titled Loves ofHicardo. The following year at the age of 26, he shot his first film, Ftitzy, and subsequently filmed Shopworn Angel, one of the first "talkies."

Lang's first nomination came in 1931 for The Right to Love. Two years later, he won his only Oscar for A Farewell to Arms, starring the fabled Helen Hayes. That was at a time when the public wanted actresses to be more beautiful than real life. Lang used very subdued light on Hayes' face, and soft backlight on her hair to accentuate her natural beauty on the movie screen.

During the 1930s and 40s, Lang was famous for his ability to manipulate light in ways that painted delicate and elegant moving images. His career spanned six decades, including 20 years as a contract cameraman at Paramount. Lang's other nominations at Paramount were for Arise My Love (1941), Sundown (1942), So Proudly We Hail (1943), The Uninvited (1944), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir(1947) and A Foreign Affair (1948).

With the rising popularity of television in 1951, the studios ended most contractual relationships. Lang worked as an independent cinematographer for the next 21 years. During that period, he earned Oscar nominations for Sudden Fear (1952), Sabrina (1954), Queen Bee (1955), Separate Tables (1958), Some Like it Hot (1959), The Facts of Life (1960), One-Eyed Jacks (1961), How the West Was Won(1963), Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1960) and Butterflies Are Free (1972).

Not on the list of Lang's Oscar nominations are two of his personal favorites in a diverse body of work, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Wait Until Dark.

Lang was once asked if he had any advice for the next generation of cinematographers. He said he had learned a lot about lighting and composition by working as a still photographer earlier in his career. Lang also urged young cinematographers to seek out films that give them the opportunity to experiment and test their ideas.

Then he said, "You've got to always strive to be better. There's no doubt about that. A lot of people have natural talent. That's not enough. I've seen many photographers who did ordinary work for years and then suddenly they blossom - and people ask, 'say, where did these guys come from?'

"Usually, the answer is hard work, plus an overwhelming desire to keep getting better. I'll tell you something about me. I was never really satisfied with my work. I always believed that I could do better. If you don't believe that, you can never get better at what you do."

The ASC Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Lang on February 24, 1991 at the Beverly Hilton during the ASC's Fifth Annual Awards for Outstanding Achievements in Cinematography. The event will also honor current achievements in television and theatrical cinematography, along with a Board of Governors special award which is to be announced. …

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