Great Cinematographers, Part 16: Charles Lang

The distinguished career of Charles Lang (1902-1998) holds the record for the greatest number of nominations for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography (tied with Leon Shamroy), a total of 18 nominations. (Lang won for his work on the 1932 version of A Farewell to Arms.) In a career that endured from 1926 to 1973, Lang worked with everyone from Dorothy Arzner (Sarah and Son) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) to Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot) and Paul Mazursky (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice). Lang’s lengthy filmography is a testament to his virtuosity.

Desire (1936, dir. Frank Borzage; uncredited direction by Ernst Lubitsch) – Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich, two of the greatest stars of the 1930s, are made even more luminous here by the way Lang lit them, aided by the uncredited work of fellow cameraman Victor Milner (whom I honored with a “Great Cinematographers” post last summer).

A Foreign Affair (1948, dir. Billy Wilder) – Twelve years after Desire, Marlene Dietrich was still as entrancing as ever. In the darkness of the Berlin nightclub her elegant dress shimmers, reflecting the glow of the spotlight.

Sabrina (1954, dir. Billy Wilder) – The shadows cast beautiful patterns over Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart as they dance on the moonlit tennis court.

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