Obituary: Jennings Lang

Jennings Lang, who pioneered the made-for-TV movie, developed some of the most successful television series of the 1950s and 1960s, and produced many top-grossing films of the 1970s and 1980s, might well have died in 1951, when he was shot in the groin.

Then the agent of the actress Joan Bennett, Lang was wounded by Bennett's husband, the film producer Walter Wanger, who was under great mental strain after the failure of his lavish Ingrid Bergman vehicle Joan of Arc. One waspish associate to the press said, "Wanger wasn't shooting Lang - he was shooting the millions of people who wouldn't come to see Joan of Arc." After serving a short prison sentence, Wanger quipped, "Everybody talks about Hollywood agents, but I'm the only one who ever did anything about them!"

Jennings Lang came to Hollywood by a circuitous route - he first trained for the law, arriving in California in 1938, after a year with a New York legal firm. Obsessed with films, he soon left the firm to join Grand National Studios as an assistant director. In 1940 he set up as a talent agent, and, 10 years later, joined the powerful MCA agency. After his appointment as Head of Programme Development for MCA-TV, Lang helped create the first 90-minute weekly filmed series on television, The Virginian, as well as the long-running McHale's Navy, Tales of Wells Fargo, The Bob Cummings Show and Wagon Train.

He supervised many of Universal's "World Premiere" made-for-television movies before graduating to the studio's big-screen films. Four years after Ross Hunter produced the highly profitable film Airport (1970) for Universal, Lang decided it was high time the studio made a follow-up. Originally intended for a television movie, the script of Airport 1975 (1974) concerned a jetliner left pilotless after a mid-air collision. By using crew composed mostly of television technicians, Lang turned out his film for less than $3m, and saw it earn a huge profit. Nineteen-seventy-four was his annus mirabilis; that year he also made Earthquake, an even more successful disaster movie filmed in Sensurround, Lang's much- heralded aural technique which deafeningly simulated the necessary tremors while mercifully drowning out many of the platitudes in the film's dialogue.

Lang also produced or supervised Walter Matthau's Pete 'n' Tillie (1972), Charley Varrick (1973), The Front Page (1974), House Calls (1978), Little Miss Marker (1980), Clint Eastwood's Coogan's Bluff (1968), The Beguiled and Play Misty for Me (both 1971), Breezy (1973) and The Eiger Sanction (1975). Lang made two more Airport films: Airport '77 (1977) and The Concorde - Airport '79 (1979, known in Britain as Airport '80: the Concorde). The latter was based on an original story by Lang, whose second wife, the singer Monica Lewis, played the role of a great jazz vocalist.

Jennings Lang, film executive and producer, born Brooklyn, New York 28 May 1915; twice married (three sons); died Palm Desert, California 29 May 1996.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week