Born August 10, 1896, in Memphis, Tennessee, Walter Lang entered the film business as a young man when he got a job in a production company, working his way up to assistant director and then director. His first film as director was 1925’s The Red Kimono. He worked steadily even though he temporarily quit the business to study art in Paris.
Lang, who was a distant nephew of director Fritz Lang, met future wife Madalynne Field in 1936 when he directed Love Before Breakfast starring Carole Lombard. Field and Lombard met while performing for Sennett’s Bathing Beauties in the late 1920s and had remained friends with Field acting as Lombard’s secretary. Lang and Field were married in 1937. Lombard and Clark Gable were godparents of Lang’s son, Richard, who became a Hollywood director himself.
Lang then began a long tenure at Twentieth Century-Fox. Among his early films for Fox were Second Honeymoon with Tyrone Power and Loretta Young, The Little Princess with Shirley Temple, The Great Profile with John Barrymore, Tin Pan Alley with Alice Faye and Betty Grable, Moon Over Miami with Grable and Don Ameche, Weekend in Havana with Faye and Carmen Miranda, and Greenwich Village with Miranda and Ameche.
In 1945, Lang became one of Fox’s top directors with his direction of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s State Fair with Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes, and Vivian Blaine. He followed it with Claudia and David with Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young, Sentimental Journey with Maureen O’Hara and John Payne, Mother Wore Tights with Grable and Dan Dailey, Sitting Pretty with O’Hara, Young, and Clifton Webb, and When My Baby Smiles at Me with Grable and Dailey. Webb and Dailey were both nominated for Oscars for Best Actor of 1948 for the latter two films.