Walter Wanger (July 11, 1894 – November 18, 1968) was an Academy Award-winning American film producer. His long, colorful career is one of Hollywood's greatest untold stories. An intellectual and a socially conscious movie executive who produced provocative message movies and glittering romantic melodramas, Wanger's career started at Paramount studios in the 1920s and led him to work at virtually every major studio as either a contract producer or an independent.
For the most complete sense of Walter Wanger's life and film career, read Matthew Bernstein's book "Walter Wanger, Hollywood Independent" and "The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era" by Thomas Schatz. Wanger was born Walter Feuchtwanger in San Francisco, California. He served with the United States Army during World War I. He attended Dartmouth college in New Hampshire.
He produced his first motion picture in 1929 titled The Cocoanuts, directed by Robert Florey and Joseph Santley and starring the Marx Brothers. His many significant productions include The Sheik (1921), Gabriel Over the White House (1933), Queen Christina (1933), The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), Stagecoach (1939), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Scarlet Street (1945), Joan of Arc (1948), The Reckless Moment (1949), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), I Want to Live! (1958), and Cleopatra (1963).
Wanger married silent film actress Justine Johnstone in 1919. They divorced in 1938 and in 1940 he married Joan Bennett with whom he remained married until 1965. In 1950, Bennett signed with MCA agent Jennings Lang (1915-1996). In 1951, Wanger shot at Lang after believing him to be having an affair with Bennett. Wanger's attorney, Jerry Giesler, mounted a "temporary insanity" defense and Wanger served a four-month sentence at the Castaic Honor Farm two hours' drive north of Los Angeles. The experience profoundly affected him and in 1954 he made the prison film Riot in Cell Block 11.
Wanger was given an Honorary Academy Award in 1946 for his service as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He refused another honorary Oscar in 1949 for Joan of Arc, out of anger over the fact that the film, which he felt was one of his best, had not been nominated for Best Picture.
His 1958 production of I Want to Live! starred Susan Hayward in an anti-capital punishment film that is one of the most highly regarded films on the subject. Hayward won her only Oscar for her role in the film.
In May 1966, Wanger received the Commendation of the Order of Merit, Italy's third-highest honor, from Consul General Alvaro v. Bettrani, "for your friendship and cooperation with the Italian government in all phases of the motion picture industry."
Walter Wanger died of a heart attack, aged 74, in New York City. He was interred in the Home of Peace Cemetery in Colma, California.
Walter Wanger at the Internet Movie Database
Article on Wanger shooting Jennings Lang
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Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Wanger"
Categories: American film producers | Academy Honorary Award recipients | American military personnel of World War I | American businesspeople | People from San Francisco, California | 1894 births | 1968 deathsHidden categories: Articles lacking sources from December 2007 | All articles lacking sources
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