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The Shooting of Agent Jennings Lang

Walter Wanger shoots the MCA agent Jennings Lang in 1951. The trial of attempted murder becomes one of L.A. most celebrated court battles. The incident provides an indirect inspiration for the Billy Wilder movie The Apartment (1960).

Excerpt from On Sunset Boulevard by Ed Sikov


If Hollywood backdoor romances lie at the heart of The Apartment, another dazzlingly tawdry real-life incident was probably more influential. In 1951, producer Walter Wanger discovered that his wife, Joan Bennett, was having an affair with the agent Jennings Lang. Their encounters were brief and frequent. When Lang and Bennett weren't meeting clandestinely at vacation spots like New Orleans and the West Indies, they were back in L.A. enjoying weekday quickies at a Beverly Hills apartment otherwise occupied by one of Lang's underlings at the agency. When Wanger found proof of the affair, he did what any crazed cuckold would do: he shot Lang in the balls. Given the prominence of all three principals and the lurid, just-deserts vengeance extracted by Wanger, Hollywood was delighted by the story. Given its timing, Life couldn't help but observe that his passage from cell to police desk, a walk punctuated by flashbulbs and the hum of newsreel cameras, looked and sounded uncomfortably like the end of Sunset Boulevard.

MORE:

See Walter Wanger: The SIMPP Years


SOURCES:

Sikov, Ed. On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder. New York: Hyperion, 1998, p. 431.

See Bibliography.

 

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