Sherry’s life highlight reel

From the South Side of Chicago to Hollywood's highest echelons

1940s

  • Lansing is born on July 31, 1944, on Chicago’s South Side. Her mother, Margo Heimann, fled Nazi Germany at age 17. Her father, David Duhl, invested in commercial real estate.

1950s

  • When Sherry is nine, her father suffers a fatal heart attack.
  • Mother marries widower Norton Lansing when Sherry is 12.

1960s

  • Attends Northwestern U., where she is a member of the Sigma Delta Tau sorority. While still a student, the 19-year-old Lansing marries medical student Michael Brownstein.
  • She graduates cum laude with a triple major in math, English and theater, with a minor in education. She and Brownstein move to Los Angeles, and for the next four years she teaches English and math at an inner-city high school in East L.A.

1970s

  • Divorces Brownstein.
  • The former model appears in two films, “Loving” (1970) and “Rio Lobo” (1974), then decides to quit acting. “I hated it and I was terrible at it,” Lansing says. She takes a job as a script reader. Paycheck: $5 per hour. Joins MGM in 1975 and moves up the ladder, first as head of the story department, eventually becoming VP of creative affairs.

1977

  • Moves to Columbia as senior VP in charge of production. The films “The China Syndrome” and “Kramer vs. Kramer,” which won five Academy Awards including best picture, are made on her watch.

1980

  • Becomes the first woman to run a studio when she’s named president of 20th Century Fox Prods. Her crash through the glass ceiling earns front page headlines around the country. “I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal,” Lansing recalls, “but it was like a bomb went off.” She oversees a string of hits including “Nine to Five,” “Chariots of Fire” and “Taps.”

1983

  • Forms independent production company with “Kramer” producer Stanley Jaffe, above left. The Jaffe/Lansing team has a run of box office successes over the course of its 12-year partnership, including “Fatal Attraction,” “The Accused” and “Black Rain.”

1991

  • Marries William Friedkin, director of such films as “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.”

1992

  • Is named chairman of Motion Picture Group at Paramount and becomes the first woman to oversee all aspects of a studio’s motion picture development. Presides over a roster of culture-defining films, including “Forrest Gump,” “Titanic” and “Saving Private Ryan.” She also helps spawn the neofemale-empowerment genre with such hits as “First Wives Club” and “Double Jeopardy.”
  • The studio’s long string of successful releases is attributed to Lansing’s bottom-line approach that focused on profit margin rather than market share, and a strategy of taking fewer risks by sharing costs with outside investors on tentpole releases.

1996

  • Honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on July 31.

1999

  • Appointed by then-California Gov. Gray Davis to a 10-year term as a regent to the governing body of the U. of California. “I said at the time, ‘Look, I have this job and I’ll be a good regent, but wait until I turn 60 …,’ ” Lansing says.

2004

  • Announces plans to ankle Paramount at the end of her contract. Becomes chair of UC Health Services committee.
  • Serves on the Citizens’ Oversight Committee of the California Institute for Stem Cell Research; chairs the governance committee, co-chairs the standards committee and serves on the grant committee. “I plunged myself into this.”
  • Sits on the boards of the Carter Center, DonorsChoose, Qualcomm, Teach for America, The American Association of Cancer Research and Friends of Cancer Research.

2005

  • On Jan. 16 participates in the hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
  • Leaves Paramount and retires from Hollywood. Establishes the Sherry Lansing Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for cancer research.

2007

  • Named recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Sources: Variety, IMDB, Sherry Lansing Foundation, UC Regent profile, Horatio Alger Assn.

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