Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A Centennial Birthday Tribute to Alan Ladd

Alan Ladd was born on this date one hundred years ago, in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The handsome Ladd toiled in bit parts throughout the '30s, gradually winning larger roles such as a smiling young animator in Walt Disney's THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941); those who only know Ladd from his later roles should make it a point to watch this film for some fascinating perspective on his career.

The year after THE RELUCTANT DRAGON Ladd hit the big time with his sizzling, magnetic portrayal of a killer in THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942). THIS GUN FOR HIRE was the first of several films teaming Ladd with Veronica Lake, which also included THE GLASS KEY (1942) and THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946).

Ladd's best performances include a spot-on take as Jay Gatsby in THE GREAT GATSBY (1949), a film long unseen which began to make the rounds of repertory theaters last year. Unfortunately many of Ladd's films for Paramount Pictures continue to be under lock and key, only available in "grey market" editions traded among film fans. His movies such as CHINA (1943), O.S.S. (1946), and THE GREAT GATSBY, as just a few examples, are way overdue for DVD releases.

His first film with Loretta Young, CHINA, was shown on Labor Day at the Cinecon 49 festival, so perhaps there is hope that it will also turn up on DVD. (September 4th Update: Amazing news -- CHINA just came out on DVD from the Universal Vault series!) Likewise, his second film with Young, AND NOW TOMORROW (1946), is out on Region 2 DVD so perhaps it will be released in the U.S. at some point.

Ladd's best-remembered role is doubtless the gallant gunman he portrayed in George Stevens' SHANE (1953). It's a superb portrayal in a very special film; the movie and the performance have stood the test of time and will continue to be long remembered.

Beginning in the mid '50s Ladd was also busy as a producer with his own company, Jaguar Productions. Ladd's sons, Alan Jr. and David, likewise both became film producers; David was also an actor, and David's daughter Jordan Ladd carries on the family acting tradition. Ladd's daughter Alana, who had a brief film career, married longtime Los Angeles radio host Michael Jackson.

Alan Ladd died in Palm Springs, California, on January 29, 1964. He was just 50 years old.

Reviews of Alan Ladd movies posted here to date: RULERS OF THE SEA (1939), CROSS-COUNTRY ROMANCE (1940), THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941), CITIZEN KANE (1941), THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), THE GLASS KEY (1942), LUCKY JORDAN (1942), CHINA (1943), SALTY O'ROURKE (1945), THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946), O.S.S. (1946), VARIETY GIRL (1947), CALCUTTA (1947), WHISPERING SMITH (1948), THE GREAT GATSBY (1949), CAPTAIN CAREY, U.S.A. (1950), BRANDED (1950), SHANE (1953), A CRY IN THE NIGHT (1956) (producer/narrator), and GUNS OF THE TIMBERLAND (1960).

Update: Additional reviews: DRUM BEAT (1954), THE BIG LAND (1957), and THE DEEP SIX (1958).


Blogger DKoren said...

I've been waiting and waiting to see "The Iron Mistress" again, where he plays Jim Bowie. I have memories of the movie from when I was young that have stuck with me forever. I'm not even 100% sure that's the right film, but I think it is. Just need to see it again!

But alas, unable to find it anywhere. Too bad so many of his films are locked.

12:37 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

This film is available via Warner Archives.

1:14 PM  
Blogger DKoren said...

Ah, thanks! That's great to know! I used to check the Warner Archives site regularly, but haven't in some time now. I might have to splurge and buy it, just to satisfy curiosity.

2:21 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I've decided to pick up a copy as well. I never thought it was an especially good film from any point of view but never coudl get it out of my head -- so there is clearly something. Thought Virginia Mayo excellent as always. Ladd pretty good too, and after The Iron Mistress I believe he was unintentionally coasting until The Carpetbaggers. Great in that.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm going to have to see THE IRON MISTRESS now that the two of you have discussed it and made me curious! I'm always up for a movie with Alan Ladd and Virginia Mayo. Thanks to you both for the interesting feedback on this Ladd film today.

Best wishes,

9:13 PM  

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