You are here: / Actors / Media / Alan Ladd

Alan Ladd


The Hollywood Collection: Alan Ladd: “The True Quiet Man”

Apart from the legacy of his movies, Alan Ladd left behind a close- knit family which counts among its members some of filmdom’s greatest successes.  Included in the program are excerpts from some of Ladd’s most notable pictures: This Gun For Hire, The Glass Key, The Blue Dahlia, Whispering Smith, The Great Gatsby, Shane and The Proud Rebel. Interviewees include co-actors Don Murray, Lizabeth Scott, Patricia Medina, Mona Freeman, Anthony Caruso, Peter Hensen, Edith Fellows, Director Edward Dmytryk, Producer Sam Goldwyn Jr., sons-in-law Producer John Veitch and Radio Commentator Michael Jackson and Alan Ladd’s son, Producer David Ladd.

220px-Alan_Ladd_1950sLadd in 1953

Alan Walbridge Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964) was an American film actor and one of the most popular and well-known celebrities of the 1940s and the first half of the 1950’s. His visibility decreased between the mid-1950’s and his death.

Early life

Ladd was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was the only child of Ina Raleigh Ladd and Alan Ladd, Sr. He was of English ancestry. His father died when he was four, and his mother relocated to Oklahoma City where she married Jim Beavers, a housepainter. The family then moved again to North HollywoodCalifornia where Ladd became a high school swimming and diving champion and participated in high school dramatics at North Hollywood High School, graduating on February 1, 1934. He opened his own hamburger and malt shop, which he called Tiny’s Patio. He worked briefly as a studio carpenter (as did his stepfather) and for a short time was part of the Universal Pictures studio school for actors. But Universal decided he was too blond and too short and dropped him.  Intent on acting, he found work in small theatres.  He had short term stints at MGM and RKO, and eventually started getting steady work on radio.

Film career

Ladd was heard on radio by the agent Sue Carol who signed him to her books and enthusiastically promoted her new client, starting with Rulers of the Sea, in which he played a character named “Colin Farrell.” Ladd began by appearing in dozens of films in small roles, including Citizen Kane, in which he played a newspaper reporter towards the end of the film. He first gained some wide recognition with a featured role in the wartime thriller Joan of Paris, 1942.


250px-BluedahliaLadd starred in the film noir classic The Blue Dahlia in 1946.

For his next role Sue Carol found a vehicle which made Ladd’s career, Graham Greene‘s This Gun for Hire in which he played “Raven,” a hitman with a conscience. “Once Ladd had acquired an unsmiling hardness, he was transformed from an extra to a phenomenon. Ladd’s calm slender ferocity make it clear that he was the first American actor to show the killer as a cold angel.” – David Thomson (A Biographical Dictionary of Film,1975) 

Both the film and Ladd’s performance played an important role in the development of the “gangster” genre: “That the old fashioned motion picture gangster with his ugly face, gaudy cars, and flashy clothes was replaced by a smoother, better looking, and better dressed bad man was largely the work of Mr. Ladd.” – New York Times obituary (January 30, 1964). Ladd was teamed with actress Veronica Lake in this film, and despite the fact that it was Robert Preston who played the romantic lead, the Ladd-Lake pairing captured the public’s imagination, and would continue in another three films. (They appeared in a total of seven films together, but three were only guest shots in all-star musical revues.)

Ladd went on to star in many Paramount Pictures‘ films, with a brief timeout for military service in the United States Army Air Forces First Motion Picture Unit. He appeared in Dashiell Hammett‘s story The Glass Key, his second pairing with Lake, and Lucky Jordan with Helen Walker. His cool, unsmiling persona proved popular with wartime audiences, and he was quickly established as one of the top box office stars of the decade.

In 1946, he starred in a trio of silver screen classics: the big screen adaptation of Richard Henry Dana‘s maritime classic,Two Years Before the Mast (for which he also received critical acclaim), the Raymond Chandler original mystery The Blue Dahlia (his third pairing with Lake), and the World War II espionage thriller O.S.S..

He formed his own production companies for film and radio and then starred in his own syndicated series Box 13, which ran from 1948–49. Ladd and Robert Preston starred in the 1948 western film, Whispering Smith, which in 1961 would become a short-lived NBC television series, starring Audie Murphy.

In the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby, Ladd had the featured role of Jay Gatsby.

Alan_Ladd_in_ShaneJean Arthur and Alan Ladd in Shane(1953)

Ladd played the title role in the 1953 western Shane. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It was listed at No. 45 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 ranking of “100 Years … 100 Movies.”

Ladd made the Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll three times: in 1947, 1953, and 1954.  In 1954 exhibitors voted him the most popular star among British filmgoers.

In 1950 the Hollywood Women’s Press Club voted him the easiest male star to deal with in Hollywood.

Leaving Paramount

When former agent Albert R. Broccoli formed Warwick Films with his partner Irving Allen, they heard Ladd was unhappy with Paramount and was leaving the studio. With his wife and agent Sue Carol, they negotiated for Ladd to appear in the first three of their films made in England and released through Columbia PicturesThe Red Beret (1953); Hell Below Zero (1954), based on the Hammond Innes book The White South; and The Black Knight also (1954). All three were co-written by Ladd’s regular screenwriter Richard Maibaum, the last with additional dialogue by Bryan Forbes.  In 1954 Ladd formed a new production company, Jaguar Productions, originally releasing his films through Warner Bros. and then with All the Young Men through Columbia.

Ladd’s pictures became less distinguished as the decade went on. He turned down the chance to appear in the role of Jett Rink in Giant (1956) which was subsequently played by James Dean and became one of the biggest hits of the decade.

In November 1962, he was found lying unconscious in a pool of blood with a bullet wound near his heart, in what might have been an unsuccessful suicide attempt.  In 1963 Ladd’s career looked set to make a comeback when he filmed a supporting role in The Carpetbaggers, which became one of the most popular films of 1964. He would not live to see its release. On January 29, 1964 he was found dead in Palm Springs, California, of an acute overdose of “alcohol and three other drugs”, at the age of 50; his death was ruled accidental.  Ladd suffered from chronic insomnia and regularly used sleeping pills and alcohol. It was determined that he had not taken a lethal amount of either, but that the combination can produce a synergistic reaction in which “one plus one equals ten or even fifty.”  He was entombed in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Not until June 28, 1964 did Carpetbaggers producer Joseph E. Levine hold an elaborate premiere screening in New York City with an afterparty staged by his wife at The Four Seasons Restaurant.

Ladd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1601 Vine Street.  His handprint appears in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, in Hollywood. In 1995, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, CaliforniaWalk of Stars was dedicated to him.

Personal life

220px-Alan_Ladd_-_publicityLadd married a high-school acquaintance, Midge Harrold. Their only child, a son named Alan Ladd, Jr., was born in 1937. In 1942, Ladd married his agent and manager, former film actress Sue Carol, with whom he had a son, David Ladd.

Alan Ladd, Jr., is a film executive and producer and founder of the Ladd Company. Alan Ladd’s daughter, actress Alana Ladd, who co-starred with her father in Guns of the Timberland and Duel of Champions, is married to the veteran talk radio broadcaster Michael Jackson.

Actor David Ladd, who co-starred with his father as a child in The Proud Rebel, was married to Charlie’s Angels star Cheryl Ladd (née Stoppelmoor), 1973–80. Their daughter is actress Jordan Ladd, granddaughter of Alan Ladd.

Few biographical sources refrain from speculation on Ladd’s height, which legend contends was slight. Reports of his height vary from 5 ft 5 in to 5 ft 9 in(1.65 m – 1.75 m), with 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) being the most generally accepted today. His U.S. Army enlistment record, however, indicates a height of 5 ft 7 in.

Ladd owned properties in Beverly Hills and Alan Ladd Hardware in Palm Springs.


Year Title Role Notes
1932 Tom Brown of Culver Cadet
Once in a Lifetime Projectionist
1933 Saturday’s Millions Student
1936 Pigskin Parade Student
1937 The Last Train from Madrid Soldier
Souls at Sea Sailor
All Over Town Young Man
Hold ‘Em Navy Chief Quartermaster
1938 The Goldwyn Follies First Auditioning Singer
Come On, Leathernecks! Club Waiter
Freshman Year Student
1939 The Mysterious Miss X Henchman
Hitler, Beast of Berlin Karl Bach
Rulers of the Sea Colin Farrell
1940 The Green Hornet Gilpin, Student Pilot
Brother Rat and a Baby Cadet in trouble
The Light of Western Stars Danny, Stillwell Ranch Hand
In Old Missouri Landlord’s Son
Gangs of Chicago
Cross-Country Romance Mr. Williams, First Mate
Those Were the Days! Keg Rearick
Captain Caution Newton, Mutinous Sailor
The Howards of Virginia Backwoodsman
Meet the Missus John Williams
Victory Heyst as an 18-year-old
Her First Romance John Gilman
1941 Petticoat Politics Higgins Daughter’s Boyfriend
Citizen Kane Reporter smoking pipe at end
The Black Cat Richard Hartley
Paper Bullets Jimmy Kelly aka Bill Dugan
The Reluctant Dragon Al, Baby Weems storyboard artist
They Met in Bombay British Soldier
Great Guns Soldier in Photo Shop
Cadet Girl Harry, Musician
1942 Joan of Paris “Baby”
This Gun for Hire Philip Raven
The Glass Key Ed Beaumont
Lucky Jordan Lucky Jordan
Star Spangled Rhythm Alan Ladd, Scarface Skit
1943 China David Jones
1944 And Now Tomorrow Doctor Merek Vance
1945 Salty O’Rourke Salty O’Rourke
Duffy’s Tavern Himself
1946 Two Years Before the Mast Charles Stewart
The Blue Dahlia Johnny Morrison, Lt.Cmdr., ret.
O.S.S. Philip Masson / John Martin
1947 My Favorite Brunette Sam McCloud
Calcutta Neale Gordon
Variety Girl Himself
Wild Harvest Joe Madigan
1948 Saigon Maj. Larry Briggs
Beyond Glory Capt. Rockwell “Rocky” Gilman
Whispering Smith Whispering Smith
1949 The Great Gatsby Jay Gatsby
Chicago Deadline Ed Adams
1950 Captain Carey, U.S.A. Captain Webster Carey
Branded Choya
1951 Appointment with Danger Al Goddard
Red Mountain Capt. Brett Sherwood
1952 The Iron Mistress Jim Bowie
Thunder in the East Steve Gibbs
1953 Botany Bay Hugh Tallant
Desert Legion Paul Lartal
Shane Shane
The Red Beret Steve “Canada” McKendrick
1954 Hell Below Zero Duncan Craig
Saskatchewan Thomas O’Rourke
The Black Knight John
Drum Beat Johnny MacKay
1955 The McConnell Story Capt. Joseph C. “Mac” McConnell, Jr.
Hell on Frisco Bay Steve Rollins
1956 Santiago Caleb “Cash” Adams
A Cry in the Night Opening narrator
1957 The Big Land Chad Morgan
Boy on a Dolphin Dr. James Calder
1958 The Deep Six Alexander “Alec” Austen
The Proud Rebel John Chandler
The Badlanders Peter Van Hoek (“The Dutchman”)
1959 The Man in the Net John Hamilton
1960 Guns of the Timberland Jim Hadley
All the Young Men Sgt. Kincaid
One Foot in Hell Mitch Garrett
1961 Duel of Champions Horatio
1962 13 West Street Walt Sherill
1964 The Carpetbaggers Nevada Smith

PureHistory ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.