Do you remember watching Alan Ladd in some of your favorite Western films? Perhaps you can’t forget the famous scene when the young boy is calling out to “Shane” in the eponymous film that Alan Ladd starred in.
Alan Ladd was an iconic actor who went through tremendous hurdles to become a successful actor in Hollywood. He’s remembered as one of the most talented performers in the Western genre and had a reputation as a great professional.
His life was tragically cut short, and he died in 1964 at the age of 50. His son, Alan Ladd Jr., carried the torch lit by his father and went on to become a successful film producer. He passed away on March 2nd, 2022.
Let’s look back at Alan Ladd’s life and career as well as how his son paved his own way in Hollywood…
ALAN LADD’S EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Alan Walbridge Ladd was born on the third of September, 1913, in the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas – a considerable distance from the burgeoning Hollywood town where he would eventually make his name.
He would eventually gain a reputation for playing tough and brave characters – and much of his on-screen bravado came from his own personal hardships that he had to overcome. His father, an accountant, died when Alan was only 4 years old – leaving his immigrant mother to look after her son.
They later moved to Oklahoma City where Alan’s mother remarried. Following financial troubles, the family moved to California when Alan was 7 – with the hopes of finding more opportunities and a better life in the Golden State.
It was an arduous four-month journey to travel to California and the family first lived in a migrant camp in Pasadena before settling in the San Fernando Valley. Alan’s stepfather, Jim Beavers, worked as a painter for FBO Studios – and this must have led to Alan’s interest in the new and rapidly growing film industry.
As a high school student, he decided to take up acting as an extracurricular activity. He appeared in a few school plays and gave a memorable performance in his school’s performance of The Mikado.
His performance was noticed by a talent agent, and he was signed to work with Universal Pictures. Unfortunately, he only received one small, uncredited role in the 1932 film Once In a Lifetime. His blonde hair caused him to get rejected for many potential roles.
Nevertheless, he was determined to make it in Hollywood. He worked a series of odd jobs and began auditioning for roles. During the mid-1930s and early 1940s, he appeared in bit parts in films such as Pigskin Parade, Rulers of the Sea, Hitler- Beast of Berlin, and Joan of Paris – which brought him a lot more attention for his unique style of acting.
It was this role which helped him receive more film offers. He would soon star in a noir film that would change his destiny.
ALAN LADD’S FILM CAREER
Alan Ladd was cast in the 1942 film This Gun for Hire – an adaptation of the Graham Greene novel A Gun for Sale.
In the film, he played the complex role of Philip Raven – a hitman who also has a conscience. This was a rare type of film and character to see in the 1940s and it was this role that catapulted Alan Ladd to stardom.
While the role in This Gun for Hire was a supporting role, Alan Ladd’s performance was so memorable that producers realized he was destined to become a leading man. He played the unique role of Ed Beaumont – a villain who changes his ways in the crime film The Glass Key – based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett.
The offers kept coming in and he appeared mostly in crime and drama films. He had become so popular that he even made cameo appearances as himself in films such as Duffy’s Tavern and Variety Girl.
Alan Ladd briefly took a hiatus from acting to serve in the army during the Second World War. He missed out on many film opportunities during this time, but he was determined to continue his acting career upon returning to civilian life.
His popularity hadn’t waned at all, and he continued to get offers to appear in films upon his return from the army. He continued to act in popular noir crime films such as The Blue Dahlia and Calcutta.
Allan played Jay Gatsby in the 1949 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby – though this wasn’t a big success. He decided that dramatic roles wouldn’t always work for him and that his niche was in crime films.
Allan would soon discover, however, that there was another genre where his talents would shine.
Despite the failure of The Great Gatsby, Alan Ladd was still a popular film star and had a great reputation for being easy to work with. This meant that the offers wouldn’t slow down.
Perhaps his most famous role was in the 1953 Western film Shane. He played the eponymous character who comes to save a town run by ruthless bandits. Allan Ladd continued to act regularly in films throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He appeared in many great Western films including Guns of the Timberland and One Foot in Hell.
Allan also continued to act in crime films, adventure films, as well as a few war films. He had established himself as one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men and character actors.
THE TERRIBLY TRAGIC DEATH OF ALAN LADD
Alan Ladd was unstoppable, and each film release was more successful than the last. Unfortunately, by the 1960s he also began to experience a few health problems.
In 1962, Alan Ladd was found lying unconscious in his own blood! He had accidentally tripped and shot himself in the chest – after hearing a prowler trespass onto his property. While he survived this accident, it took its toll on his health.
In 1964, he sustained a serious knee injury and had to rest at home to recover. He was found dead on January 29, 1964, in his bed. He was 50 years old.
His cause of death was cerebral edema. This was due to the excessive consumption of alcohol, barbiturates, and tranquilizers. He suffered from chronic insomnia and often took alcohol and medication to help him sleep. In this case, the dosage was, sadly, enough to kill him.
His untimely and tragic death shocked the industry and tributes poured in from his colleagues. His fans felt devastated, and it’s a great loss for the film industry. To this day, Alan Ladd is remember as one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men; a unique character actor, and the ultimate professional.
Alan Ladd’s first marriage was to his high school sweetheart Marjorie with whom he was married to from 1936 until they divorced in 1957. With Marjorie, he had 1 son, Alan Ladd Jr.
His second marriage was to the former actress Sue Carol, who was also Alan’s agent and manager. They remained married until his death. He adopted her daughter Carol and also had two children with her, daughter Alana, and son David.
ALAN LADD JR
Alan Ladd left us too early. However, his legacy lives on through his films. It also lives on through his son Alan Ladd Jr., who had a successful career as a film producer.
Ladd Jr was born on October 22, 1937, in Los Angeles. As his parents divorced at a young age, he spent most of his life raised by his mother. Allan Ladd Jr. saw his father, Alan Ladd, whenever possible and seemed to have gained his father’s love for cinema.
He began his career working as an agent for actors – including representing Judy Garland and Robert Redford. He eventually emigrated to London to begin his career as a film producer.
Ladd Jr. produced several popular British films including The Walking Stick, Tam Lin, A Severed Head, Villain, and X Y and Zee. Allan Ladd Jr. had a successful career in the UK and wanted to replicate this in the US.
He eventually returned to America and was eager to become one of Hollywood’s most successful film producers. Allan Ladd Jr. first worked with 20th Century Fox and had a successful career assisting with the production of popular films including Star Wars and Alien.
He eventually left Fox to start his own production company, The Ladd Company. This company went on to become one of the most successful production companies in Hollywood.
Among the films that Alan Ladd Jr. was involved with the production of were:
- Chariots of Fire
- Body Heat
- Blade Runner
- Night Shift
- Love Child
- Police Academy
- Purple Hearts
- Once Upon A Time In America
- Doin’ Time
- The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel
- The Phantom
and…Gone Baby Gone. He was also the producer for the upcoming film North of Cheyenne.
Alan Ladd Jr. passed away on March 2nd, 2022, at the age of 84.
Now, let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Alan Ladd? What about any of the films produced by Alan Ladd Jr.
In fact, here’s what we’d like to know:
Do you think that people still remember Alan Ladd as one of the great actors of the Western genre?
Or does his legacy need to be revived for a new generation of fans?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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