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Alan Ladd

Alan Ladd

Alan Walbridge Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964) was an American actor and film and television producer. Ladd found success in film in the 1940s and early 1950s, particularly in Westerns such as Shane (1953) and in films noir. He was often paired with Veronica Lake, in noirish films such as This Gun for Hire (1942), The Glass Key (1942) and The Blue Dahlia (1946).

His other notable credits include Two Years Before the Mast (1946), Whispering Smith, his first Western and color film, (1948) and The Great Gatsby (1949). His popularity diminished in the late 1950s, though he continued to appear in popular films until his accidental death due to a lethal combination of alcohol, a barbiturate, and two tranquilizers.[2]

Alan Ladd
Alan Walbridge Ladd

(1913-09-03)September 3, 1913
Hot Springs, Arkansas, U.S.
DiedJanuary 29, 1964(1964-01-29)(aged 50)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Cause of deathCerebral edema caused by accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol[1]
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
EducationNorth Hollywood High School
OccupationActor, film and television producer
Years active1932–1964
Marjorie Jane Harrold
(m. 1936;div. 1941)

Sue Carol (m. 1942–1964)
ChildrenAlan Ladd Jr. (b. 1937)
Alana Ladd (1943–2014)
David Ladd (b. 1947)
RelativesJordan Ladd (granddaughter)
Shane Ladd (granddaughter)
Websitecmgww.com/stars/ladd/ [170]


Ladd was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on 3 September 1913. He was the only child of Ina Raleigh (also known as Selina Rowley) (25 November 1888 – 1937), and Alan Ladd (1874–1920), a freelance accountant.[3] His mother was English, from County Durham and had migrated to the US in 1907 when she was nineteen. His father died of a heart attack when Ladd was four.[4] On 3 July 1918 a young Alan accidentally burned down the family home while playing with matches. His mother moved to Oklahoma City, where she married Jim Beavers, a housepainter (d. 1936).[5]

In the early 1920s an economic downturn led to Ladd's family moving to California, a journey which took four months. They lived in a migrant camp in Pasadena at first before moving to the San Fernando Valley where Beavers went to work at FBO Studios as a painter.[6]

Ladd enrolled in North Hollywood High School on 18 February 1930. He became a high school swimming and diving champion and participated in high school dramatics in his senior year, including the role of "Koko" in The Mikado. His diving skills led to his appearance in an aquatic show, Marinella in July 1933.[7]

Early career

Ladd's performance in The Mikado was seen by a talent scout. In August 1933 Ladd was one of a group of young "discoveries" signed to a long-term contract with Universal Pictures.[8] The contract had options which could go for seven years, but they were all in the studio's favor. Ladd appeared unbilled in a film, Once in a Lifetime (1932), but the studio eventually decided Ladd was too blond and too short and dropped him after six months. (All of Ladd's fellow "discoveries" would be dropped, including a young Tyrone Power.)[9][10]

At 20, Ladd graduated from high school on 1 February 1934.[11] He worked in the advertising department of the San Fernando Sun Valley Record, eventually becoming the newspaper's ad manager. When the paper changed hands Ladd lost his job. He sold cash registers and borrowed $150 to open up his own hamburger and malt shop across from his old high school, which he called Tiny's Patio (his nickname at high school was "Tiny"). However he was ultimately unable to make a success of the shop.

In another attempt to break into the film industry, Ladd went to work at Warner Bros. as a grip, and ended up staying two years. He was injured falling off a scaffold and decided to quit.[12]

Ladd managed to save and borrow enough money to attend an acting school run by Ben Bard, who had taught him when he was under contract at Universal. Ladd wound up appearing in several stage productions for Bard.[13][14] Bard later recalled Ladd "was such a shy guy he just wouldn't speak up loud and strong. I had to get him to lower his voice too, it was too high. I also insisted that he get himself a decent set of dentures."[15]

In 1936 Ladd played an unbilled role in Pigskin Parade. He had short term stints at MGM and RKO, but got regular professional acting work only when he turned to radio. Ladd's rich, deep voice was ideal for that medium and in 1936 he ended up being signed by station KFWB as its sole radio actor. He stayed for three years at KFWB, working as many as twenty shows a week.[14][16]

Sue Carol

Ladd was playing the roles of a father and son on radio one night when heard by the agent Sue Carol. She was impressed and called the station to talk to the actors and was told it was the one person.[14] She arranged to meet him and impressed by his looks she signed him to her books and enthusiastically promoted her new client in films as well as radio. Ladd's first notable part under Carol's management was the 1939 film Rulers of the Sea (1939), in which he played a character named "Colin Farrell" at $250 a week.[17] He also received attention for a small part in Hitler – Beast of Berlin (1939).

Ladd tested unsuccessfully for the lead in Golden Boy (1939) but obtained many small roles, such as the serial The Green Hornet (1940), Her First Romance (1940), The Black Cat (1941) and the Disney film The Reluctant Dragon (1941). Most notably he had a small uncredited part in Citizen Kane, playing a newspaper reporter towards the end of the film.

Ladd's career gained extra momentum when he was cast in a featured role in a wartime drama made at RKO, Joan of Paris (1942). It was only a small part but it involved a touching death scene which brought him attention within the industry.[14][18] RKO would eventually offer Ladd a contract at $400 a week.[17] However he soon received a better offer over at Paramount.

This Gun for Hire and stardom

Ladd with Brian Donlevy and Esther Fernández in Two Years Before the Mast (1946).

Ladd with Brian Donlevy and Esther Fernández in Two Years Before the Mast (1946).

Paramount had owned the film rights to Graham Greene's novel, A Gun for Sale since 1936 but waited until 1941 before making a movie out of it, changing the title to This Gun for Hire. Director Frank Tuttle was struggling to find a new actor to play the role of "Raven", a hitman with a conscience.[14] Ladd auditioned successfully and Paramount signed him to a long-term contract in September 1941 for $300 a week.[19] The New York Times reported shortly afterwards that:

Tuttle and the studio are showing more than a passing enthusiasm for Ladd. He has been trying to get a foothold in pictures for eight years but received no encouragement although he tried every angle known to town—extra work, bit parts, stock contracts, dramatic schools, assault of the casting offices. Sue Carol, the former silent star who is now an agent, undertook to advance the youth's career two years ago and only recently could she locate an attentive ear. Then the breaks began.[20]

"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) [21]

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).[21]

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.)

Even during the filming of This Gun for Hire Paramount knew they had a potential star and announced Ladd's next film, an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's story The Glass Key. This had been a successful vehicle for George Raft several years earlier and Paramount wanted "a sure-fire narrative to carry him on his way."[22] (There had been talk Ladd would appear in another story of Hammett's, Red Harvest,[23] but this was never made.)

The movie was Ladd's second pairing with Lake. His cool, unsmiling persona proved popular with wartime audiences, and he was voted by the Motion Picture Herald as one of the ten "stars of tomorrow" for 1942.[24][25][26] His salary was raised to $750 a week.[27] According to critic David Shipman:

Paramount of course were delighted. The majority of stars were earmarked as such when they appeared on the horizon—from Broadway or from wherever they came; if it seemed unlikely that public acceptance would come with one film they were trained and built up: the incubation period was usually between two and five years. As far as Ladd was concerned, he was a small-part actor given a fat part faute de mieux and after his second film for them he had not merely hit the leading-men category, but had gone beyond it to films which were constructed around his personality.[28]

Ladd then appeared in a lighter vehicle, Lucky Jordan (1943), with Helen Walker, playing a gangster who tries to get out of war service and tangles with Nazis. His new status was reflected by the fact he was the only actor billed above the title.[29] He had a cameo spoofing his tough guy image in Star Spangled Rhythm, which featured most of Paramount's stars, then starred in a more serious adventure story, China with Loretta Young for director John Farrow, with whom Ladd would make a number of movies. Young did not like working with Ladd:

I found him petulant... I don't remember hearing him laugh, or ever seeing him laugh. Everything that concerned him was very serious... He had a certain screen personality... but as an actor... I never made any contact with him. He wouldn't look at me. He'd say, "I love you..." he'd be looking out there some place. Finally, I said,"Alan, I'm he-ere!!"... I think he was very conscious of his looks. Alan would not look beyond a certain point in the camera because he didn't think he looked good... Jimmy Cagney was not tall but somehow Jimmy was at terms with himself, always. I don't think Alan Ladd ever came to terms with himself.[30]

Ladd's next film was meant to be opposite Betty Hutton, Incendiary Blonde, but he had to be inducted into the army on 18 January after reprising his performance in This Gun for Hire on radio for Lux Radio Theatre.[31]

Army service

Ladd briefly served in the United States Army Air Forces First Motion Picture Unit.[32] Ladd was initially classified 4-F unfit for military service because of stomach problems, but began his military service in January 1943. He was posted to the Walla Walla Army Air Base at Walla Walla, Washington, attaining the rank of Corporal. He attended the Oscars in March 1943[33] and in September appeared in a trailer promoting a war loan drive, Letter from a Friend.[34]

While Ladd was in the armed services, a number of films which had been announced for him were either postponed, and/or made with different actors, including Incendiary Blonde, The Story of Dr. Wassell, Ministry of Fear and The Man in Half Moon Street. Paramount started promoting Ladd replacements such as Sonny Tufts and Barry Sullivan.[35] Old Ladd films were reissued with him being given more prominent billing, such as Hitler, Beast of Berlin.[36] He was reportedly receiving 20,000 fan letters a week.[37] The New York Times reported that "Ladd in the brief period of a year and with only four starring pictures to his credit... had built up a following unmatched in film history since Rudolph Valentino skyrocketed to fame."[34] In December 1943 he would be listed as the 15th most popular star in the US.[38]

Ladd fell ill and went to military hospital in Santa Barbara for several weeks in October.[39] On 28 October, he was given an honorable medical discharge because of a stomach disorder complicated by influenza.[40][41]

Return to filmmaking

When Ladd returned from the army, Paramount announced a series of vehicles for him, including And Now Tomorrow[42] and Two Years Before the Mast.[43] And Now Tomorrow was a melodrama starring Loretta Young as a wealthy deaf woman who is treated (and loved) by her doctor, Ladd; Raymond Chandler co-wrote the screenplay and it was filmed in late 1943 and early 1944. According to Shipman:

It was a pitch to sell Ladd to women filmgoers, though he had not changed one iota and he did not have a noticeable romantic aura. But Paramount hoped that women might feel that beneath the rock-like expression there smouldered fires of passion, or something like. His black-lashed eyes, however, gave nothing away; it was 'take me as I am' or 'I'm the boss around here'. He never flirted nor even seemed interested (which is one of the reasons he and Lake were so effective together).[44]

In March 1944 Ladd took another physical and was re-classified 1A. He would have to be re-inducted into the army, but a deferment was given to enable Ladd to make Two Years Before the Mast (the release of which was postponed two years).[45][46][47] He was meant to be re-inducted on 4 September 1944[46] but Paramount succeeded in getting this pushed back again to make Salty O'Rourke.[48] He also found time to make a cameo a big screen version of Duffy's Tavern.[49]

Ladd's re-induction was then set for May 1945. Paramount commissioned Raymond Chandler to write an original screenplay for him, The Blue Dahlia, which was made relatively quickly in case the studio lost Ladd to the army once again.[50][51] However, in May 1945 General Lewis Hershey released all men 30 or over from induction in the army and Ladd was free from the draft. Along with several other film stars released from their draft obligations, Ladd promptly enlisted with the Hollywood Victory Committee for the entertainment industry's overseas arm, volunteering to tour for USO shows.[52]

Ladd next made Calcutta, which reteamed him with John Farrow and William Bendix. Release for this film was also delayed.


Ladd was meant to make California with Betty Hutton but he refused to report for work in August 1945. "It wasn't on account of the picture", said Ladd. "There were other issues." Ladd wanted more money, and Paramount responded by suspending him.[53][54] The two parties reconciled in November with Ladd getting a salary increase to $75,000 per film, but without story approval or the right to do outside films, which he had wanted.[44][55][56] Exhibitors voted him the 15th most popular star in the country.[57]

"When a star's off the screen he's 'dead'", Ladd later reflected. "I like my home and my security and I don't intend to jeopardize them by being difficult at work."[58]

Ladd's next film was a wartime thriller, O.S.S.[59] This was produced by Richard Maibaum who convinced Ladd that he should play the title role in an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, to which Paramount held the film rights; Ladd became enthusiastic at the chance to change his image, but the project was delayed by a combination of censorship wrangles and studio reluctance.[60]

The Blue Dahlia was eventually released to great acclaim (Raymond Chandler was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay), quickly followed by O.S.S. and, finally Two Years Before the Mast. The first two films were solid hits, each earning over $2 million in rentals in the US and Canada; Two Years Before the Mast was a blockbuster, earning over $4 million and being one of the ten most popular films of the year.

Ladd earned a reported $88,909 for the 12 months up to June 1946.[61] (The following year he would earn $107,000.[62]) In 1947 he was ranked among the top ten most popular stars in the US. That year saw finally the release of Calcutta along with Wild Harvest, where he reteamed with Robert Preston.

Ladd made a cameo appearance as a detective in the Bob Hope comedy My Favorite Brunette (1947). Ladd made another cameo in an all-star Paramount film, Variety Girl, singing Frank Loesser's "Tallahassee" with Dorothy Lamour. He was reteamed with Lake for the final time in Saigon, then made his first Western since he became a star (and first movie in colour), Whispering Smith (1948). He followed this with a melodrama with Farrow, Beyond Glory (1948), which featured Audie Murphy in his film debut (and was released before Whispering Smith).[63]

Ever since he had become a star, Ladd continued to appear in radio, usually in dramatisations of feature films for such shows as Lux Radio Theatre and Screen Directors Playhouse. He created roles played both by himself, but also other actors, including the part of Rick Blaine in an adaptation of Casablanca. In 1948 he starred and produced a regular weekly series for syndication, Box 13, which ran for 52 episodes.

The Great Gatsby

Ladd's next role was a significant change of pace, playing Jay Gatsby in the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby, written and produced by Richard Maibaum. This film had been planned since 1946, but production was delayed due to a combination of difficulties with the censor, and Paramount's reluctance for Ladd to play such a challenging part. It was not a big success at the box office and its mixed critical and commercial reception caused Ladd to shy away from serious dramatic roles afterwards.

His next films were more typical fare: Chicago Deadline, playing a tough reporter; Captain Carey, U.S.A., as a vengeful ex-OSS agent, for Maibaum; and Appointment with Danger, as a postal inspector investigating a murder with the help of nun Phyllis Calvert (shot in 1949 but not released until 1951).

Paramount purchased the screen rights to the play Detective Story as a possible vehicle for Ladd,[64] and he was keen to do it, but the role ended up going to Kirk Douglas. Instead Ladd was cast in Branded, a Western. In February 1950 Paramount announced that Ladd would star in a film version of the novel Shane.[65] Before he made that film, he appeared in another Western, Red Mountain, produced by Hal Wallis.

In 1950 the Hollywood Women's Press Club voted Ladd the easiest male star to deal with in Hollywood.[66] The following year a poll from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association listed Ladd as the second most popular male film star in the world, after Gregory Peck.[67]


Jean Arthur and Ladd in Shane (1953)

Jean Arthur and Ladd in Shane (1953)

In 1951 Ladd's contract only had one more year to run. "Paramount is like a home to me", he said, "and I'd like to remain on the lot for one picture a year. But I want to be free to take pictures at other studios if offered to me."[68] The main studio Ladd was in discussion with was Warner Bros. He also received a six-year offer to make a TV series, Adventure Limited.[69]

In May 1951 Ladd announced he had formed his own production company, Ladd Enterprises, to produce films, radio and TV when his Paramount contract ended in November 1952. He optioned the novel Shadow Riders of the Yellowstone by Les Savage.[70] The next month his deal with Warner Bros. was announced: one film a year for five years -[71] however he expressed a desire to continue to work with Paramount.[72]

Ladd's final three movies for Paramount were Thunder in the East, Shane and Botany Bay.[73] Once Ladd finished Botany Bay, in February 1952 it was announced Ladd's contract with Paramount would end early and be amended so that he would make two more movies for the studio at a later date.[74] (In the event, Ladd did not make another film at Paramount until The Carpetbaggers.)

Paramount staggered the release of Ladd's final films for the company, with Shane and Botany Bay not being released until 1953. Ladd later said that leaving Paramount was "a big upset" for him, and that he only left for "business reasons... future security for the children and ourselves".[75]

Shane, in which he played the title character, was particularly popular. It premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City in April 1953,[76] grossing over $114,000 in its four weeks there (a large sum at the time),[77] and in all earned $8 million in North America over its initial run,[78] and led to Ladd being voted one of the ten most popular stars in the country in 1953.

Freelance star: Warners, Universal, Warwick

Ladd's deal with Warners was for one film a year for ten years, starting from when his contract with Paramount expired. Warners guaranteed him $150,000 per film against 10% of the gross, making Ladd one of the best paid stars in Hollywood.[79] His first film for Warner Bros was The Iron Mistress (1952), in which Ladd played Jim Bowie.

The arrangement with Warners was not exclusive, enabling Ladd to work for other studios. He made a film at Universal Studios, Desert Legion (1953), playing a member of the French Foreign Legion. Ladd was paid a fee and a percentage of the profits.[80]

Ladd also signed an arrangement with Warwick Films to make two films in Britain, where the actor was very popular: a wartime saga, The Red Beret (1953), with Ladd as a Canadian soldier in a British unit; and a whaling story, Hell Below Zero (1954), based on the Hammond Innes book The White South.[81] Both movies were co-written by Richard Maibaum, with whom Ladd had worked at Paramount.[82] Ladd played a mountie in Saskatchewan for Universal in Canada, and returned to Britain for another with Warwick, a medieval swashbuckler The Black Knight (1954), where Ladd played the title role.[83] This meant Ladd spent 19 months out of the US and did not have to pay tax on his income for that period. It also caused his plans to enter independent production to be deferred.[84] Ladd's fee for his Warwick films was $200,000 as against 10% of the profits, plus living expenses.[85]

Jaguar Productions

When Ladd returned to Hollywood in 1954 he formed a new production company, Jaguar Productions, who would release through Warner Bros. This would be in addition to the films he would make with Warners solely as an actor.

His first film for Jaguar was Drum Beat (1954), a Western directed by Delmer Daves which was reasonably successful at the box office.[86] For Warners themselves he then made The McConnell Story (1955), co-starring June Allyson, which also proved popular. He signed to appear in some episodes of General Electric Theater on TV.[87] The first of these, "Committed", was based on an old episode of Box 13 which Ladd was considering turning into a TV series.[88] However, despite Ladd's presence, a series did not result.

Ladd next made a film for Jaguar, Hell on Frisco Bay (1955), which was co-written by Martin Rackin and directed by his old This Gun for Hire associate, Frank Tuttle. Rackin went on to write and produce Ladd's subsequent film, which he made for Warners, Santiago. For Jaguar, Ladd produced, but did not appear in A Cry in the Night.

Ladd's instincts for choosing material was proving increasingly poor: George Stevens offered him the role of Jett Rink in Giant (1956), which he turned down because it was not the lead; James Dean took the part and the film became one of the biggest hits of the decade. He was meant to return to Paramount to make a Western, The Sons of Katie Elder, but he bought himself out of his Paramount contract for $135,000;[89][90] the film was made a decade later with John Wayne and was a big hit.

Instead, Ladd signed a new four-year contract between Jaguar and Warner Bros, with his company having a budget of $6.5 million. The first film made under it was The Big Land (1957), a Western.[91][92] He made another TV film for General Electric Theater, "Farewell to Kennedy"; he hoped this would lead to become a series but that did not happen.[93]

Ladd then received an offer to star in a film being made in Greece for 20th Century Fox, Boy on a Dolphin (1957). In March 1957, it was announced that Warners and Jaguar had re-negotiated their agreement and now Jaguar would make ten films for the studio, of which Ladd was to appear in at least six, starting with The Deep Six (1958). Warners would provide all the finance and split profits with Jaguar 50:50.[94][95][96] The second film under the contract was Island of Lost Women, which Ladd produced but did not appear in.

Ladd's next film as actor saw him co-star against his son David in The Proud Rebel, made independently for Samuel Goldwyn Jr. According to Shipman, Ladd's "performance is his best work, sincere and likeable (due perhaps to an odd resemblance in long shot to Buster Keaton), but the film did not have the success it deserved: Ladd's own fans missed the bang-bang and [co star] Olivia de Havilland's fans were not persuaded that any film she did with Ladd could be that good.[97] He announced a six-picture deal with Warwick Productions[98] but ultimately did not work for Warwick again. MGM hired Ladd to make The Badlanders, a Western remake of The Asphalt Jungle; like many of Ladd's films around this time, it was a box office disappointment.

Ladd was considered to play the lead in The Angry Hills but Robert Mitchum was eventually cast. Mitchum later told a journalist the producers met Ladd at his home after "he'd just crawled out of his swimming pool and was all shrunken up like a dishwasher's hand. They decided he wouldn't do for the big war correspondent."[99]

Later films

For Walter Mirisch at United Artists Ladd appeared in The Man in the Net. He produced a pilot for a TV series starring William Bendix called Ivy League.[100] That did not go to series; neither did another pilot Ladd produced for Paramount, The Third Platoon, which was written by a young Aaron Spelling.[101] Spelling also wrote Guns of the Timberland for Jaguar and Warners, in which Ladd appeared; it was his last movie for Warners.

As an actor, he made All the Young Men with Sidney Poitier that was released through Columbia. One Foot in Hell (1960) over at 20th Century Fox saw Ladd play an out-and-out villain for the first time since the beginning of his career, but the result was not popular with audiences.

"I'd like to retire from acting", he said in 1960. "I'd produce."[102] Ladd kept busy developing projects, some of which were vehicles for his son, David.

Ladd also kept acting and followed the path of many Hollywood stars on the decline and made a peplum in Italy, Duel of Champions (1961). Back in Hollywood he made 13 West Street as a star and producer, for his new company, Ladd Enterprises.

"I'll go to work again when the right story comes along", said Ladd.[103] He joined the board of 38 Inc, a new film producing company, who announced plans to make a movie out of a Ben Hecht script.[104]

In 1963, Ladd's career looked set to make a comeback when he filmed a supporting role in The Carpetbaggers, based on the best selling novel.[105] This was a co-production between Embassy and Paramount, meaning Ladd filmed on the Paramount backlot for the first time in over a decade. He announced plans to turn Box 13 into a feature film script and was hoping for cameos from old friends such as Veronica Lake and William Bendix.[106]

Personal life

On 29 November 1937 Ladd's mother, who was staying with him following the breakup of a relationship, asked Ladd for some money to buy something at a local store. Ladd gave her the money, thinking it was for alcohol. She purchased some arsenic-based ant paste from a grocer and committed suicide by drinking it in the back seat of Ladd's car.[107]

On 2 November 1962, Ladd was found lying unconscious in a pool of blood with a bullet wound near his heart, in what might have been a suicide attempt. The bullet penetrated Ladd's chest around the third and fourth rib, through the lungs and bounced off the rib cage.[9][108][109] At the time, Ladd said he thought he heard a prowler, grabbed a gun, and tripped over, accidentally shooting himself.[110] This was accepted by the police investigating.[111]

Ladd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1601 Vine Street.[112] His handprint appears in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood. In 1995, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[113]

Family and relationships

Ladd married a high school sweetheart, Marjorie Jane "Midge" Harrold, in October 1936.[114][115] Their only child, a son named Alan Ladd, Jr., was born on October 22, 1937.[116] They divorced in July 1941[117] and she died in 1957, having remarried.[118]

On March 15, 1942, Ladd married his agent and manager, former film actress Sue Carol in Mexico City. They intended to be remarried in the U.S. in July because Ladd's divorce from his first wife was not final.[119]

Carol had a daughter from a previous marriage, Carol Lee (b 18 July 1932), whom Alan and Sue raised. In addition they had two children of their own, Alana (born 21 April 1943, when Ladd was in the army[120]) and David Alan (1947).[121] Alan Ladd, Jr., is a film executive and producer and founder of the Ladd Company. 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.[122]

Ladd's name was linked romantically with June Allyson when they made The McConnell Story together.[123]


Ladd, late 1950s

Ladd, late 1950s

Most biographical sources speculate 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.[9][124][125]

Ladd and Veronica Lake became a particularly popular pairing because, at 4 ft 11 in, she was one of the few Hollywood actresses substantially shorter than he was.[126] In his memoirs, actor/producer John Houseman wrote of Ladd: "Since he himself was extremely short, he had only one standard by which he judged his fellow players: their height."[127] To compensate for Ladd's height, during the filming of Boy on a Dolphin, co-starring the 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) Sophia Loren, the cinematographer used special low stands to light Ladd and the crew built a ramp system of heavy planks to enable the two actors to stand at equal eye level.[128] In outdoor scenes, trenches were dug for Loren to stand in.[129] For the film Saskatchewan, director Raoul Walsh had a six-inch hole dug for 6 ft 0 in (1.82 m) co-star Hugh O'Brian to stand in, while using the excavated dirt to build a mound for Ladd to stand on, thereby overcoming the disparity in height.[130]


In January 1964, after injuring his knees, Ladd hoped to recuperate at his house in Palm Springs. On 29 January 1964, his butler said he saw Ladd on his bed at 10am; when he returned at 3:30pm Ladd was still there, dead.[131][132]

His death, due to cerebral edema caused by an acute overdose of "alcohol and three other drugs", was ruled accidental.[1] Ladd suffered from chronic insomnia and regularly used sleeping pills and alcohol to induce sleep. While he had not taken a lethal amount of any one drug, the combination apparently caused a synergistic reaction that proved fatal.[9] Suicide was ruled out.[133]

He was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[134] Ladd's funeral was held on 1 February with Edmond O'Brien giving the eulogy. Fans were allowed to see his coffin. He was buried with his wedding ring and a letter his son David had written him.[135]

Ladd died a wealthy man, his holdings including a 5,000 acre ranch at Hidden Valley and a hardware store in Palm Springs.[136] After he died, The Carpetbaggers was released and became a financial success.

Select radio credits

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 206 "The Return of Peter Grimm" (13 Feb 1939)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 221 "Only Angels Have Wings" (29 May 1939)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 280 "White Banners" (12 June 1939)

  • Lincoln Highway (May 1942)[137]

  • Guest on Kate Smith's radio show – 1942

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 380 "This Gun for Hire" (25 Jan 1943) – with Joan Blondell and Laird Cregar

  • Wings to Victory (25 March 1943)

  • "Musically Inclined" for Silver Theater (12 Dec 1943) – with Judy Garland[138]

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 415 China (22 Nov 1943)

  • Suspense – "One Way Ride to Nowhere" (6 Jan 1944)[139]

  • Suspense – "The Defence Rests" (9 March 1944)

  • Cavalcade of America – "Ambulance Driver Middle East" (3 April 1944)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 435 Coney Island (17 April 1944)

  • Burns and Allen – special guest star (15 Jan 1945)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 473 "Disputed Passage" (5 March 1945)

  • Jack Benny Program – "Murder Mystery" (25 March 1945)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 484 "And Now Tomorrow" (21 May 1945)

  • The Dinah Shore Show – Guest star (31 May 1945)

  • Command Performance – guest star with Bob Hope, Ann Rutherford (14 June 1945)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 503 "Salty O'Rourke" (26 Nov 1945)

  • Duffy's Tavern – guest star (4 Jan 1946)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 523 "Whistle Stop" (15 April 1946)

  • Hollywood Star Time – "Double Indemnity" (22 June 1946)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 546 "O.S.S." (18 Nov 1946)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 582 "Two Years Before the Mast" (22 Sept 1947)

  • The Screen Guild Theater – "The Blue Dahlia" (21 April 1949)

  • Screen Directors Playhouse – "Saigon*" (29 July 1949)*

  • Screen Directors Playhouse – "Whispering Smith" (16 Sept 1949)

  • Suspense – "Motive for Murder" (16 March 1950)

  • Screen Directors Playhouse – "Chicago Deadline" (24 March 1950)

  • Suspense – "A Killing in Abilene" (14 Dec 1950)

  • Screen Directors Playhouse – "Lucky Jordan" (8 Feb 1951)

  • Lux Radio Theatre – Ep 911 "Shane" (22 Feb 1955)

Regular series

  • Box 13: 52 episodes (22 August 1948 – 14 August 1949)

  • The Alan Ladd Show[140]


1932Tom Brown of CulverCadet
Once in a LifetimeProjectionist
1933Saturday's MillionsStudent
1936Pigskin ParadeStudent
1937The Last Train from MadridSoldier
Souls at SeaSailor
All Over TownYoung Man
Hold 'Em NavyChief Quartermaster
Born to the WestInspector
1938The Goldwyn FolliesFirst Auditioning Singer
Come On, Leathernecks!Club Waiter
Freshman YearStudent
1939The Mysterious Miss XHenchman
Rulers of the SeaColin Farrell
Hitler – Beast of BerlinKarl BachAlso known as Goose Step
1940American PortraitYoung man/Old manShort subject[141]
Blame it on LoveShort subject
Meat and RomanceBill AllenShort subject
Unfinished RainbowsCharles Martin HallShort subject
The Green HornetGilpin, Student PilotChapter 3
Brother Rat and a BabyCadet in trouble
In Old MissouriJohn Pittman, Jr.
The Light of Western StarsDanny, Stillwell Ranch Hand
Gangs of Chicago
Cross-Country RomanceMr. Williams, First Mate
Those Were the Days!Keg Rearick
Captain CautionNewton, Mutinous Sailor
The Howards of VirginiaBackwoodsman
Meet the MissusJohn Williams
VictoryHeyst as an 18-year-old
Her First RomanceJohn Gilman
1941I Look At YouShort subject
Petticoat PoliticsHiggins Daughter's Boyfriend
Citizen KaneReporter smoking pipe at endUncredited
The Black CatRichard Hartley
Paper BulletsJimmy Kelly aka Bill Dugan
The Reluctant DragonAl, Baby Weems storyboard artist
They Met in BombayBritish Soldier
Great GunsSoldier in Photo Shop
Cadet GirlHarry, Musician
Military TrainingLieutenant, Platoon Leader, County FairShort subject
1942Joan of Paris"Baby"
This Gun for HirePhilip Raven
The Glass KeyEd Beaumont
Lucky JordanLucky Jordan
Star Spangled RhythmAlan Ladd, Scarface Skit
Letter from a FriendShort subject
1943ChinaDavid Jones
Screen Snapshots: Hollywood in UniformHimselfShort subject
1944Skirmish on the Home FrontHarry W. AverageShort subject
And Now TomorrowDoctor Merek Vance
1945Salty O'RourkeSalty O'Rourke
Duffy's TavernHimself
Hollywood Victory CaravanAlan LaddShort subject
1946Two Years Before the MastCharles Stewart
The Blue DahliaJohnny Morrison, Lt.Cmdr., ret.
O.S.S.Philip Masson/John Martin
Screen Snapshots: The Skolsky PartyHimselfShort subject
1947My Favorite BrunetteSam McCloud
CalcuttaNeale Gordon
Variety GirlHimself
Wild HarvestJoe Madigan
1948SaigonMaj. Larry Briggs
Beyond GloryCapt. Rockwell "Rocky" Gilman
Whispering SmithWhispering Smith
1949Eyes of HollywoodShort subject
The Great GatsbyJay Gatsby
Chicago DeadlineEd Adams
1950Captain Carey, U.S.A.Captain Webster Carey
1951Appointment with DangerAl Goddard
Red MountainCapt. Brett Sherwood
1952The Iron MistressJim Bowie
Thunder in the EastSteve Gibbs
A Sporting OasisHimselfShort subject
1953Botany BayHugh Tallant
Desert LegionPaul Lartal
The Red BeretSteve "Canada" McKendrick
1954Hell Below ZeroDuncan Craig
SaskatchewanThomas O'Rourke
The Black KnightJohn
Drum BeatJohnny MacKayProducer
1955The McConnell StoryCapt. Joseph C. "Mac" McConnell, Jr.
Hell on Frisco BaySteve RollinsProducer
1956SantiagoCaleb "Cash" AdamsProducer
A Cry in the NightOpening narratorProducer
1957The Big LandChad MorganProducer
Boy on a DolphinDr. James Calder
1958The Deep SixAlexander "Alec" AustenProducer
The Proud RebelJohn Chandler
The BadlandersPeter Van Hoek ("The Dutchman")
1959The Man in the NetJohn HamiltonProducer
Island of Lost Women
Executive producer
1960Guns of the TimberlandJim HadleyExecutive producer
All the Young MenSgt. KincaidExecutive producer
One Foot in HellMitch Garrett
1961Duel of ChampionsHoratio
196213 West StreetWalt SherillProducer
1964The CarpetbaggersNevada SmithReleased posthumously
1953Better Living TV TheatreHimselfSeptember 6, 1953, episode
1954Red Skelton RevueGuest (Old West Sketch)Episode 1.1
1954–1958General Electric TheaterVarious roles3 episodes
Executive producer (2 episodes)
1955Kings RowHimselfEpisode: "Lady in Fear"
1957–1958The Bob Cummings ShowHimself2 episodes
1959Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
Episode: "Ivy League"


  • Photoplay 1953 Gold Medal for his performance in Shane[142]

Box office ranking

For a number of years, film exhibitors voted him amongst the top stars at the box office.

194614th[145]8th[146] or 4th[147]
1950(did not make top 25)8th
  • In 1948 a survey was taken of the film-going habits of 4,500 teenagers in Lakewood, Ohio. Their "overwhelming first choice" as film star was Alan Ladd.[159]


  • The Mikado (May 1933) – as Koko – at North Hollywood high School

  • Marinella (19 July 1933) – an aquatic pageant in North Hollywood[7]

  • Grey Zone by Martin Mooney (Oct 1936) at Ben Bard Playhouse[160]

  • Susanne by Eloisse Keller (Jan 1937) at Ben Bard Playhouse[161]

  • Between Two Women by Carey Wilson (April 1937) at Ben Bard Playhouse – with Jack Carson[162]

  • Maniacs in Monocles by Robert Riley Crutcher (July 1937) at Ben Bard Playhouse[163][164]


Citation Linknews.google.comAlan Ladd Death Ruled Accidental UPI. The Bulletin of Bend and Central Oregon Feb 5, 1964.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgObituary Variety, February 5, 1964, page 63.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkwww.encyclopediaofarkansas.net"Alan Ladd (1913-1964)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
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Citation Linkwww.encyclopediaofarkansas.netAlan Ladd (1913–1964), The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgLinet p 4-5
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgLinet pp. 9–10
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgBandit Raids Water Office: Clerk in North Hollywood Menaced With Gun Los Angeles Times 20 July 1933: A16.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Embryo Screen Stars Have Day in Court: New Cinema Cron Appears for Approval of Contracts" Los Angeles Times 12 Aug 1933: A10.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgLinet, Beverly. Ladd: The Life, the Legend, the Legacy of Alan Ladd. New York: Arbor House, 1979. ISBN 0-87795-203-5
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Fine Broth of a Ladd!". Chicago Daily Tribune. 19 September 1943. p. B5.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgLinet p 15
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"San Fernando Valley Will be Ladd's Home: Ladd's Hedge is a Rancho" The Washington Post 11 May 1947: S5
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Alan Ladd Urges Training for Films", Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 28 May 1950: D1.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgFranchey, John R. (7 June 1942). ""The Gent is Alan Ladd, the Calculating Trigger-Man in 'This Gun for Hire'"". The New York Times. p. X4.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linknews.google.comhttps://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1917&dat=19520414&id=bFI1AAAAIBAJ&sjid=wYAFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2789,1942454&hl=en
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linknla.gov.au"Biography of Alan Ladd". The Border Watch. Mount Gambier, SA. 28 November 1942. p. 3. Retrieved 9 December 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgLinet p 40
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkwww.tcm.com"Alan Ladd 8/12". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2017-02-01.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Screen News Here and in Hollywood: 'Pied Piper,' Novel by Nevil Shute, Purchased by Fox -- Harold Shuster to Direct Rialto Film is Held Over ' Badlands of Dakota' to Begin a Second Week -- Swedish Program Opens Today" by Douglas W. Churchill By Telephone to The New York Times. The New York Times 13 Sep 1941: 21.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"Signing on The Lawn: Mr. Selznick Joins United Artists at Pickfair Meet -- More Hollywoodiana" by Douglas W. Churchill. New York Times 12 Oct 1941: X5.
Sep 19, 2019, 7:33 AM