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Alan Ladd

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Collection: 1913 Births, 1964 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Businesspeople, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, Accidental Deaths in California, Alcohol-Related Deaths in California, American Film Producers, American Male Film Actors, American Male Radio Actors, American Male Television Actors, American Military Personnel of World War II, American People of English Descent, American Television Producers, Burials at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Deaths from Edema, Drug-Related Deaths in California, First Motion Picture Unit Personnel, Male Actors from Arkansas, Male Actors from Los Angeles, California, Male Western (Genre) Film Actors, Paramount Pictures Contract Players, People from Hot Springs, Arkansas, United States Army Air Forces Soldiers
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Alan Ladd

Alan Ladd
Ladd in 1953
Born Alan Walbridge Ladd
(1913-09-03)September 3, 1913
Hot Springs, Arkansas, U.S.
Died January 29, 1964(1964-01-29) (aged 50)
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cerebral edema caused by accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol[1]
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Education North Hollywood High School
Occupation Actor, film and television producer
Years active 1932–64
Spouse(s) Marjorie Jane Harrold (m. 1936; div. 1941)
Sue Carol (m. 1942–64)
Children Alan Ladd, Jr. (b. 1937)
Alana Ladd (b. 1943)
David Ladd (b. 1947)
Relatives Jordan Ladd (granddaughter)
Shane Ladd (granddaughter)
Website //ladd/

Alan Walbridge Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964) was an American actor and film and television producer. Ladd found success in film the 1940s and early 1950s, particularly in Westerns and film noirs where he was often paired with Veronica Lake. 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]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Sue Carol 2.1
    • Stardom 2.2
    • Leaving Paramount 2.3
    • Freelance star 2.4
  • Height 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Death 5
  • Select radio credits 6
    • Regular series 6.1
  • Filmography 7
    • Unmade Films 7.1
  • Box office ranking 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Ladd was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was the only child of Ina Raleigh (also known as Selina Rowley) and Alan Ladd, a freelance accountant.[3] His mother was English, from County Durham. 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 the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles where Ladd became a high school swimming and diving champion and participated in high school dramatics at North Hollywood High School, including the role of "Koko" in The Mikado. He graduated 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.[4]


Intent on acting, he found work in small theatres.[5] He had short term stints at MGM and RKO, and eventually started getting steady work on radio.[6][7]

Sue Carol

Ladd was heard on radio by the agent Sue Carol who signed him to her books and enthusiastically promoted her new client, starting with the 1939 film 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.[8]


For his next role, Sue Carol found a vehicle which made Ladd's career: the 1942 adaptation of Graham Greene's novel This Gun for Hire in which he played "Raven", a hitman with a conscience.[6] "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) [9]

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).[9] 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 and Lake became a particularly popular pairing because, at 5'1", she was one of the few Hollywood actresses shorter than him.[10] 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".[11] To compensate for Ladd's height, during the filming of Boy on a Dolphin, co-starring the much taller 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.[12] In outdoor scenes, trenches were dug for Loren to stand in.[13] For the film Saskatchewan, director Raoul Walsh had a six-inch hole dug for 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 one-foot disparity in height.[14]

Ladd went on to star in many Paramount Pictures' films,[15] with a brief timeout for military service in the United States Army Air Forces First Motion Picture Unit.[16]

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.[17]

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.

In 1950 the Hollywood Women's Press Club voted him the easiest male star to deal with in Hollywood.[18]

Leaving Paramount

Jean Arthur and Alan Ladd in Shane (1953)

In 1951, Ladd announced that he would leave Paramount and make five films for Warner Bros. His contract with Paramount was amended so he could only make two more films for that studio but this did not happen. His final movies for Paramount were Red Mountain, Thunder in the East, Shane and Botany Bay.[19] Ladd later announced that leaving Paramount was "a big upset" for him and he only left for "business reasons... future security for the children and ourselves".[20]

Although Ladd left Paramount in 1952, the release of his final films was staggered: Shane and Botany Bay did not come out until 1953. Shane, in which he played the title character, was particularly popular and saw Ladd voted as one of the ten most popular stars in the country in 1953.

Freelance star

Ladd's films at Warner were made by his own production unit, Jaguar. The first of these was The Iron Mistress (1952).

He then made a movie at Universal Studios, Desert Legion (1953).

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 Pictures: The Red Beret (1953); Hell Below Zero (1954), based on the Hammond Innes book The White South; and The Black Knight (1954). All three were co-written by Ladd's regular screenwriter Richard Maibaum, the last with additional dialogue by Bryan Forbes.[21][22] 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 play 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.[4][23] 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.


Ladd, late 1950s

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.[4][24][25]

Personal life

Ladd married a high school sweetheart, Marjorie Jane "Midge" Harrold, in October 1936.[26][27] Their only child, a son named Alan Ladd, Jr., was born on October 22, 1937.[28] They divorced in July 1941.[29]

On March 15, 1942, Ladd married his agent and manager, former film actress Sue Carol, with whom he had two children, Alana (born 1943) and David Alan (1947).[30]

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.[31]


On January 29, 1964, Ladd was found dead in his Palm Springs home.[32] 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.[4] He was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[33] 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.[34]

Ladd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1601 Vine Street.[35] His handprint appears in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater, in Hollywood. In 1995, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[36]

Select radio credits

Ladd appeared as Chicago based Private Detective Tom Dwyer in Robert L. Richards' story "The One-Way Ride to Nowhere" on the Suspense radio series with an airdate of October 6, 1944. Another Suspense appearance by Ladd as defendant Robert Tasker in the story "The Defense Rests" aired on March 9, 1944. The story was written by Roland Brown and Robert L. Richards.

Regular series

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


Year Title Role Notes
1932 Tom Brown of Culver Cadet
1932 Once in a Lifetime Projectionist
1933 Saturday's Millions Student
1936 Pigskin Parade Student
1937 The Last Train from Madrid Soldier
1937 Souls at Sea Sailor
1937 All Over Town Young Man
1937 Hold 'Em Navy Chief Quartermaster
1938 The Goldwyn Follies First Auditioning Singer
1938 Come On, Leathernecks! Club Waiter
1938 Freshman Year Student
1939 The Mysterious Miss X Henchman
1939 Hitler, Beast of Berlin Karl Bach
1939 Rulers of the Sea Colin Farrell
1940 American Portrait Young man/Old man Short subject
1940 Blame It on Love Short subject
1940 Meat and Romance Bill Allen Short subject
1940 Unfinished Rainbows Charles Martin Hall Short subject
1940 The Green Hornet Gilpin, Student Pilot Chapter 3
1940 Brother Rat and a Baby Cadet in trouble
1940 In Old Missouri John Pittman, Jr.
1940 The Light of Western Stars Danny, Stillwell Ranch Hand
1940 Gangs of Chicago
1940 Cross-Country Romance Mr. Williams, First Mate
1940 Those Were the Days! Keg Rearick
1940 Captain Caution Newton, Mutinous Sailor
1940 The Howards of Virginia Backwoodsman
1940 Meet the Missus John Williams
1940 Victory Heyst as an 18-year-old
1940 Her First Romance John Gilman
1941 I Look To You Short subject
1941 Petticoat Politics Higgins Daughter's Boyfriend
1941 Citizen Kane Reporter smoking pipe at end Uncredited
1941 The Black Cat Richard Hartley
1941 Paper Bullets Jimmy Kelly aka Bill Dugan
1941 The Reluctant Dragon Al, Baby Weems storyboard artist
1941 They Met in Bombay British Soldier
1941 Great Guns Soldier in Photo Shop
1941 Cadet Girl Harry, Musician
1941 Military Training Lieutenant, Platoon Leader, County Fair Short subject
1942 Joan of Paris "Baby"
1942 This Gun for Hire Philip Raven
1942 The Glass Key Ed Beaumont
1942 Lucky Jordan Lucky Jordan
1942 Star Spangled Rhythm Alan Ladd, Scarface Skit
1942 Letter from a Friend Short subject
1943 China David Jones
1943 Screen Snapshots: Hollywood in Uniform Himself Short subject
1944 Skirmish on the Home Front Harry W. Average Short subject
1944 And Now Tomorrow Doctor Merek Vance
1945 Salty O'Rourke Salty O'Rourke
1945 Duffy's Tavern Himself
1945 Hollywood Victory Caravan Alan Ladd Short subject
1946 Two Years Before the Mast Charles Stewart
1946 The Blue Dahlia Johnny Morrison, Lt.Cmdr., ret.
1946 O.S.S. Philip Masson/John Martin
1946 Screen Snapshots: The Skolsky Party Himself Short subject
1947 My Favorite Brunette Sam McCloud
1947 Calcutta Neale Gordon
1947 Variety Girl Himself
1947 Wild Harvest Joe Madigan
1948 Saigon Maj. Larry Briggs
1948 Beyond Glory Capt. Rockwell "Rocky" Gilman
1948 Whispering Smith Whispering Smith
1949 Eyes of Hollywood Short subject
1949 The Great Gatsby Jay Gatsby
1949 Chicago Deadline Ed Adams
1950 Captain Carey, U.S.A. Captain Webster Carey
1950 Branded Choya
1951 Appointment with Danger Al Goddard
1951 Red Mountain Capt. Brett Sherwood
1952 The Iron Mistress Jim Bowie
1952 Thunder in the East Steve Gibbs
1952 A Sporting Oasis Himself Short subject
1953 Botany Bay Hugh Tallant
1953 Desert Legion Paul Lartal
1953 Shane Shane
1953 The Red Beret Steve "Canada" McKendrick
1954 Hell Below Zero Duncan Craig
1954 Saskatchewan Thomas O'Rourke
1954 The Black Knight John
1954 Drum Beat Johnny MacKay Producer
1955 The McConnell Story Capt. Joseph C. "Mac" McConnell, Jr.
1955 Hell on Frisco Bay Steve Rollins Producer
1956 Santiago Caleb "Cash" Adams Producer
1956 A Cry in the Night Opening narrator Producer
1957 The Big Land Chad Morgan Producer
1957 Boy on a Dolphin Dr. James Calder
1958 The Deep Six Alexander "Alec" Austen Producer
1958 The Proud Rebel John Chandler
1958 The Badlanders Peter Van Hoek ("The Dutchman")
1959 The Man in the Net John Hamilton Producer
1959 Island of Lost Women
Executive producer
1960 Guns of the Timberland Jim Hadley Executive producer
1960 All the Young Men Sgt. Kincaid Executive producer
1960 One Foot in Hell Mitch Garrett
1961 Duel of Champions Horatio
1962 13 West Street Walt Sherill Producer
1964 The Carpetbaggers Nevada Smith Released posthumously
Year Title Role Notes
1953 Better Living TV Theatre Himself September 6, 1953 episode
1954 Red Skelton Revue Guest (Old West Sketch) Episode 1.1
1954-1958 General Electric Theater Various roles 3 episodes
Executive producer (2 episodes)
1955 Kings Row Himself Episode: "Lady In Fear"
1957–1958 The Bob Cummings Show Himself 2 episodes
1959 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars
Episode: "Ivy League"

Unmade Films

  • Persian Gulf (1952)[19]
  • The Pastor of Panmint (1952)[19]
  • Buffalo Grass from novel by Frank Gruber (circa 1956)[37]

Box office ranking

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

Year USA Britain
1943 15th[38]
1945 15th[39]
1946 14th[40] 8th[41]
1947 10th 7th[42]
1949 17th[43] 7th[44]
1950 (did not make top 25) 8th
1951 17th 8th[45]
1952 16th[46]
1953 4th[47] 3rd
1954 6th[48] 1st[49]
1955 17th 5th[50]
1956 25th


  1. ^ a b Alan Ladd Death Ruled Accidental UPI. The Bulletin of Bend and Central Oregon Feb 5, 1964.
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, February 5, 1964, page 63.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d Linet, Beverly. Ladd: The Life, the Legend, the Legacy of Alan Ladd. New York: Arbor House, 1979. ISBN 0-87795-203-5
  5. ^ "Alan Ladd Urges Training for Films", Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 28 May 1950: D1.
  6. ^ a b "The Gent Is Alan Ladd, the Calculating Trigger-Man in 'This Gun for Hire'" by John R. Franchey. New York Times 7 June 1942: X4.
  7. ^ "Biography of Alan Ladd.".  
  8. ^ Alan Ladd 8/12
  9. ^ a b Alan Ladd
  10. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (2001). Peekaboo: The Story of Veronica Lake. Lincoln NE: iUniverse. pp. 95–96.  
  11. ^ Houseman, John (1989). Unfinished business: memoirs, 1902–1988. New York: Applause Theatre Books. p. 260.  
  12. ^ Udel, James C. (2013). The Film Crew of Hollywood: Profiles of Grips, Cinematographers, Designers, a Gaffer, a Stuntman and a Makeup Artist. Jefferson NC: McFarland. p. 87.  
  13. ^ Baldwin, Paul and John Williams Malone (2001). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Acting. Indianapolis: Alpha. p. 122.  
  14. ^ Moss, Marilyn Ann (2011). Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p. 334.  
  15. ^ City of nets: a portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s By Otto Friedrich
  16. ^ "Paula Walling's Hollywood Film Gossip.".  
  17. ^ Alan Ladd – Biography – MSN Movies
  19. ^ a b c "PARAMOUNT SIGNS LADD TO NEW PACT: Studio and Actor Arrange for Deal Whereby He Will Make One Film a Year on Lot" by THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 29 Feb 1952: 19.
  20. ^ "THIS LADD STEPPING OUT ON HIS OWN" Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 6 April 1952: E1.
  21. ^ Broccoli, Albert R. & Zec, Donald When the Snow Melts: The Autobiography of Cubby Broccoli Trans-Atlantic Publications 1999
  22. ^ Bryan Forbes, A Divided Life, Mandarin, 1993 p3-4
  23. ^ "Alan Ladd Recovering From Shot" Los Angeles Times 5 Nov 1962: A1.
  24. ^ Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938–1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, Maryland.
  25. ^ Shipman, David. The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years. New York: Hill & Wang, 1979. ISBN 0-8090-5170-2
  26. ^ Farber, Stephen; Green, Marc (1984). Hollywood Dynasties. Delilah. p. 182.  
  27. ^ Henry, Marilyn; DeSourdis, Ron (1984). The Films of Alan Ladd. Citadel Press. p. 24.  
  28. ^ Henry 1981 p.25
  29. ^ Mennie, James (May 26, 1979). "The Star We Hardly Knew". The Montreal Gazette. p. 32. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  30. ^ Bacon, James (January 29, 1964). "Rugged Screen Career of Alan Ladd Ended By Death". Lodi News-Sentinel. p. 15. Retrieved March 31, 2014. 
  31. ^ MSN – Movies: Jordan Ladd
  32. ^ Bacon, James (January 20, 1964). "Movie Actor Alan Ladd Is Found Dead In California Home Of Natural Causes". The Lewiston Daily Sun. p. 1. Retrieved March 31, 2014. 
  33. ^ Alan Ladd at Find a Grave
  34. ^ Kilgallen, Dorothy (June 30, 1964). "Voice of Broadway". New York Journal American. p. 25. 
  35. ^ Alan Ladd, Awards
  36. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  37. ^ HOLLYWOOD VIEWS: Production Cost Rise Seem as Result Of New Five-Day Week--Other Items Aurora Blueprint On Ladd's Agenda Entente Cordiale By THOMAS M. PRYOR. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 22 Jan 1956: 99.
  40. ^ 'Bing Crosby Again Tops Money-Making Star List', Los Angeles Times 27 Dec 1946: A3.
  41. ^ "FILM WORLD.".  
  42. ^ "Anna Neagle Most Popular Actress.".  
  43. ^ 'Hope Edges Out Crosby as Box-Office Champ; Wayne, Williams', Los Angeles Times 30 Dec 1949: 15
  44. ^ "TOPS AT HOME.".  
  45. ^ "Vivien Leigh Actress of the Year.".  
  46. ^ "Martin And Lewis Top U.S. Film Poll.".  
  48. ^ "POPULAR IN FILMS.".  
  50. ^ 'Dirk Bogarde favourite film actor', The Irish Times 29 Dec 1955: 9.

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