Back in the 1940s and 50s, Alan Ladd wowed moviegoers with his many works in films and TV shows which were very popular and well-loved. The famous American actor and TV producer enjoyed a fine career with wonderful performances in movies, especially 1953’s Shane. He became popular for starring alongside the famous Veronica Lake in crime drama films such as 1942’s This Gun for Hire and 1946’s The Blue Dahila. Born in 1913, the actor began his career in 1932 and by the time he died in 1964, he had already appeared in more than a hundred productions.
He had a rather shaky and rocky beginning in the movie industry following an unsuccessful audition for 1939’s Golden Boy. To add to that, he struggled with very minor roles for some time before he eventually landed a big one in the wartime drama piece, Joan of Paris (1942).
Interestingly, his interest was not just in becoming an actor alone, he soon founded his personal movie production company which produced films like Drum Beat (1954) and Hel on Frisco Bay (1955). As fate would have it, Ladd died in January of 1964, at the very peak of a career he had worked really had to build. Below is a list of the actor’s movies and TV shows rated from best to worst.
Alan Ladd’s Best and Worst Attempts as an Actor
1. Shane (1953)
This movie saw Ladd dishing out one of his finest performances in westerns. He plays the role of the mysterious gunslinger, Shane, who rode into a miniature town with the desire to settle down quietly. He takes a job on Joe Starrett’s (Van Heflin) farm and was drawn into a battle with the town’s people. Things got even more complicated for him as a result of his attraction to Starret’s wife Marian played by Jean Arthur. Settling quietly in the town becomes impossible but Shane must find a way to work things out.
2. This Gun for Hire (1942)
This is the movie that set the stage for Ladd to become a star as he featured alongside the famous Veronica Lake. He played the role of Philip Raven – a sadist and killer-for-hire who is vexed when he discovered that his pay for a job he had done was in marked bills. He vows to find his double-crossing boss, Gates (played by Laird Cregar) and have his revenge. As he continues with his plan, Ellen (Veronica Lake) a new employee of Gates whom he sat with on a train has a new mission to straighten the killer even though she is already set to marry the Police Lieutenant (Robert Preston) who is on the hunt for Raven.
3. The Blue Dahlia (1946)
This movie saw the coming together of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake for the third time. Here, he played the role of a discharged naval officer Johnny Morrison, who returns home after fighting in the pacific only to find that his wife Helen (Doris Dowling) has been unfaithful. Somehow, she winds up dead and he finds himself in hiding as the prime suspect. His mind is made up, he will stop at nothing to find the real killer of his wife, but the problem is that almost everyone has a motive to kill her.
4. The Glass Key (1942)
This movie tells the story of Paul Madvig as portrayed by Brian Donlevy who fell in love with the daughter of Ralph Henry, Janet (Veronica Lake), even though he was warned against it by his friend, Ladd who played the role of Ed Beaumont. Now it is extremely difficult for Ed to keep out of the criminal world as he’s been accused of killing Janet’s brother, and someone who Paul offended sends his dreaded thugs for Ed in revenge.
5. Branded (1950)
The movie is an adaptation of the novel titled Montana Rides by Max Brand in which Alan Ladd portrayed Choya, a gunfighter who is on the run from the law. Knowing that a baby from the Lavery family was kidnapped 25 years ago, he impersonated the baby in order to gain the Lavery estate. He eventually revealed the truth to Ruth (Mona Freeman) who is very furious and to make up for what he did, Choya decided to find the missing child.
6. Whispering Smith (1948)
This is one of Alan Ladd’s earliest works as an actor, he takes the role of the entertaining detective assigned to investigate and solve the mysteries behind a series of train robberies. He is in a dire situation when he discovered that his very good friend Murray (Robert Preston), after losing his job, joined the gang of criminals led by Barney Rebstock (Donald Crisp). Things got worse as his friendship with Murray’s ex-wife, Marian (Brenda Marshall) turned into a romance.
7. Thunder in the East (1953)
This movie is based on Alan Moorehead’s novel titled Rage of the Vulture. It follows Steve Gibbs (played by Ladd), an American arms dealer who flew to India and plans to sell arms to a local maharajah whose city is under siege by an army of bandits. He faced stiff opposition from the maharajah’s prime minster (Charles Boyer) whose blind daughter Gibbs has now fallen in love with.
8. Appointment with Danger (1950)
In this piece, Ladd played the character of Al Goddard, an Inspector working with the US postal inspection service. He is assigned to investigate the murder of a fellow postal inspector. He meets a witness in the course of the investigation, a beautiful and young nun named Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert). He infiltrated the Honcho Boettiger’s (Paul Stewart) and earned their trust as a shady inspector. The killers finally discovered his real plan and so he must save Sister Augustine.
9. S.S (1946)
This is another good performance from Ladd who paired with Geraldine Fitzgerald to dish out this world war ll piece. Here, he played the role of an American spy with the code-name John Martin, who is part of a secret plan to destroy a tunnel crucial to the German army in France. He fell in love with a fellow spy who goes by the code-name Elaine Duprez, which may undermine their mission.
10. The Black Knight (1954)
This movie is the last of Ladd’s trilogy with Warwick Films and is based on Hammond Inne’s book titled The White South. Here he played the role of the titular character and must thwart the plan of Sir Palamides (Peter Cushing) and King Mark (Patrick Troughton) who are conspiring to take over the throne from King Arthur. Although it his performance was exquisite, this movie is not Ladd’s best appearance as far as many are concerned.
11. The Iron Mistress (1952)
After a ten year spree at paramount Pictures, this is Ladd’s first work with Warner Bros. The story is based on Paul Iselin Wellman’s 1951 novel of the same name and centers on Jim Bowie’s (Alan Ladd) unending relationship with Judalon (Virginia Mayo). Just as the case is with most films, historical accuracy is buried and excitement is at the fore here.
12. Boy on a Dolphin (1957)
Ladd (Dr. Jim Calder) starred alongside Clifton Webb (Victor Parmalee) and Sophia Loren (Phaedra) in this 1957 romantic piece. It follows the story of how a sponge diver discovered a sunken ship loaded with a lot of valuables, plus a golden statue of a boy on dolphin. Now she and her boyfriend must seek help from an American archaeologist whose price was high to an art collector. She ends up falling for the archaeologist.
13. The Proud Rebel (1958)
The plot of the movie is based on a story by James Edward Grant. This movie saw Alan and his real son David featuring in the role of father and son. It centers on John Chandler (Alan Ladd), who returned after the war to a razed house, a dead wife, and his young son David (David Ladd) in trauma. Now he tries to find a cure for his son’s condition in Illinois but the people there are hostile towards him. He’s accused of assault and forced to make a choice to either serve a hard time or work for local farmer Linnett Moore (Olivia de Havilland).
14. Calcutta (1947)
This movie which was directed by John Farrow features other stars like Gail Russell and William Bendix. The story centers on how two cargo plane pilots Neale Gordon played by Ladd and Pedro Blake played by Bendix trace their friend’s death to smugglers of gems in India. The movie received mixed reviews with critics citing that the characters were miscast and portray badly how men treated women in a rather impervious manner.
15. Hell Below Zero (1954)
This is the second of the actor’s films for Warwick Films. He played the role of an ex-Naval officer Duncan Craig who signs on to work aboard a ship going for an expedition to Antarctica. He comes in contact with Judie Nordahl (Joan Tetzel), who is trying to unravel the circumstances surrounding her father’s death aboard the ship. Duncan believes that something is suspicious. The movie didn’t get much of a positive review as some critics termed it incomprehensible, although the acting prowess of Ladd did not disappoint.
Alan Ladd’s TV Shows
Apart from his many movies, Alan Lad featured in a number of TV shows. However, he did not make any significant appearance. He appeared in shows like Red Skelton Revue (1954) and Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1959) and in both, he only made single appearances. He was also in three episodes of General Electric Theater from 1954 to 1958, and so his TV shows are not very significant.