Hand color tinted photo of Alan Ladd
Alan Walbridge Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964) was an American film actor.
Ladd was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas to an American father (Alan Ladd, Sr.) and an English-American mother (Ina Raleigh Ladd). His father died when the boy was four, and his mother relocated to Oklahoma City, where she married Jim Beavers, a housepainter. The family moved again, to North Hollywood, California. There Ladd became a high-school swimming and diving champion. Burdened with a hated nickname (“Tiny”), the then-5′ 4″ (162 cm) student fell under the spell of high school dramatics and set his mind toward becoming an actor. He opened his own hamburger and malt shop, which he called Tiny’s Patio in defiance of the nickname’s negative aspect. 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 radio. His rich baritone voice got him increasingly more work.
Ladd began by appearing in dozens of films in bits and small roles, including Citizen Kane. These barely kept him and his household afloat. (He had married a high-school acquaintance, Midge Harrold, with whom he had a son, Alan Ladd, Jr.) His stepfather died suddenly. Then his mother, who suffered from depression, committed suicide by poison.
In 1942, Ladd married his agent/manager, former movie actress Sue Carol. It was at this point that Carol found a vehicle which made Ladd’s career, This Gun for Hire. His performance as a hitman with a conscience made him a sensation.
Ladd went on to become one of Paramount Pictures’ most popular stars. A brief timeout for military service with the United States Army Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit did not diminish his popularity. None of his subsequent films of the 1940s were as notable as This Gun for Hire, but he did appear to good effect in Dashiell Hammett’s story The Glass Key and the Raymond Chandler original mystery The Blue Dahlia, both alongside the similarly diminutive—4 feet 11½ inches (1.51 m) — Veronica Lake, with whom he had been paired in This Gun for Hire.
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 1949’s version of The Great Gatsby, Ladd had the featured role of Jay Gatsby.
Ladd became most famous for his title role as a reformed gunslinger in the classic 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.
Age, alcoholism, and depression, from which Ladd’s mother had also suffered, began to affect both his appearance and his personal life. In November 1962, he was found lying unconscious in a pool of blood with a bullet wound near his heart, an unsuccessful suicide attempt. In 1963, nevertheless, Ladd co-starred in one of the biggest film productions of his career, The Carpetbaggers, not as a leading man but as a supporting actor. 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 sedatives at the age of 50, a probable suicide. He was entombed in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Alan 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.
Thanks to wise business investments, Ladd became a wealthy man, with properties in Beverly Hills and, in Palm Springs, Alan Ladd Hardware. His son by his first wife Midge Harrold, (named Alan Ladd, Jr., although the correct appellation would be “Alan Ladd III,” since the son is actually the third in line with the name), is a motion picture executive and producer and founder of The Ladd Company. His daughter Alana is married to the veteran talk radio broadcaster Michael Jackson. Another son, actor David Ladd, who co-starred as a child with his father in The Proud Rebel, married Charlie’s Angels star Cheryl Ladd, 1973-1980. Actress Jordan Ladd is his granddaughter.
He was famous for his emotionless demeanor and small stature. Reports of his height vary from 5’5″ to 5’7″ (1.65 to 1.70 m), with 5’6″ (1.68 m) being the most generally accepted today.