Alan Ladd (1913-1964)
- William Holden, The Golden Boy, 1939. After two films with dialogue (the second was actually called Hitler, Beast of Berlin), Ladd's agent and future wife, Sue Carol, made sure he was seen by director Rouben Mamoulian in his search for an unknown to be Joe Bonaparte. Ladd's first wife, Midge, helped him dye his blond hair with mascara. "While reading the test scene, I began to feel a dripping down the back of my neck. I was taking a shower in black ink!" Another blond won.
- Dennis Morgan, Kitty Foyle, 1940. No guy stood a chance against The Ginger Rogers Oscar Show! Orson Welles had given "Pretty Face" a heard but barely seen and uncredited bit on Citizen Kane by using Ladd's test of the News on the March projection room scene.
- Robert Cummings, The Devil and Miss Jones, 1941. Sue Carol kept pushing... Ladd's tiny stature (5ft. 6ins) did not help. As US director George Stevens said about his Shane: "We kept him as high off the ground as possible so he wouldn't be dwarfed by people."
- William Holden, I Wanted Wings, 1941. Once again, Alan was no match for Holden's height. Raymond Chandler called Ladd "a small boy's idea of a tough guy." Quite true for George Segal, sitting in the stalls and getting off on the trenchcoat, the gun and Veronica Lake. “I knew that was a job - like my father went to work - and I wanted that job.. He was like the ultimate camp counsellor. I knew you be a cop, a fireman but nobody said you could do what Alan Ladd was doing. I knew it wasn't real and I wanted to do it. That changed my life,.”
- Regis Toomey, Meet John Doe, 1941. The legend was that the only role Sue Carol did not send him up for was Charley's Aunt. They wed in 1942.
- John Wayne, Reunion In France, 1942. It’s amazing that MGM ever considered loaning little Ladd or Big John for a Joan Crawford confection that any of their contract guys could have knocked off on a weekend. Crawford must have insisted on A Name as the US bomber pilot she tries to save. They always had Paris.
- John Garfield, Air Force, 1942. Apparently, the brothers Warner tried to borrow Ladd from Paramount for the post-Pearl Harbour war movie. Just didn’t try (or offer) high enough.
- Fred McMurray, Double Indemnity, 1943. Director Billy Wilder's first thoughts for the murdering adulterer Walter Neff: Ladd, James Cagney, Brian Donlevy, Fredric March, Gregory Peck, George Raft. Spencer Tracy. They all fled.
- Ray Milland, Ministry of Fear, 1943. Because of his success in This Gun for Hire, Ladd was sought for the film of another Graham Greene novel
- Dennis O’Keefe, The Story of Dr Wassell, 1943. CB De Mille lost four of his war drama cast - Ladd, Henry Wilcoxon, Bruce Lester, even CB’s son, Richard - when they signed up for the real WWII. Robert Preston was next choice for Hoppy Hopkins, but he also joined up. Dana Andrews, Alan Baxter, James Brown, Michael O’Shea, Walter Reed, Barry Sullivan, Richard Whorf were seen but O’Keefe won the sailor inspired to live by the love of a courageous Java nurse Tremartini - inevitably nicknamed Three Martini.
- Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944. Gone With The Wind producer David O Selznick gave up after two years and old out to Fox when he couldn’t find the perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. Contenders included Dana Andrews, Joseph Cotten, Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Franchot Tone, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles… plus the most unlikely Catholic missionaries of all: Ladd and Edward G Robinson! Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz secured Peck in July 1943 for his second film - and first Oscar nomination.
- Ray Milland, California, 1947. Ladd was suspended by Paramount on August 23, 1945, for refusing this pot-boiler. Having made him a star, the studio wasted him as a minor league John Wayne, always above the title but with nothing substantial beneath. He'd rather raise horses.
- Dane Clark, Moonrise, 1947. A tale of four directors… Writer and sometime helmer Garson Kanin tried to get the Theodore Strauss book for John Garfield. John Farrow beat him to the rights for Ladd. Then, James Stewart wanted to star - and direct. Finally, it became one of Frank Borzage's masterpieces with Clark, a decidedly non-A player.
- Gary Cooper, The Fountainhead, 1948. Head brother JackWarner talked about borrowing Ladd from Paramount for Howard Roark, controversial novelist Ayn Rand’s hero based on architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
- William Holden, Union Station, 1950. Ladd and John Lund were in the early mix for Calhoun, the railway cop searching for a man with a gun on an LA train. A man with a gun in LA - only one?
- Fred MacMurray, The Moonlighter, 1952. One reunion for another… When Warners could not obtain the Ruby Gentry star and her director, King Vidor, it settled for Double Indemnity’s Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. Ladd and Kirk Douglas had been in the frame. Cowboys stars Gene Autry and Roy Corrigan also made a few dollars - their ranches in Placerita Canyon and Simi Valley were chosen as locations
- Spencer Tracy, Bad Day At Black Rock, 1955. When MGM production chief Dore Schary gave him the short story Bad Day At Hondo, Tracy roared: "How dare you give me this kind of shit. I'm supposed to be the best male actor in America. You can jam this up your ass." Schary told scenarist Millard Kaufman to give the hero only one usable arm - "I never knew an actor who could resist playing a cripple." He then sent the script back to Tracy with a note. "Alan Ladd has agreed to do the picture, but you are still my first choice." Two hours later, Tracy roared anew: "The hell with Alan Ladd." Result: Tracy's fifth of nine Oscar nominations.
- James Dean, Giant, 1956.
- Robert Mitchum, The Angry Hills, 1959. "Originally, they wanted Ladd," said Mitchum. "But when they drove out to his desert home... he'd just crawled out of his swimming pool and he was all shrunken up like a dishwasher's hand. You know what a little guy he is. Well, when he got out of the pool he was so small they could hardly see him and they decided he wouldn't do for the big war correspondent. So some idiot said: Ask Mitchum. That bum'll do anything if he's got five minutes free. Well, I had five minutes free."
- Edmond O'Brien, The 3rd Voice, 1960. O'Brien was considered for Stanley in Broadway's A Streetcar Named Desire when John Garfield walked and before Brando erupted.
- Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia, 1961.
- John Wayne, The Sons of Katie Elder, 1965. Director John Sturges and little Ladd planned the Western in 1956, long before Henry Hathaway took over the reins with Big John.
- Steve McQueen, Nevada Smith, 1966. Ladd played Smith in The Carpetbaggers, 1964, but died before director Henry Hathaway could begin. Anyway, Alan was far too old (or looked it at 51) for a prequel.