Alan Ladd

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.”
  4. 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,.”
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.  
  9. 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
  10. 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 wounded sailor inspired to live by the love of a courageous Java nurse Tremartini – inevitably nicknamed Three Martini.

  11. 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. 
  12. 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.  
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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? 
  16. 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
  17. 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.
  18. James Dean,  Giant,  1956.     
  19. Victor Mature, No Time To Die (UK: Tank Force), 1957).  When they ran Warwick Films in London, Cubby Broccoli used his Hollywood contacts to win the stars – such as Ladd (for The Red Beret, Hell Below  Zero, The Black Knight), Rhonda Fkleming, Rita Haywoerth, William Bendix, Jose Ferrer,  Van Johnson, Victor Mature,  Ray Milland, Jack Palance, Robert Taylor, Richard Widmark  – and Irving Allen kept the purse-strings taut for such oldies…. But thanks to Shane, Ladd was big again. So no deal here.   Except fort Cubby…  When he spilt for Bondland, he must have retained some Warwick titles – as this one  became the name of the Covid-19-delayed Bond 25. 
  20. Jack Palance, The Man Inside, 1958. … Or not when offered a mere $200,000, for example, compared to the $2m offered to the current hot-shot George Peppard for The Long Ships, 1963. (And he refused).  And Shane’s gunslinger became the man…

  21. Richard Widmark, The Trap, 1958.      Widmark’s Heath Productions did not buy the contemporary Western for The Boss, but once Holden and Alan Ladd spurned the lawyer-hero, Widmark agrred to protect his investment. There are suggestions that villain (who else but Lee J Cobb?) co-produced with Widmark. Neither star accepted such a credit. Writer-directing-producing Melvin Frank and Norman Panama took care of everything. Explains the comedy touches.
  22. Jack Palance, The Man Inside, 1958. Due to be another Warwick film for Ladd, according to producer Cubby Broccoli’s book, When the Snow Melts.  And Shane’s gunslinger became the man…
  23. Steve Forrest, Heller in Pink Tights, 1959.  The first (and last) Western for Sophia Loren and director George Cukor was no kin  to the Fox musical never made after Marilyn Monroe refused it in 1954: The Girl in Pink Tights). Paramount wanted Alan Ladd as the gunslinger hiding out in Sophia’s acting troupe touring the Old West. Ladd passed, followed by the TV Maverick cousins, James Garner and Roger Moore, plus John Gavin and Jack Lemmon – a once and only Cowboy in 1957. Sophia told me she had difficulty finding tall leading men which is why she voted for another telly-cowpoke, Clint Walker.  But he was busy towering over his Cheyenne series, 1955-1962  
  24. 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.” 
  25. Robert Taylor, Killers of Kilimanjaro, 1958.  Again Alan Ladd passed and,  this time, Taylor took over As Cubby and Irving were really knocking ‘em out.  Three releases within a year: The Man Inside, No Time To Die and Killers of Kilimanjaro, . And it never mattered which fading Hollywoodian had the lead… the Warwicks were always stolen by the great Anthony Newley.
  26. 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. 
  27. Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia, 1961.
  28. John Wayne, The Sons of Katie Elder, 1965.      Paramount bought the story for Ladd, who owed the studio one final gig. He wasn’t keen and bought out his contract for a reputed $235,000. The studio then shaved the Wayne budget by cutting the five Elder sons to four.
  29. 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.

 Birth year: 1913Death year: 1964Other name: Casting Calls:  29