Just Shy of Respect: The Hollywood Life and Death of Alan Ladd

Guest blogger  presents this captivating look at the life and death of a true Hollywood original:

 Most people believe Alan Ladd committed suicide, but the details surrounding his death are so convoluted no one can be sure what really happened. History is often guilty of erring on the side of sensationalism — but in Ladd’s case suicide is the logical assumption. In 1962 he was found lying half-dead in a pool of blood with a bullet lodged in his chest. The newspapers bought into the story of an accident, but everyone who knew him believed it was a botched suicide attempt. It really doesn’t matter whether his January 1964 death was intentional or not; Ladd’s life had been in a downward spiral for years — some could say from the moment he broke into the movie business — and it was apparent that he was hell-bent on digging an early grave.

The average movie watcher doesn’t understand how difficult life could be for the stars of studio-era Hollywood, or how truthful that old industry adage: “you’re only as good as your last picture” really was. It’s a dollars and cents, bottom line, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of business, and despite a product that was typically lighthearted, uplifting, and sentimental, the industry itself could be painfully harsh. It goes without saying that Hollywood dreamers had to be made of tough stuff, but as is often the case in life, many of those who struggled mightily to achieve success didn’t know how to hold themselves together once they made it — or what to do when the spotlight moved on to the next big thing. Certainly this was the case with Alan Ladd, a hardscrabble kid who worked a million humble jobs before he finally arrived, only to be so terrified of losing it all that he let his insecurities devour him. The foundation upon which his self-esteem stood was simply not strong enough to sustain him. His fame and wealth notwithstanding, he was the most insecure, frightened, and guilt-ridden superstar in Hollywood.

Few performers ever made as smashing a debut as Ladd did in the 1942 film This Gun for Hire — if it can be called a debut at all. Devotees know This Gun wasn’t his first appearance, though the misconception exists owing to the “and introducing Alan Ladd as Raven” treatment he gets in the title cards. Ladd had appeared from time to time, usually inconsequentially, in movies since the mid-thirties; he had a small but important part in 1942’s Joan of Paris, and a bit role as a reporter in Citizen Kane. His breakout in This Gun for Hire is unforgettable. After the first rushes came in, Paramount execs and director Frank Tuttle realized they had a potential superstar on their hands, and reworked numerous shots to build him up, shifting the focus away from top-billed Robert Preston, and bolstering Ladd’s scenes with Veronica Lake. It still fell to the inexperienced actor to make good on the investment, and within a few minutes of running time he establishes himself as a bona fide movie marvel, creating the screen persona that he would riff on for more than a decade — one that would see him ascend to the peak of Mount Hollywood, and become for a few years the most popular screen actor in the world.

Ladd emerged from This Gun for Hire as Paramount’s shooting star — bigger even than Bing Crosby — so the studio went to work carefully crafting an image that would ensure the continued adoration of the public. Adolph Zuckor felt it was important to create for him a fantastical, picture postcard life. The public loves movie stars a lot more than they do actors, so Paramount set out to turn Ladd into the biggest movie star of them all. Certain aspects of his past, such as the brief first marriage and resulting child were swept under the rug; he was given a carefully devised script from which to draw on for press interviews and public appearances. The newly-minted version of Alan Ladd would be featured primarily in romantic hero roles — still tough as nails — but always the good guy. The smiling family man on the cover of innumerable fan magazines wasn’t an outright lie, but it was surely a sanitized version of the truth — and an impossible one for him to live up to, though he felt obliged to try.

In spite of the one-dimensional character types he played in his films, Ladd was a talented man. He was kind and good-natured, but horribly apprehensive about his size, his background, and most of all his acting. His costars usually found him unapproachably distant, though those he worked with more than once came to realize he was just mortified of being revealed as a fraud. Ladd’s greatest problem was that he took to heart every negative thing written about him. When Geraldine Fitzgerald encouraged him to accept the lead in The Great Gatsby he confided, “I won’t be able to do it because I can’t act, you know.” Yet Robert Preston said, “…he was an awfully good actor. So many people didn’t realize this. It’s said that the publicity department invented him, but they didn’t really have to. He would have made it without that — and I think his life would have been happier.” Virginia Mayo, who adored him, said it best: “The whole problem with Alan’s psyche was his inability to remember that he was a big star. And he was the biggest…. The lack of artistic recognition affected him, affected him tragically…” Though Veronica Lake, who appeared alongside Ladd more often than any other actress, and whose life in some ways paralleled his, characterized their time together in surprisingly professional terms: “both of us were very aloof…. We were a very good match for one another. It enabled us to work together very easily and without friction or temperament.” However, all who worked with him sensed a deep sadness in the man. When an interviewer asked him what he would change about himself if he could, he famously replied, “Everything.”

Ladd was always more at ease with the crew than he was other performers or studio executives. He had begun in Hollywood as a laborer and enjoyed being around those who worked behind the scenes. Yet he was able to form lasting friendships with a few of his costars in spite of being “aloof,” including Edmond O’Brien, Lloyd Nolan, and Van Heflin — but most notably William Bendix. The pair met while costarring in The Glass Key and would appear together in often. They began auspiciously, after Bendix accidentally cold-cocked Ladd during a fight scene. Ladd was so taken by the big man’s concern for his safety that they formed an immediate bond. Their close friendship was widely publicized — they even purchased homes across the street from one another. According to Bill’s wife Tess Bendix, things went astray when Ladd’s wife Sue Carol made an offhand remark about Bendix’s lack of military service. Stuck in the middle, Ladd was obliged to choose between his friend and his wife, and it would be a decade before the two would have a conversation that didn’t involve reading lines on a movie set. Once they finally reconciled, Ladd would lean heavily on his old friend. Bendix was constantly out of town during the early sixties, working almost exclusively on the stage. Tess remembers many late-night phone calls that involved a despondent Ladd pleading with Bendix to break his contracts and return to California. Bendix’s heartbreak in the wake of Ladd’s 1964 death was tremendous, and unfortunately short-lived — suffering from pneumonia, he would follow his best friend in death before the year was out.

The roots of Ladd’s depression can almost certainly be traced back to his childhood, which was anything but stable — his father died before his eyes when he was only four years old. When his mother remarried, the family began a Joad-like trek west and eventually settled in California. Their itinerant days cost Ladd a few years in school — and consequently he was not only the smallest, but also the oldest boy in his year. Nor did it help that he made poor grades, was excruciatingly shy, and had no stable male role model. If suicide is hereditary, then he never had a chance. In 1937, wrecked on alcohol and poverty, his mother swallowed ant poison and died before his eyes, just as he was struggling to get his first break. The incident naturally devastated him, and many insiders have speculated that he spent the rest of his life seeking to replace the doting woman who had been his only source of reassurance and approval. Sue Carol, ten years his senior, filled some of the void left in his mother’s wake, and Ladd came to consider the Paramount a surrogate home. Nonetheless, he was plagued with guilt about his mother for the rest of his days, and when he left the comfortable surroundings of Paramount his peace of mind and sense of stability deteriorated even further.

Even in the years after he achieved stardom and financial security, Ladd’s self-image and the rigors of a public life were a source of distress — he referred to himself as “the most insecure guy in Hollywood.” He wanted to be thought of as a serious actor but took to heart the whisperings that he was more a product of Paramount’s publicity machine than his own ability. He wanted to try different roles, but Adolph Zuckor considered him too valuable, and wouldn’t risk damaging his carefully constructed screen persona by giving him other kinds of parts. Ladd never complained much — he would have felt too guilty. The studio had given him his start, and after having been poor for so long he felt deeply indebted; so much so that he played ball with his bosses in ways that seem perplexing today. For much of his career, he kept his first marriage and the resulting child, Alan Ladd Jr., a secret from the public. The fan magazines, as well as Sue Carol herself, were more than happy to go along with the script. Ladd’s squeaky-clean image sold millions of magazines, and it did no one any good to rock the boat.

Carol, a former actress-turned-agent, represented Ladd tirelessly during the period leading up to This Gun for Hire. Even in the years after they were married, when her public role shifted to that of wife and mother, she remained the guiding force behind his career. Everyone from film historians to family friends has suggested that she did as much to maintain Ladd’s screen image as the studios, and that while their marriage was sound (Ladd absolutely refused to remove his wedding ring during production of his films) she nevertheless contributed to the burden of stardom that so weighed on her husband’s shoulders. She also contributed greatly to his happiness by giving him two children. Alana was born in 1943, followed by David in 1947.

Of his three kids David would follow most closely in his father’s footsteps. He appeared briefly in Shane, and then won a much larger role alongside Ladd in 1958’s The Proud Rebel. David received solid notices for his work — as well as a Golden Globe for Best Juvenile Actor — and quickly became a sought-after child star. He worked for two decades as a film and television actor, then transitioned to a long career as a film executive, and was married to Charlie’s Angels actress Cheryl Ladd for seven years.

The need to protect Alan Ladd’s image waned with his stardom, and the full story of his first marriage and son finally became public. Movie fans embraced Laddie with no hint of scandal, though the guilt the father felt at keeping his son a secret for so long was debilitating. Alan Ladd Jr. would also enjoy a significant career in the movie industry, becoming one the most successful executives in Hollywood. His tenure as president of Twentieth Century Fox saw Young Frankenstein, Star Wars, and Alien hit theaters. In 1995 he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Picture as producer of Braveheart. He continues to produce quality films — most recently Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone.

Alan Ladd spent a decade at Paramount following This Gun for Hire, in a succession of weaker and weaker films that still scored millions for the studio. By the end of the forties, he was arguably the most popular actor in the world, regardless of the second-rate material the studio put him in. Darryl Zanuck called him “the indestructible man,” and fully aware of Ladd’s reputation as a one trick pony, he longed to get him under contract at Fox. When Ladd finally left Paramount for big money from another studio, it wasn’t Zanuck but Jack Warner who placed the winning bid. Warner would quickly come to regret the deal however, as Ladd, no longer in the comforting embrace of Paramount, began to flounder. His performances got worse and worse, and even 1953’s Shane — made at Paramount but released after he and the studio separated — couldn’t resurrect his career. He got great buzz and Shane was a colossal success, but the studios responded by rushing every awful Ladd picture they had canned into release in order to cash in — before long he was back where he started, longing to appear in a decent picture and wondering where things went wrong. For the rest of the fifties Ladd made one bad movie after the next. He was hopeful about 1957’s Boy on a Dolphin. Cast next to rising star Sophia Loren, he was devastated when director Jean Negulesco favored the statuesque Italian beauty and treated him like an afterthought in every shot. Michael Curtiz helmed 1959’s The Man in the Net, with Ladd in the title role. He was excited to work with an A-list director, even if Curtiz had a reputation for being a tyrant. Both were awful failures; it was clear to all that Ladd’s tenure as an above-the-title film star was over.

Lacking the meaningful work to distract him from his thoughts, Ladd became an alcoholic. He couldn’t sleep and got hooked on Secobarbital. Neither his family, his legacy, nor his tremendous wealth could undo the damage. He believed he had never been given the chance to be a real actor and had never been taken seriously as anything other than a pretty face. His problem was that he believed every bad word the critics had ever written about him, and it was too late to rewrite history. He appeared one last time, in 1964’s The Carpetbaggers, as an aging western star. He got decent notices and there was talk of a comeback as a character actor, à la Edward G. Robinson, but it wasn’t to be. The once beautiful lead of such films as Lucky Jordan, Two Years Before the Mast, and The Great Gatsby was simply used up. On January 29, 1964, eight weeks prior to the release of The Carpetbaggers, Ladd’s butler discovered his body in his Palm Springs bedroom. Having mixed liquor and sleeping pills one time too many, his body finally failed. It’s easy to believe he killed himself, but whether he chose to end his life that night or not, the more important truth is that some people are simply not blessed with happiness, despite fame and fortune, and try as they might their pain is such that it eventually overwhelms them. Nobody in Hollywood was surprised to learn that Alan Ladd was dead.

Returning to This Gun for Hire after viewing the full arc of Ladd’s career is jarring: his blonde hair is burned into our memory, though for his debut Paramount ironically dyed his hair black — a character named Raven couldn’t possibly be fair-haired. Ladd’s mop had held him back for years —studios believed dark hair photographed better! Paramount, home of Sterling Hayden and William Holden, was the only lot where sandy hair wasn’t considered a setback. However it’s the industry’s never-ending campaign to camouflage Ladd’s height that we recall now, particularly in This Gun for Hire. Few other actors have been so stigmatized by their shortness, Ladd especially so because he was a screen tough guy. Sure, Edward G. Robinson was Little Caesar, but with him size was part of his swagger, an integral part of his screen image — and unlike Ladd, Robinson was never a romantic leading man. In Ladd’s case, everyone wished he were taller. He stood 5’6”, as tall as Cagney and just two measly inches shorter than Bogart. Yet there was something about his look — his boyishness, the pretty face, thin frame — that made him appear smaller than his older and more famous peers. Like most small men Ladd was sensitive; he would shy away from making personal appearances in order to avoid the surprised expressions and hurtful slights of his those surprised at his size. And while he could occasionally dodge the public, his stature was an inescapable issue on-set. Robert Preston would write of their time doing This Gun for Hire, “…you couldn’t use a stand-in when you were working in a scene with him because there would be so many cables and stands and reflectors you couldn’t get in or out. And this is what sort of stultified Laddie. They were photographing a doll … It’s so sad, because he was an awfully good actor.”

Yet it is to Ladd’s credit that Paramount went to such extremes to give him a public face, as well as conceal his height — for anyone else they wouldn’t have bothered. He was the studio’s golden goose; audiences just loved him. There was no need to purchase a major literary property or shoot on-location, Ladd’s name on the marquee ensured major profits — even if the picture was a stinker. Throughout the 1940s his movies were simply bulletproof: every single one made money, to the tune of $55,000,000 in the studio coffers. No other star made so much money in such cheap pictures. In the grand scheme of things, making him look taller was just good business.

Nowhere are the studio’s efforts to carefully cultivate Ladd’s screen image more apparent than in This Gun for Hire’s opening scene, which finds his Philip Raven waking from a night of troubled sleep. He sits up and reaches for an envelope, while palming his nickel-plated automatic. The camera work is all strictly low angle, and when Ladd finally gets off the bed his head practically brushes the ceiling. Whether it was the camera position, a shallow depth of field, or a cut-down set, the shot is obviously contrived to make Raven appear a great deal taller than Alan Ladd. When that famous kitten-hating maid shows up, itching for one of the best slaps in movie history, the camera angle shifts from low to high, and Ladd, now looming over the girl, is suddenly ten feet tall. This sort of cinematic sleight of hand would characterize his career. The studios used a number of tricks to make him appear as tall as possible: he might stand on a raised platform or his leading lady might step into a freshly dug hole. It’s worth noting that in addition to their great sexual chemistry, Paramount loved pairing Ladd with Veronica Lake because she was barely five feet tall — one of the few actresses who could wear heels and still look right to him.

Although Ladd is more often described as a movie star rather than an actor (which meant then, as it does now, that critics credited his success more to his looks than his ability), his performance in This Gun for Hire is damn good. The producers knew the film depended casting an actor able to portray a psychopathic killer who would come across as both cold-blooded and sympathetic. Ladd was blessed with a face that was chiseled and attractive, and his knife-edge voice was simply magnificent. His early-career experience as a radio actor had given him precise control over his pitch and timbre  — he could portray different emotions while keeping his face cold, making Raven one of noir’s iciest killers. In a few key moments throughout the movie Ladd softens his character just enough to give the audience a glimpse of the hurt kid lurking underneath the grim façade. The effect is powerful, and in terms of Hollywood currency, a star-maker. His special ability to play characters both vulnerable and tough-as-nails was unique — it was his special something, the “it” that made him a magnificent screen star. His physical beauty and potent chemistry with Lake was the icing on the cake. The Hayes code demanded that Raven pay for his crimes in the final reel of This Gun for Hire, but you ache for it not to be so. You wish that he could somehow survive to escape with the girl, his misdeeds revealed as a frame-up or as a hoax. Instead, the denouement is clumsy and artificial, with Lake and her putz boyfriend Preston awkwardly embracing as Ladd bleeds to death at their feet.

The New York critics may have had Alan Ladd’s number when they derided him as merely a movie star, and it may also be true that the “serious” career he wanted so badly eluded him. But in spite of all the criticism and Ladd’s immense self-loathing, his movies have pleased millions. He made his first splash as a professional killer in an iconic film noir, establishing a potent new character type that would stand the test of time and be exploited to the point of cliché in the crime pictures of the forties and fifties. From trendsetting early efforts such as This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key, through the more mature The Blue Dahlia, and even in less well known noirs such as Calcutta, Chicago Deadline, and the fantastic Appointment with Danger, Ladd was a key actor in the canon of film noir. His screen charisma, immense popularity, and ability to humanize the hoodlum ensured the continued development of the noir style in the Hollywood studio system; and his movies have weathered the years in ways he couldn’t possibly have imagined. His last great role came as the good-guy hero in what many consider to be the American western.

And he thought he was small. 

Mark Fertig is chair of the department of art and art history at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. His film interests focus on mid-century crime films and the Academy Awards. For more on his views on cinema, visit Where Danger Lives. This essay was originally published in Noir City, the magazine of the Film Noir Foundation. If the noir community has a hub, it’s the FNF. Mr. Fertig’s pals over there are working hard to preserve original 35 mm prints of classic noirs, putting on the fantastic Noir City film festivals, publishing a great magazine and tirelessly working to promote the wonders of film noir. By all means check out their peerless work!

  • Wayne P.

    Great article and very informative…interestingly enough, Ive heard that he was one of the ani-men in 1932’s Island of Lost Souls, along with Buster Crabbe and Randolph Scott.  HIs talent didnt make up for the fact of his seeming merely to co-exist with an on-screen persona that failed him in real life after a sad and tough upbringing…he probably needed faith in something larger than himself or his role in the movie business…God fills the void in the human heart better than anything else!

    • Ken Roche

      …Mark, Sonny, and Wayne, thanks for the interesting reading and insights. Such a shame to look back on characters as complex as Alan Ladd ~ the realization that their true persona,
      life experiences, and self needs, may not have been fully realized. Shows how vunerable we can all be, and how important it is to come to terms with our youthful experiences, the experiences that lead to mature melancholia. If no firm anchor comes into our lives we often float on a sea of sadness. The gloss of superficial Hollywood has delt heavy blows to many of it’s children.  

      Surprised though to find no mention of 1962s  “13 West Street”  this is certainly no worse than
      some of those earlier crime mellors – – if not actually realisticaly far superior – – If I had to choose between sitting through this taut little b/whiter, or the glossy, overblown  ‘Carpetbaggers’  I know the one I’d prefere. 

      George Stevens probably got closer to the real Alan Ladd while directing  ‘Shane’. 
      Stevens himself left saddened by the worlds cruelty following his own War experiences, undoubtedly drew on Ladds melancholy to evoke such a strong sense of loss for his title character. A great western, perhaps Ladd at his personal best.  k.

  • Grace

    i loved every film alan played in,he was a very good actor

  • Gemini09

    At long last a great article on one of my favourite actors – the very underrated Alan Ladd. The first movie I remember seeing him in was the Blue Dahlia and it lead to my love of film noir. Every performance he gave he imbued with great feeling and you really empathised with the characters good or bad. Its interesting that The Great Gatsby is being remade with Leonardo Di Caprio and I hope that it doesn’t sully the memory of the original.



    • George

      William Bendix was not in This Gun For Hire.

      • Mark Fertig

        I’m sure Sonny is confusing Ladd with Mark Stevens in The Dark Corner, an easy mistake.

        • Gord Jackson

          And there’s another actor I greatly admire, Mark Stevens. I think THE DARK CORNER, with top notch performances by all in it is one of the BEST of the so-called Fox noirs. Also liked Stevens in the forgotten Allied Artists western JACK SLADE from 1953, with Dorothy Malone and Barton MacLane, and his early fifties television series BIG TOWN.

          • Marilyn

            Odd you should mention Mark Stevens…

            When I was fairly young I saw a B movie called Within These Walls, which starred Thomas Mitchell, about a prison warden and his problems with his children, Mary Anderson and Eddie Ryan. A very handsome actor played a prisoner who came to Mitchell’s aid. I made a special notice of the name, Mark Stevens, because I felt sure he would be a star one day. I sent for his photo and got this big 10×12 portrait so nicely signed. I was a FAN, and I felt I had discovered him!
            But I had to wait a while until Mark got a starring role–in From This Day Forward, with Joan Fontaine. There were some musicals, and films I could pass on, until one day I saw The Dark Corner. Loved it. It was a Ladd part, a Ladd kind of film noir. I felt Lucille Ball was a jarring note as the leading lady, but she had a certain caustic charm in it. And Bendix was great. As was Clifton Webb.

            Unforntunately Steven didn’t do many other noir films and kind of faded away, but I think he turned to production–not sure. Does anyone know more about Stevens? Didn’t he play Martin Kane on TV?

          • Gord Jackson

            Mark Stevens actually had two television series, MARTIN KANE in 1953/54 and BIG TOWN, 1954/56. I didn’t see any of the former, but BIG TOWN, a newspaper-based entry was a favourite at the time. In 1948 he was Richard Widmark’s nemisis in the excellent film noir THE STREET WITH NO NAME and in 1953 he was in a surprisingly (for the time) ‘adult’ western, JACK SLADE, with Dorothy Malone and Barton MacLane, a film I would love to see WB, who have the rights to the Allied Artists/Monogram library, make a vailable as an on-demand dvd.

  • Joel

    I just liked the guy and his movies!

  • Kmjdu

    Excellent article about Alan Ladd.Oddly enough,there’s not a lot written about him.Just wish his relationship with June Allyson had been explored.Not as gossip but because it may have contributed to depression he felt.Either way,kudos.

  • Tom Plauche

    I find it strange that there is never a mention of what I consider one of Ladd’s best films, ” The McConnell Story” with co-star June Alyson. I caught it by accident one evening, watched it twice since, and acquired the DVD as an addition to my collection. The movie depicts the biography of the Korean War fighter ace, who later died while testing a fighter jet.   This IS Alan Ladd..sensitive, good-natured, determined. ” And he thought he was small.”  Far from it in my book. He was a giant among so many fine actresses and actors of his day. As James Garner aptly put it to a group of us at a meeting in Vegas a few years ago when asked about the actors of present day compared to yester year…..” just a bunch of cookie cutters.” On a parting note…do not even attempt a remake of “Shane. “

    • Jwlilley1

      kind of already has been done. Ever see ‘Pale Rider”? It’s pretty close.

      • Ken Roche

        Hardly qualifys as re-make (not even a poor shadow of “Shane” ) Yes, it is TOO similar
        It’s a shody borrowed idea, given very little soul ~ from a film maker sort of known to have taken just about every good idea other creative folk have introduced, and run it into the ground.  Pity.   

  • http://wheredangerlives.blogspot.com/ Mark Fertig

    Hi all,
    Thanks for your great comments. I’m the author of this one.  I see that some of the posters have mentioned that I don’t reference all of Ladd’s films — just as an FYI, as it says in the blurb at the end of the article, I wrote this originally for publication in the Film Noir Foundation magazine, “Noir City,” so the article focuses primarily on Ladd’s crime pictures. For the sake of space I had to omit many of his other efforts. Here’s a great tidbit though, the FNF has been working with the Ladd family (including an on-stage interview with David Ladd at the last Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco) and there may be good things coming in the future regarding some of his most rare films, like his noirish turn in the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby.Best ~ M.F. 

    • George

      I am curious as to how Ladd’s family would be of help. Aren’t the films owned by the studios or distributors?

      • Mark Fertig

        Gatsby has always been murky, being that the Fitzgerald estate retains the rights to the novel. (I believe the right to film now belongs to Sony) At any rate, since the time I wrote this, the FNF has begun screening the Ladd Gatsby at many of the Noir City film festivals taking place across the country, owing to the involvement of his family. (I got to see it in an absolutely pristine 35 mm print at the AFI in Bethesda, MD at Noir City DC just last year.) I’m sure the studio suits don’t see much upside in pulling old 35 mm prints out of the vaults whenever a festival asks, but when the person asking is the son of the star, a Best Picture winner, and the former president of 20th Century Fox, it can grease the wheels. Hopefully a commercial DVD with all the bells and whistles isn’t too far off.

        • Jimbo

          A DVD set would be an awesome tribute to the very talented Alan Ladd.

        • Marilyn

          Mark… Marilyn again.
          His excellent Gatsby was pulled from TV viewings when the Redford film came out. Apparently someone realized a comparison would not be helpful to the new version and for years the only version seen was the Redford snoozer. (There was a Gatsby silent film back in the 20s, too.) Ladd’s version was not given the overdone extravaganza treatment the two color films were. But it beats them both for emotional impact and low-key understanding of character. After all, Ladd had lived Gatsby…
          A couple of my favorite Ladd films are ones few people mention–Salty O’Rourke and Lucky Jordan, the latter a kind of fun Damon Runyon style tough guy movie. Ladd as ‘Mr Big’ trying to avoid the draft was wonderfully comical and his scenes with Mabel Paige were priceless. And Salty, with Ladd playing a shady racetrack player having to deal with smart-mouth jockey Stanley Clements, had that insolent sort of charm that made his low-life types so likable. Clements tries hard but it is nearly impossible to steal scenes from Ladd. Are these great movies? Well, entertaining, yes, but no, not great. Really good Ladd films are This Gun For Hire, OSS, The Blue Dahlia, Branded, Shane, and a few others like Whispering Smith and Appointment With Danger, are nearly there. Even the best actor can only do so much with the kind of material Ladd was given. Still, most are interesting to watch just for the pleasure of seeing Ladd.
          I do hope the film festivals are able to get Gatsby shown again, as well as some of the others I’ve mentioned.
          I wondered if Sue and Alan were concerned about Steven’s movie being titled ‘Giant’–that it might set off jokes and sarcasm. Rink was a strong role and I suspect Ladd could have made it a centerpiece.
          I do hope TCM wakes up soon and does a strong DVD of Ladd’s best!

  • Alton Robertson

    Excellent article.  Would never have guessed the image he had of himself when viewing his films.  He was a great actor. I don’t as a rule like westerns but “Shane” is remarkable, and thanks to Ladd.

  • OZ ROB

    Had just  finished watching Saskatchewan,54, Ladd as O`Rourke of the Mounties when i came upon this great insightful article, Thanks again Mark..

  • El Bee

    Excellent writing providing an in depth perspective, thanks. I couldn’t help but run parallels between Ladd and Barbara Stanwyck’s lives. Both from devastating childhoods, both lacking in the security of eduction, both big stars in noir films, both shy and withdrawn from the public on any true personal basis. A big difference in that Ladd had a persona created by a studio and Stanwyck was not a long term contract player with any studio. She had less to live up to as each studio promoted her only in conjunction with their movie. Two top level stars who seemed to have it all except a life of happiness. 

    • Stan

      You captured Alan Ladd perfectly well done.  Stan

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IDLDREPF3T55VKVUKEP42ILHRY DollyT

    He was one of my Pin Up Boys as a teen and I keep and treasure his film work in Shane.

  • Stan

    This story of Alan Ladd is all new to me. I grew up watching his movies and was sadden by his death. It goes to show you money isn’t everything.

  • Christinekay

    I really enjoyed this article so much.  I have a large library of film star biographies at home, but this made me realise I don’t have anything on Alan Ladd, although I do have a bio of Veronica Lake.  However, I was so impressed by your account, I feel this summed up Ladd and his appeal, plus his tragic personal life.  It must have been painful for him to pretend to an adoring public that he had a perfectly happy home life whereas he had suffered far more than most due to his mother’s suicide, for example – and, of course, Hollywood at that time would never have allowed such a thing to be public knowledge.  It’s easy to imagine that the tug-of-war between the “perfect” public persona of Ladd and the harsh, bleak realities of his personal life would have led to stress and depression, but this was something unthinkable in filmland at that time.  Filmstars never get depressed …. do they?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713983697 Gordon S. Jackson

    Thank you very much for the Alan Ladd article.  Very informative!  I have always liked him (and have his three noir/Lake-as-co-star films) but did not really know much about him.  I must try and find “Appointment With Danger” as it sound like my kind of movie.  I also wish (in this case from Universal) that “Saskatchewan” would be released on DVD.  I don’t remember too much about it except that Ladd and co-star Shelly Winters were very good in it and that the cinematography is awesome!

  • Startrackermn

    As a kid I loved Shane.  A few years ago I got a free CD of his radio drama “Box 13” and went to the effort to obtain all episodes.  They’re great stories from the golden age of radio.  If you love Alan Ladd in movies, try listening to some of these “Box 13” episodes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713983697 Gordon S. Jackson

      Absolutely.  I had meant to mention Ladd’s “Box 13” shows, which are among my favourites from the golden age of radio.  Thanks for the reminder.

  • gary

    I think Giant is a great film.  James Dean was very effective as Jet Rink but I never watch it with out wondering how Alan Ladd would have been in the part. Initally George Stevens was very keen to use Ladd.  Having worked with him on Shane Stevens  knew that Ladd  had the right incredients to make the Jet Rink character tick and I for one  would have loved to have seen what they would have come up with.

  • john field

    I liked Alan Ladd in most of his roles, but my favorites were “Shane” (perfect casting) and “Whispering Smith.” He had that quiet but strong presence and a nice voice. I thought he was good in all roles!

  • Pacerdad

    I really enjoy watching Alan Ladd.  He had this “soft coolness” about him.  Very good article.  I need to try to find some of his other films and watch them.  “Appointment with Danger” looks great!  How sad his life had been.  The tragedies of his parents, his insecurity.  It really is too bad.  At least we have some great movies of his to remember him by.

    • Jimbo

      Check out OSS

  • Flipgbm

    Great profile on Alan Ladd! Alas, we’re still waiting for definitive DVD editions of his classic noirs & others!

  • Lenore Salinger

    A terrific article on Alan Ladd!  I don’t know why he’s not as celebrated as Bogart and Cagney.  Where are the Ladd film festivals?  As pointed out, he was a good actor (low-key but never boring) and he was a major box office draw in his day.  He even had a run of comic books in honor of his popularity – ‘The Adventures of Alan Ladd’ produced in the early 1950s.  “This Gun for Hire”, “The Glass Key”, “The Blue Dahlia”, “Appointment with Danger”, “Whispering Smith”, “Branded”, “Shane”, “The Deep Six”, “All the Young Men”, “13 West Street” – all of them (and more) were terrific films.  He had a minor role in the 1941 Universal Pictures mystery, ‘The Black Cat’ opposite Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi and he had an amusing cameo in the Bob Hope comedy, “My Favorite Brunette” where he cashed in on his tough guy persona.  It’s a shame and a scandal that the movie studios and the public promoted the fiction that tall is best and small is not.  I’ve known many small-in-height men who are more manly, tough/tender and intelligent than the taller of their sex.  The film industry and society in general need a reality check.

  • classicsforever

    How very unfortunate that someone with such great talent could never be satisfied with himself. Perhaps it was this constant drive to prove his worth as an actor that makes Alan Ladd such a pleasure to watch. “Shane” is possibly the best western ever made and Ladd is almost perfect as the quiet, stoic gunfighter. Everything about this film is just right. Alan Ladd was a very good actor with a load of talent – even if he never realized it.

  • Larry Fenwick

    I always enjoyed his films. Later on in life, when I did some background acting in three films, I came to understand how Alan must have felt. A film actor’s life can be one of loneliness. Between shots, I was lonely and   bored, waiting for a call back to on-camera work. If one is saddened by one’s own personal life, as he was and as I was, roles that mirrored his feeling, make it less of a challenge to play the part.;He made an easy transition to parts portraying a sad persona. It sure didn’t cheer him up–his salary did, but, when the money’s gone, he was back to the same sort of roles. I have asked my agent to get me more work in commercials. The money’s better and the working hours are shorter than films.

  • Res0clyb

    I want to congratuloate you, Mark, for a great biopgraphy. I knew Ladd fairly well in the early fifties, when I was an actor (now a writer) and worked as one of the sailors (crew of the ship sailing to Botany Bay) on the film, Botany Bay. He was kind, considerate and helped me to no end. Everyone loved him.  Though often sad, as you mention, he had a great dry sense of humor. Once aboard the vessal during a setup of the scene, I mentioned I knew Johnny Weismuller of Tarzan fame. Alan asked me about himm due to his interest in swimming, then said, deadpan: I went up for Tarzan once. But the poducer, Sol Lesser, said I was too blonde!!!!!

    Then he walked off, dragging his 2×4 that he used in some scenes, with everyone howling! Rest in peace, my friend. Steve Hayes

  • Res0clyb

    I want to congratulate you, Mark, on a well-thought-out biography of Alan Ladd. I knew him well, having met him when I was an actor in the early fifties. I worked on Botany Bay with him, as one of the crew of the ship sailing to Botany Bay, for almost 13 weeks. He was kind to me, considerate of his fellow actors and the crew, and was loved by all. He also had a great dry sense of humor, despite his over-riding sadness, which you mention. Here’s an example which I mention in my memoirs, Googies, Coffe Shop to the Stars: Ladd and most of the actors were aboard the vessel (in Paramount’s water tnak) waiting for the scene set up to be completed. I was telling a story about Johnny Weismuller (of Tarzan fame), whom I knew fairly well, and Ladd asked me what I thought of Johnny. I told him and there was a long pause. Then Ladd, deadpan as usual, said: “I was up to play Tarzan once. But So Lesser told me I was too blonde!” Everyone howled and Ladd got up, dragging his piece of 2×4 (which he stood on in scenes with Patricia Medina), and walked off–leaving everyone

  • The Black Lodge

    Unfortunately I lost a lot of respect for Ladd when I found out he never had sex with Veronica Lake. 

  • Doug

    A good actor. He never worked on inventing himself, leaving it to the studio and the audience to read into him whatever they wanted. But, you would never know just from his films alone that he had a mass of insecurities. Cary Grant was said to be plagued with self-doubt, even to the point of retiring from films when he reached 60, when he realized that a romantic lead was just going to get harder for him to pull off. 

  • Ellen Urie

    What a great article about Alan Ladd! I did not know much about him – his personal life – & the insecurities he had. I saw many of his movies back then. I went to the movies all the time. When movies had a great story & were interesting. I have always remembered “Boy On A Dolphin.” I liked it & never saw it again. Never on TV or anything when they used to have late night movies. I also saw “The McConnell Story”. All his movies were good.I admit “Shane” is one of my favorites. I also liked Veronica Lake & June Alyson. I saw a lot of Alyson’s movies – all were good. That’s back when movies were so good. I’m just glad to know about Ladd & feel sad about how the movie business was at his time to be in it. I don’t think his height would make any difference today.

  • LaurenAva

    Just watched This Gun for Hire last night… great job by Alan Ladd!  I really like him, and don’t at all feel that he needed to be concerned about his acting abilities.  I’m on the look out for rest of the movies Alan played with Veronica Lake… they’re so good together!  So sad to think that his life had to end the way it did…

  • Tony

    Thanks for a great essay on Alan Ladd. I liked him from the moment when I was a boy and saw him in Shane which I think is still one of the great movie westerns.

  • Marilyn

    Nearly 35 years ago, I wrote a book about Ladd, ‘The Films of Alan Ladd’. I was complaining to a friend (who had just had his Films Of..book published) that no one had given Ladd that notice, and he said, ‘Guess you’ll have to write it yourself.’ It took 5 years of digging into every aspect of Ladd’s career and life. I even picked up a collaborator along the way, one who knew the 1950’s Ladd movies well, while my expertise was with the 1940s. The search for photos was unending. I had major help from some of Ladd’s friends and co-workers, all of whom seemed to love him as a friend and professional, a good guy. He was well-regarded on the set.

    As a adolecent, I fell in love with Ladd’s voice on radio as he was doing Lux Theatre’s ‘This Gun For Hire’. I hadn’t seen the film but that deep voice was enough to make me a lifelong Ladd fan. Your excellent essay has said so much of what I know of Ladd. He was a good actor, much better than he is now regarded. His ‘Gatsby’ is far far better than either Redford’s or Decaprio’s.

    There is a story about Ladd, how he came off a set after a morning’s work and his pals tried to send him up with ‘So whadda do today, Laddie?’ and he thought a moment and said, ‘I did a great look’. He certainly knew all there was to know about a ‘great look’.

    • Mark Fertig

      Hi Marilyn, Thanks so much for the comment. I was able to secure a copy of your book through interlibrary loan, and it proved to be a valuable resource back when I wrote this. I owe you one! The introduction by Lloyd Nolan, which if I remember correctly had a telling anecdote about filming ‘Boy on a Dolphin,’ was really great stuff. Thanks again.

      And you are spot on about Gatsby.

  • Quinta 42

    A sensitive and quite complete appraisal of one of “old” Hollywood’s finest actors who was regrettably a victim of the system’s greed and stupidity.

  • Trevor Gin

    Alan Ladd was my favorite movie star actor as a child movie fan and all my friends would discuss his movies endlessly. His tough guy persona on screen was totally convincing and we all knew that he was also the sexiest man alive even though he never did sex scenes. Honest film historians should give him pride of place in any list of the greatest movie stars of all time!

  • marin56

    I read your article on alan ladd with much anticipation as I saw it, a very different kind of media personality and movie star/actor. HOw about character actor and and i look forward to the upcoming DVD release of two early films by universal. What was Ladd’s aciles heel..apart from his wife he actually had talented and good family members. Ive seen them here and therre although i believe there marriages broke up as well..but they stayed in film production and the later Charlie’s Angels..with the attractive actresses and its narrative type detective type show harks back to a 1950s type movie..film noir..as a device its hackneyed and plays on the charm of the models..actresses. MOvie star..acotor/actress I enjoyed his movies..and i always used to watch him even in his inferior roles, and there were many of these..his problem was that even after Shane a tremendous success the new people there, real estate mavericks wanting to make it big..but also liking film..it was a new environment..trying to develop international stars and those with a reputation..it was a difficult time..he went to Warners which developed properties and forced them on him..and TV was on the scene..he just didnt fit in..WArners and his wife a gentle and sensitive person unable to mature to the harsh realities..his wife may have picked his neighbours..I enjoy many of his films..especially pre warners.how he ended up in that studio with a producer/writer like Rackin..great though he was..he really couldnt write for him..nor could he live up to these parts..I remember this guy..

  • HCUA

    I have about 300 movies, including Shane, This Gun For Hire, and The Blue Dahlia. I don’t think that I have other Ladd movies, but, I may. I consider Shane the best western of them all, although many others think that The Searchers is the best one.
    I will stick with Shane, and never get tired of watching it. It had all that you want, people in trouble, being put upon by the bad guys, the hero coming in, unassuming, the really bad guy, the good guys winning in the end, it’s all there. I always liked Van Heflin, too. I think that he was in a great movie called Tap Root, about The War Between the States, mistakenly called The Civil War.

    Alan Ladd had a great voice, too. Not much is said about that.

  • Fred B

    The story goes that George Stevens offered Ladd the role of Jedd Rink, but Ladds wife {his agent} told him to turn it down because he would not get top billing, but third after Taylor and Hudson.. It is a shame. Stevens is suppose to have told Ladd after the film was completed that he would never forgive him{ Ladd } for making him { Stevens } work with James Dean.
    While he was making “The McConnell Story” he and June Allyson had a very serious affair and it was one of the happiest times in Ladds life, there was even talk of Allyson divorcing her husband Dick Powell and Ladd his wife, but it never happened…

  • shavager

    I’ve always felt Errol Flynn and Alan Ladd were both underappreciated by Hollywood and far better “actors” than given credit. Some of my favorite westerns are “Whispering Smith, Shane and Saskatchewan”. Nobody can watch “Shane” without respecting Ladd’s acting and depth of character.

    • Fan Mac

      Me too. Errol Flynn was the superstar of the 1930s and 1940s. Because of that, people thought he was merely a movie star, not an actor. This doesn’t sound logic to me. Just a beauty face and body without good acting skills–could this carry a movie? Of course not, he had to act convincingly and movingly to make the movie work, beyond being a movie star. It was just unfair. This being under-appreciated by his peers after years of effort was a major cause of his unhappiness for his later years.

      • shavager

        I bet it was. I’ve always loved watching him act, western, swashbuckler or war movie–he was as good as any on the big screen. I saw him act in a comedy back a couple of years ago on TCM, he was very good in that comedy despite being best at drama and adventure. I consider him and Olivia de Havilland as one of the greatest twosomes on the big screen–equal to the Duke and Maureen O’Hara, Tracy and Hepburn, etc…

        • Fan Mac

          I agreed–Errol and de Havilland were a great couple on and off screen. Even though it was platonic, they loved each other and were fond of each other.

          • shavager

            They sure had great chemistry. I read a site where she was once asked about why she never was involved with Flynn, as much as the Hollywood industry knew he was a womanizer. She was somewhat shy as a person and despite her affection for him, never got personal. I think he really respected her and never pursued, either because she was aloof because of shyness or he was involved with others during the time. Knowing Flynn’s reputation, it would discourage some and probably would NOT have lasted had they become involved. Hollywood destroys people as much as it makes them stars, Flynn was a prime example–you can look around now at stars who self destruct today despite the success.

          • KenR

            …Perceptive post shavager, good to see intelligent comments come to light. Yes, Hollywood can destroy its own products as quickly as it creates them.

          • shavager

            You know, I liked Nick Nolte–remember him especially from the movie with Robert Shaw and Jacqueline Bissett, Louis Gosset–“The Deep”. Also liked him in the “Mulholland Falls” movie, last time I saw Nick on TV–he was bedraggled, hair standing up, scroungy beard–being booked at a California (believe LA) police station for drugs–he looked terrible, what a waste! Glad to see Robert Downey successful after his rehab, just hope more of these people get their heads out of the drug cloud over Hollywood and get their lives straight.

          • Fan Mac

            When they were filmed together, both were newcomers of the Warner Brother Studio. Flynn hadn’t had the “womanizer” reputation yet. She confessed the main reason was he was tied up with his first wife then. I may be idealistic–I believe love can conquer all. If you read his remarkable autobiography, you would know Flynn didn’t love his first wife and he was kind of forced to marry her. If he was not tied up, they could have had a chance. They were more a match and equal than he with his first wife. With his deep love and respect for her (as he had confessed to other friends at the time), he might not be fallen into the temptation of those cheap sexes. Anyway, the trajectory of his life would be totally different–he might never turn to the direction of self-destruction. That’s why I think sometimes fate may play a trick on people. Hollywood was certainly not a good place for anyone, especially a “criminally handsome” guy (quoted from NYTimes) like Flynn, it was almost inherently for him to be subjected to too much temptations, especially women. Based on his peers, he was constantly swarmed by women and had to hire security guards. Being too good-looking could be a double-edged sword.

          • shavager

            Yeah, a tragic end for an actor I thought was on par with the best Hollywood ever produced. Too bad Olivia couldn’t have been the savior for him as Nancy Jones was for country singer George Jones. Fate takes strange bounces, it bounced the wrong way for Flynn in the end.

          • KenR

            ….There are many ‘stories’ out there Fan Mac but as an Australian and having worked at the school Mr Flynn attended, the sad fact is, he was
            a bit of a ‘bad boy’, and a ‘wander’ from his very early days. Hollywood certainly would not have helped, but it’s sadly doubtful he would have been ‘true’ to any of his ‘lovers’. It’s unfortunate, but some folk just never grow up to act responsibly.

          • Fan Mac

            Flynn was a larger than life figure. The common rule might not apply. . If we want to judge him we should first try to put our feet into his shoes. If a man is bombarded by women wherever he goes, it is hard for me to imagine how he would react or live in a situation like that everyday. I just don’t know. It may have nothing to do with him being responsible or irresponsible. Or should he just hide himself in the mountain or become a monk? I watched a Errol Flynn documentary called “Tasmanian Devil,” in which one of his schoolmates is interviewed saying even some of his teachers were in love with him, which means even in his formative years he was already a heartthrob. Maybe he should have just underwent castration, thus all his problems would have disappeared and he would have not been subjected to any type of name-calling, such as “bad boy,” “womanizer.”

          • KenR

            …Unfortunately none of us, no matter what we want to believe, can change facts Fan Mac. It’s that: Leopards Spots ~ Tigers Stripes rule of nature, along with that ‘who we want/choose to be’ syndrome………..

          • Fan Mac

            I am just stating the fact–the fact is if someone is “criminally handsome,” as New York Times describes, then he is certainly not the average Joe. Then, he certainly doesn’t live an ordinary life like you and I. That doesn’t mean he will have a perfect life or he is immune from tragedy. On the contrary, the blessed good look can be a double-edged sword.

          • KenR

            …This may be so. But there are, and have been, numerous so called ‘super lookers’, that have have not chosen to go the way of Errol.
            Some have strength of character, or use discretion, others just exploit what they have, to their own (and others) detriment, but it’s all their choice. Poor Patrice was testimony to this sad fact, and seems she was supportive to the end. But, a life long Playboy (and heavy drinker) is no marital partner. It’s just the sad way it is….

          • Fan Mac

            Again, you sound judgmental and critical. I just don’t think if you cannot put your feet to someone else’s shoes, you should judge someone, even though it is tempting and makes one feel morally superior. But it is meaningless because we never know what his real situation was if we are not him. In terms of being a playboy, Beverly Roberts who appeared in “The Perfect Specimen” with Flynn, has this to say “He was extremely attractive and gallant… I never had romantic entanglement with him. But a lot of women threw themselves at his feet. It’s hard not to be characterized as a womanizer when they do that!” Even being a heavy drinker, these days we all know it could be a genetic predisposition, especially under so much pressure and temptations as a superstar in that decadent Hollywood.

          • KenR

            …again, you sound like the ultimate ‘fan’, your denial will not allow anything other than your defense to be found, no other reason could at all be possible…regardless of the evidence from his earlier years before he left Australia. Many sad folk have gone to their ruin defending ‘lovers’ like that. I’m sure many of us have seen, and heard of so many…He is fortunate to have such a ‘fan’ and I’m sure there are many. Again, I rest my case, over and out on this endless issue.

          • Fan Mac

            I am not a blind “fan.” I am just speaking the fact. For some reasons, you are only either able or willing to see Errol Flynn as the public image has long imposed on him, such as he was a womanizer and he was a drunk. But I have read a lot about him, including his autobiography, thus I know he beyond his public image. That’s why I try to explain, not blindly defend him.

          • KenR

            …He doesn’t know how lucky he is to have you, you who have ‘walked in his shoes’. You deserve each other.

          • Fan Mac

            C’mon he is dead and I am still breathing. How could we deserve each other? Please not make it so personal. We are here discussing about a dead celebrity. For you, you take him as his public image. For me, I take him as a person, even though famous one. I like to know an interesting person inside out and outside in. And after reading a lot about him, I know he is more than his public image. And actually quite unfairly and unfortunately he seemed to have to live with that image not only in life but also in death.

          • Fan Mac

            But Errol was not just another “super looker,” he was called “the most beautiful man in the whole world,” by Ava Gardner and Joan Crawford once described him as “the most beautiful man who ever lived.” And Marlene Dietrich called him “the Devil’s angel” In addition, please read my following post…

      • kenR

        …Unfortunately their own ‘real’ life choices were all too often wrong.
        They were more screen ‘personalities’ (products) than true actors.
        (ie; Actors as in: Frederick March, Paul Muni, Edward G, etc…) No matter how well they appeared. But whatever makes you happy.

        • Fan Mac

          This is simply your opinion. (I do know Paul Muni was a good actor).

  • moviegirl43

    The first time I’ve watched the movie, Shane was for my ninth grade English class. Of course, it was on VHS at the time but, I absolutely loved it! Our class read the book, first, then we watched the movie the next day. Years went by, Shane hasn’t been seen on AMC or TCM channels. I’m planning to purchase the DVD sometime this month! It’s truly a classic movie! They don’t make movies like that anymore!

  • Charlie H

    Mark Fertig…Thanks for the interesting & excellent essay on Alan Ladd. I’m 75 & Alan Ladd is still my favorite movie star/actor. Alan Ladd was “Shane” & Shane is the best western…& with all the restrictions in 1952/1953. He was also great in the Carpetbaggers. Alan Ladd had the best male voice ever in movies. Charlie H

    • Mark Fertig

      Thanks Charlie. You are definitely right about Ladd’s voice — it was amazing!

  • DollyT

    I agree with Charlie H. I am 78 and Shane was my favorite Alan Ladd movie. It is a part of my Classic Film Collection. Thank you for the memories. DollyT

  • eugene kessler

    I think my favorite was the great Gatsby, I really like Leonardo,but hes no ladd

  • Roy D. Sandoval

    Shane had a lasting impact on me from the first time I watched it in the 60’s. Even though Alan Ladd wasn’t tall in stature he will always be 10ft to me. Rest In Peace Mr. Ladd

  • Juan V

    ALAN LADD was and will always be great, ONE OF THE GIANTS OF THE SCREEN, because we can watch his movies over and over again. His voice was the best of any movie star. And I am sure that no Alan Ladd movie is boring, you can be certain that you will have a good time with his films, whichever it is you are watching. Since my early childhood, he was one of my favorites along with John Wayne, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Robert Taylor, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, Jeff Chandler, Frank Sinatra. God bless him always!