Alan Ladd got his big break with Frank Tuttle’s This Gun For Hire in 1942. The movie made him a huge star, a favorite of movie audiences. Ladd had, in some sense, broken into the entertainment industry by playing bit parts on radio shows. To remember the charismatic actor on the anniversary of his death on January 29, 1964, we return to his roots with a collection of radio shows that also happen to spotlight his star appeal.
The radio programs I have chosen (mostly) span the 1940s, when Alan Ladd was at the top of his game as a flawed hero in a series of films noir that still enchant – albeit in a dark and murderous sort of way. In 1953, he got to play a true hero in George Stevens’ Shane, which remains tops on all film lists as one of the greatest movies ever made. Riding high on Shane’s popularity, Alan Ladd was voted by fans as the most popular male star in the Modern Screen Star of Stars Award for the previous ten years. He also starred in several top moneymakers during his tenure in Hollywood.
“Once Ladd had acquired an unsmiling hardness, he was transformed from an extra to a phenomenon. Ladd’s calm slender ferocity make it clear that he was the first American actor to show the killer as a cold angel.” – David Thomson (A Biographical Dictionary of Film, 1975)
Alan Ladd unquestionably made an indelible mark. These radio programs offer an inkling as to why audiences fell for him as his magnificent voice illustrates. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.
On January 25, 1943 Ladd joined Joan Blondell and Laird Cregar at Lux Radio Theatre for “This Gun for Hire”
Loretta Young and William Bondix join Alan Ladd for the Lux production of “China” in Nove,mber 1943:
From January 24, 1944, Alan Ladd and Hedy Lamarr star in the Lux Radio Theatre presentation of “Casablanca”
April 17, 1944 brought audiences “Coney Island” starring Ladd, Dorothy Lamour, and Chester Morris at Lux Radio Theatre
As you can see, Ladd and Loretta Young teamed for several Lux Radio Theatre performances. Here is “And Now Tomorrow” from May 21, 1945, one of my favorites:
From September 1946 presented by the War Department, the Proudly We Hail offering of “On Top O’ The World” starring Alan Ladd. Proudly We Hail began broadcasting in 1941 as a public service show for the Army and Air Force:
On April 21, 1949 Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake reteamed for the radio version of “The Blue Dahlia” presented by the Screen Guild Theatre:
The Blue Dahlia was one of seven movies Alan Ladd made opposite Veronica Lake. His Gun for Hire proved not only key to Ladd’s career, but in the creation of this memorable screen pairing. Their other films together are: The Glass Key (1942), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Duffy’s Tavern (1945), Variety Girl (1947), and Saigon (1948). The films noir stand out, however.
In 1955 Alan Ladd receated Shane in a terrific Lux Radio Theatre production. Van Heflin, also in Stevens’ 1953 picture, also stars with Ruth Hussey.
In October 1947 Alan Ladd began playing Dan Holiday, a newspaperman turned mystery novelist, in Box 13. Ladd’s own production company, Mayfair Productions, created and marketed the nourish program on the radio. Apparently, Alan Ladd and his partner Bernie Joslin liked the newspaper concept because in 1948 Mayfair also produced The Damon Runyon Theater. Alan Ladd did not star in the Runyon program, but it is definitely worth a listen. The program featured loads of great actors each week. As did Box 13 with supporting players including Frank Lovejoy, Betty Lou Gerson, Lurene Tuttle, and Alan Reed.
Box 13 is loads of fun. Dan Holiday ran a classified ad in the Star Times newspaper where he formerly worked. The ad stated, “Adventure wanted, will go anywhere, do anything – write Box 13, Star-Times.” Each week’s show would start with the reading of the answer to the ad, which kicked off the adventure. The people who answered the ad were…shall we say, colorful. Here are a few of my favorite episodes of Box 13. Let me know what you think, “with the star of Paramount Pictures, Alan Ladd, as Dan Holiday.”
“The First Letter”
“Blackmail is Murder”
“Suicide or Murder”
“The Professor and the Puzzle”
“Three to Die”
“Death Is no Joke”
“Killer at Large”
“The Dead Man Walks”
“Killer at Large”
“The Perfect Crime”
That’s all for this week’s episode of the Alan Ladd show. See you again soon.
Alan Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964)