Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Day Three of our Holiday roundelay finds us in Alan Ladd's well-appointed den in the mid-50s as he tries to recall which package was intended for whom, with, of course, the press corps along to document what might have been a private moment. The underrated actor may be best remembered for his iconic turn as Shane (1953) in director George Stevens' tale of a Western Lancelot, though I'm quite partial to his singular breakthrough role as "Philip Raven" (a great character name!), the brooding killer with a soft spot for cats in the Paramount adaptation of Graham Greene's This Gun for Hire (1942), which helped to make him a star. After a truly Dickensian childhood and early adult years, he appeared in a raft of films at Paramount in the forties, (often paired with Veronica Lake, a diminutive actress with whom he had little affinity off-screen). As an actor, he seems to have often been dismissed for his underplaying, his soft, blonde looks and his short stature, but the man had presence, an ability to convey thought on screen, and a beautifully modulated speaking voice.