film noir, based on Graham Greene's novel A Gun For Sale, which presents one of the most disturbed (and disturbing) killers ever to cross the screen. Ladd is scary because he doesn't care; he is simply a killing machine hired out by whoever will pay. Only when Lake takes the
time to break through the emotional fortress that he has built around himself does Ladd show any signs of humanity.
This is the film that made Alan Ladd a star. Although director Tuttle had originally intended to cast Preston in the lead role, he later decided to hunt for an unknown. When Tuttle was introduced to Ladd, the director was convinced that the 28-year-old blond could make the cold-blooded killer
Phillip Raven a sympathetic character. Contracted at $300 per week, Ladd underwent screen tests, and even had his hair dyed black in keeping with his character's name. Though the film was conceived as a Lake-Preston vehicle, it soon became quite apparent that the studio had something in Ladd, and
the script was reworked during production to favor the actor. The film became, in more ways than one, the Alan Ladd story--with all the attention being paid to him and his role. As a result, the film's romantic angle was soon tossed away and Preston reduced to a plot device. But even though Ladd
and Lake did not so much as exchange a kiss, they still became one of Hollywood's hottest and most bankable love teams, with three more pictures following--THE GLASS KEY; THE BLUE DAHLIA; and SAIGON.
THIS GUN FOR HIRE was originally to have begun with a dream in which a young Raven (played by Dickie Jones) is seen murdering his aunt and guardian (Hermine Sterler) after she attacks him and injures his wrist. This rather morbid beginning was omitted, however, and the film begins, instead, with
Ladd awaking from the dream. THIS GUN FOR HIRE was remade in 1957 as the James Cagney-directed SHORT CUT TO HELL. leave a comment