His small role in 1942's JOAN OF PARIS got him enough attention for RKO to offer him a contract paying $400 per week. But he turned down that offer for a better chance at Paramount. Ladd won the part of Raven the hired killer in THIS GUN FOR HIRE and signed a long-term contract with the studio. Paired with the new sultry screen queen Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd had found his niche. He and Lake followed with another hit the same year, THE GLASS KEY. Ladd was established as one of the most popular male stars in the business.
|Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in all their Film Noir glory in THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942)|
Alan Ladd's film career continued with many great successes. One of his last films under his Paramount contract was the classic Western SHANE (1953). He formed his own production companies, Ladd Enterprises and Jaguare Productions to make films for himself as star and for others. His last work was a highly praised supporting role in THE CARPETBAGGERS, released in 1964 following his death at age 50 in January of that year.
Ladd's penultimate film role was in 13 WEST STREET (1962), a well-made crime thriller produced by Ladd Enterprises and released by Columbia. Running a fast-paced 80 minutes, the film provided plenty of action and a solid performance by its veteran star. Ladd plays Walt Sherill, a scientist living in Los Angeles. After working late one night, Sherill runs out of gas on a deserted street. As he begins walking, he's almost run down by a car driving at high speed. When he shouts at the driver, the car comes back and stops. Five well-dressed teenage boys get out and begin harassing him. Their leader is Chuck Landry (Michael Callan). He says he's fed up with adults telling him what to do. When the boys start beating Sherill, he tries to fight back. Before they run off, the boys leave him with a broken leg, a head injury, and plenty of bruises. Sherill wakes up in the hospital to see his wife, Tracey (Dolores Dorn), and his boss, Paul Logan (Kenneth MacKenna), keeping watch. A police detective, Seargent Pete Koleski (Rod Steiger), arrives and starts asking questions. Sherill remembers a boy named Bill who said he knew Sherill. He also remembers hearing the name Chuck and something about the boys having trouble at a bar that same night.
|Alan Ladd with Michael Callan (Right)|
Koleski begins an investigation. Mrs. Sherill's brother (Ted Knight) is the principal of the local high school. She and the detective go there to find out if any male students have a record of criminal activity. Bill Quinn (Arnold Merritt), the gang member who knows Sherill, and who attends the school, sees them and informs Chuck and the other guys. They decide to intimidate Sherill into dropping the matter. They throw a rock through a window of his home and follow up with a threatening phone call to his wife. After this, Sherill is impatient with the police and their lack of progress. One night, while driving, he believes he spots the attackers' car. He follows the car until it stops at a gas station. When he angrily opens the passenger door, he sees a hysterical teenage girl begging him not to hurt her. This incident lands Sherill in jail for the night. After he's released, Koleski warns him to let the police handle the case. When the gang reads about this in the newspaper, they go to Sherill's house, beat him up again, and tell him to leave them alone or they might have to kill him. Sherill, now walking with a cane due to his injury, uses it to beat one of the boys before they run off.
Sherill, angry and frustrated, begins to unravel. He waits outside the local high school, hoping to see a boy who looks like he may have been recently injured. Spotting a kid with one arm in a sling, Sherill begins harassing him. A police officer shows up to assure him the boy is not under suspicion.
Meanwhile, Koleski has discovered that Chuck and his gang were thrown out of a local bar right before the encounter with Walter Sherill. Besides being too young to drink in the first place, the boys had insulted two of the patrons, a Black man and a Mexican man, resulting in an altercation. Koleski surmised the boys took out their displaced anger on Sherill. The Black man (Bernie Hamilton) gives them a lead on a boy named Everett Bush (Chris Robinson). Bush has an alibi that's backed by his parents. Sherill now decides to take matters into his own hands by hiring a private detective (Stanley Adams) to start following Bush. He also buys a gun. His obsession with finding his attackers is causing him trouble with his wife, the police, and gets him suspended from his job.
Sherill's interference finally results in tragedy. Bill Quinn has been identified as a friend of Everett Bush. Quinn works at a local drug store. When Sherill goes there to confront him, Bill sees him and runs away. He goes to Chuck for help. Chuck warns him to keep his mouth shut or he'll wish he was dead. When Sherill tracks down Bill at his home, he finds that the boy has hanged himself.
Chuck Landry is finally identified. When questioned by Koleski at his home, Chuck lies and is backed up by his mother (Margaret Hayes). Chuck calls the gang to meet at a park to coordinate their stories as the police get closer. The detective Sherill hired to tail Everett Bush sees the boys meet and calls Sherill to let him know. Koleski is there. They head for the park. When the gang drives away, the detective follows, once again calling the Sherill home to keep them informed. Chuck realizes he's being followed. In a high-speed chase, they run the detective off the road and he is killed. Tracey, on the phone with the detective, hears the man screaming and the sounds of the crash. She calls the police. Bush and the other gang member (Mark Slade) are devastated by what they've done. Chuck coldly tells them to get out of the car and drives off alone.
Sherill and Koleski reach the park and find it deserted. They phone Tracey, who tells them about the crash and the location the detective gave her. Chuck shows up at the Sherill home. He confronts Tracey with a gun and then tries to sexually assault her. When he hears Sherill's car outside, he runs away on foot, heading for his house. Sherill follows Chuck home and beats him savagely. He knocks the boy into a swimming pool, grabs him, and starts to drown him. Suddenly, he has a change of heart and pulls Chuck out of the water just as Koleski and Tracey arrive. Chuck is taken into custody.
|Dolores Dorn and Michael Callan|
Michael Callan gives the most impressive performance as the sociopathic Chuck Landry. He is completely believable as a cold-hearted killer who is becoming more unhinged with every scene he's in. Callan had played another cool juvenile delinquent type, although not a killer, two years earlier in BECAUSE THEY'RE YOUNG. He was already in his late 20's but looked young enough to be playing troubled teenagers.
Rod Steiger brings quite a bit of intensity to the role of Seargent Koleski, a man who is understanding of Walt Sherill's anger and frustration, but also increasingly resentful of the man's dangerous interference into the investigation. Steiger underplays the role to good effect. I must admit the actor's cultured voice makes one expect him to start quoting Shakespeare at any moment.
Dolores Dorn seems like a poor choice to play Ladd's wife, and not just because of the obvious age gap. Throughout most of the film, Dorn plays Tracey as if she were little more than a moderately inconvenienced housewife, rather than a woman whose husband is going mad with a desire for vengeance. However, during the scene where Tracey is confronted by Chuck Landry in her home, Dorn comes through perfectly.
There is also a marvelous performance by beautiful Jeanne Cooper, forever known as matriarch Katherine Chancellor on the long-running soap opera THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. Cooper plays the aunt of Bill Quinn, the gang member who kills himself. In her few minutes of screen time, Cooper makes quite an impression as a woman who experiences a quick succession of emotions. At first polite when Walt Sherill shows up at her home insisting on speaking to her nephew, she quickly becomes suspicious of his motives and asks him to leave. After her horror at discovering the boy dead in his room, and after the police have been called, she has these mournful, accusatory words for Sherill: "I hope you can sleep well tonight." It's one of the film's most memorable moments. Cooper was a fine actress who deserved much more opportunity in films than she was given.
|Alan Ladd and Jeanne Cooper make a tragic discovery.|
13 WEST STREET was directed by Philip Leacock, who also directed another one of my favorite films, LET NO MAN WRITE MY EPITAPH (1960). The screenplay, by Robert Presnell, Jr. and Bernard C. Schoenfeld was based on the 1957 novel The Tiger Among Us by Leigh Brackett.
This post is part of THE 'FAVORITE STARS IN B MOVIES' BLOGATHON sponsored by FILMS FROM BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER. https://www.filmsfrombeyond.com
Hi, I've been wanting to see this, what seems like a forerunner to Charle Bronson's "Death Wish." I've reviewed Ladd's "Shane" and was amazed by his performance. And while I thought Ladd was the best thing about "The Carpetbaggers" a dozen years later, I was shocked at how much he had aged, at barely 50. That said, Alan Ladd was most underrated. Cheers, RickReplyDelete
Hi Rick! Thank you for commenting. This is a good film, and Alan Ladd gives a solid performance. I still haven't seen The Carpetbaggers, but I would like to. I didn't think about the connection between this film and Death Wish, but you make a good point. Shane is a wonderful movie! You can watch 13 WEST STREET on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqwng7eXt38 It's also available on DVD. My copy is a DVD-R from The Video Beat. A very good print. Thanks again for stopping by!ReplyDelete
I will check it out and The Carpetbaggers is good mainly for star-gazing. Cheers, RickDelete
Don’t know much about Alan Ladd beyond SHANE. I’m pretty sure I saw THIS GUN FOR HIRE but I don’t remember much about it. I’m a bit more familiar with Rod Steiger, on the other hand, and I can easily imagine him being intense in the role. Like the poster.ReplyDelete
THIS GUN FOR HIRE is definitely worth a rewatch. And you might like 13 WEST STREET if you get a chance to see it. Ladd and Steiger square off very well in their scenes together. Thank you for commenting!Delete
I've never heard of 13 West Street, but it sounds very intriguing!ReplyDelete
If you like fast-paced B movies, you will probably enjoy this one. Alan Ladd proves he still has some of his energy and intensity from his 1940's glory days. Thank you for commenting!Delete
This sounds terrific! (Am a bit embarrassed to say I hadn't heard of it before.) I'll be tracking it down, so thanks in advance!ReplyDelete
No reason to be embarrassed! This movie is apparently more obscure than I thought it was. But I think it's worth a watch. I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to see it. Thank you for commenting!Delete
I am a fan of Alan Ladd, but I don't think I have ever seen "13 West Street." I'll have to put on my list and revisit your post!ReplyDelete
Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment! I think a fan of Alan Ladd would definitely appreciate his fine performance in this movie. I hope you get a chance to see it.Delete
I have wanted to see 13 West Street for a long time. I have been hoping it might pop up on Noir Alley at some point (from your description it sounds like it would certainly fit the bill).ReplyDelete
Yeah, the film does have some Noirish elements to it, such as Ladd's increasing paranoia and thirst for vengeance. There's a good print on Youtube. Just type the title into the search box. I hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to see it. Thanks for commenting, Terence!Delete
I've seen 13 West Street, which is an interesting film in Alan Ladd's career. At his height he usually played 'cool' characters who were always in charge, in control, and kept a hold on their feelings. It was interesting to see how he could expand his range here, playing a man obsessed with vengeance. Liked your description of his character here--as if he were a reformed Raven, who's lived on and settled down in the suburbs!ReplyDelete
You're the first commenter who's actually seen this movie! I agree that this is an interesting change of role for Alan Ladd, although there are moments when the steely-eyed Ladd of 1940's Noir seems to be with us once again. Especially during the violent ending. Thank you for commenting!Delete
Mike, thanks so much for contributing this great review to the blogathon! 13 West Street sounds very intriguing, bringing a sophisticated film noir style to a juvenile delinquent story. This, and the other teens-terrorizing-families movies that you cite, remind me of yet another, similarly themed movie that made a big impact on me - Hot Rods to Hell (1966), starring Dana Andrews (his career was yo-yoing between small parts in A pics and Bs at the time). As the studio system was collapsing, some stars like Ladd decided to take back control of their careers via their own production companies, with varying success. But it often resulted in more interesting, off-the-beaten-path films. This sounds like one of them.ReplyDelete
Thanks again for inviting me to join in the blogathon, Brian. This was an enjoyable project, and it got some of my creative juices flowing again. Let's see if I can keep them going! I'd forgotten about hot Rods to Hell, but you're right. That film has a very similar theme, and a big star doing a more exploitational B-movie. You gotta hand it to Alan Ladd for being an astute businessman as well as an actor. He worked hard to make things happen for himself instead of just lounging in the pool waiting for the phone to ring. I hope you get a chance to see 13 West Street, because I think you'll like it. Take care!Delete
You provide some nice background about Alan Ladd's developing stardom that led up to this wild film late in his career. 13 WEST STREET sounds like a very lively entry in the juvenile delinquent genre. That is a genre I probably need to start checking out. As this flick stars Alan Ladd, it sounds like it can't miss.ReplyDelete
I have a feeling you would like some of the juvenile delinquent flicks. They have a serious quality to them that's mixed with a bit of an exploitational vibe. In this film, the bad guys are well-to-do, well-dressed, spoiled punks, not the typical hoods in black leather jackets. This is a B-film, but made at a major studio with good production values. Well worth checking out. Thanks for commenting!Delete
I really enjoyed reading this article. Your description of the plot had me riveted. 13 West Street sounds like a great film that was willing to juxtapose the desire for justice with the obsession of vengeance. It seems like Ladd's character would cross lines that would make him no better than his attackers, but then the attackers would retaliate further thus providing Ladd with some justification for this actions. Fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the kind and perceptive comments! The gang leader, played by Michael Callan, makes it clear that his reason for attacking Ladd in the first place was because he didn't like adults telling him what to do. And he was further angered when Ladd kept trying to smoke him out. So, it was avenger against avenger. Different motivations, perhaps, but similar tactics. I hope you like the film if you get a chance to see it. Take care!ReplyDelete
Excellent look at a film that I'm admittedly not familiar with, but will now be adding to my watch list. Thanks for the review!ReplyDelete
Thank you very much for the comment! I appreciate your stopping by to read my review. It seems that not too many people are familiar with this film, so I'm glad I could bring it to everyone's attention. I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to see it. Take care!ReplyDelete
Very cool! Alan Ladd was quite a guy.ReplyDelete