Saturday, 12 July 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1942: Alan Ladd in This Gun For Hire

Alan Ladd did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Philip Raven in This Gun for Hire.

This Gun For Hire is an interesting enough film noir that follows a hit man who wants to get revenge on his former employer, while evading the police, after having been double crossed.

Alan Ladd, who I know and I imagine most know best as the titular character of Shane, plays a role that is a bit out of the ordinary for the time which is a bit out of the ordinary. It is not that he simply plays a hit man, the careers of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney show that playing criminals was a common occurrence, but the role of Philip Raven is rather different from the gangster those actors played. Raven is actually much closer in vein to say the titular Jackal from the Day of the Jackal. It is not powerful explosive emotions that seem to drive Raven, but rather a very cold professional brutality instead which is certainly rather striking to see from a film made in the early forties.

Ladd's performance also is not trying to sugar coat this character really in any regard. The character is cold and brutal and Ladd actually plays him this way. Ladd carries himself well in the part creating a rather intimidating presence with his performance, and he definitely has that death stare down that is needed for a part like this. Ladd gives a particularly dour performance here, and is not afraid to show this character as the sociopath he is. There is an innate viciousness that Ladd brings to his role and he is very effective early on the film as Raven is taking care of business silently. Ladd finds the brutality of Raven's murders not through an emotionally anger, but rather through his rather intense callousness in almost all things he does which includes killing others.  

Ladd is good in the role in that he takes the right approach, but he's never quite great. Part of this comes from when Raven starts to speak a little more, which is unfortunate. Although Ladd is good in the silent portrayal of Raven's menace he is not quite the same when Raven tries to openly threaten others. Ladd seems to try a little hard in these moments to seem intimidating, and although he never bad it actually weakens what he did right with the role when he is not speaking. Thankfully Ladd never goes too far and fully compromise the rest of his performance with some true overacting. This does weaken the character's impact and Ladd's performance here never does become nearly as compelling as Edward Fox's performance as a similar character in The Day of the Jackal.

Being a film from the forties I fully expected the character to be softened as the film progressed especially after he kidnaps a woman (Veronica Lake) who begins to question his pessimistic attitude. Well although the film reveals Raven not to be pure evil, and that his viciousness does come from somewhere he actually still stays fairly cold after all. Ladd is good as I'm glad he still stays with the character even as he reveals more about the man. Ladd reveals that Raven is not soulless and his troubles started at childhood. Ladd is particularly good as he tells his childhood story because he brings such a powerful hate that is entirely fitting for such a hard boiled man. It would have been easy to make these scene emotional in the wrong way, but Ladd keeps Raven as he killer the whole film through.

This is never quite a great portrayal of the almost heartless killer as I do think a truly great performance very well could have come from this character with another actor in the role. Ladd, to his credit though, hits all of the right notes with his performance through taking the right approach. He does not hit all of these notes exactly right as there are definitely scenes where you could see where there could have been a greater impact, yet Ladd still is on mark with how the scene should play in relation to the character. Ladd does not mind being unlikable, and rightfully never compromises his character, making his more emotional scenes bring depth to the character rather than a contradiction. Ladd never makes the absolute most out of the role, but he still does do it some justice giving an interesting portrait of a very unorthodox character for the time.

33 comments:

Michael McCarthy said...

Ahh damn, I thought you'd like him more.

1. Noel Coward
2. Tim Holt
3. Pierre Fresnay
4. Alan Ladd
5. Joel McCrea

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

As did I.

1. Holt
2. Fresnay
3. Coward
4. Ladd
5. McCrea

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts and ratings for the cast of Animal Kingdom, Al Pacino in Insomnia and the cast of American Gangster?

Anonymous said...

A great review as usual, I haven't seen him yet. How was Veronica Lake? And can I have your ratings and thoughts on:
-Eleanor Parker in Detective Story
-Carolyn Jones in The Bachelor Party
-Hermione Bladdeley in Room at the Top
-Anne Baxter in The Razor's Edge
-Natalie Wood in Rebel without a Cause
-Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River

RatedRStar said...

1. Holt
2. Fresnay
3. Coward
4. Ladd
5. McCrea

JackiBoyz said...

1. Holt
2. Fresnay
3. McCrea
4. Coward
5. Ladd

JackiBoyz said...

What films is everyone rooting for in this years Oscar season?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

If Boyhood is as good as the critics are saying, I'd root for that one. It's about damn time Linklater got some proper awards traction after they snub him for the Before trilogy and A Scanner Darkly.

RatedRStar said...

Birdman purely because it looks interesting, and Keaton is a likable actor, its been too long since Norton got Oscar recognition

Unbroken because Jack O Connell is great in anything he does, he is amazing in Skins, plus the fact that Japanese rockstar Miyayi, one of my favorite musicians plays the main villain in it, I hope he does better than other musicians turned actors/actresses like Jennifer Lopez.

Anonymous said...

Louis, can I have your thoughts and rating on Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan?

Kevin said...

Foxcatcher cause Carell looks great. Also hoping that Interstellar and Boyhood will get the recognition they deserve and that Nolan and Linklater will be nominated for directing.

Anonymous said...

Louis, what are your thoughts and ratings on the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I seem to be the only person who thinks Carell looks like a pile of mannerisms and tics in Foxcatcher.

RatedRStar said...

I guess we will have to wait till all these films are released and then the arguments and agreements can start.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I will say after seeing him in the Jump Street movies and Magic Mike, I really want to see if Tatum is as good as the early reviews say he is. He seems to be growing as an actor.

JackiBoyz said...

Any thoughts Louis, on this years Oscar race? I would like to see Carell and Keaton go head to head, two very strange but interesting looking performances, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jack O Connell look like they are flying the flag for the brits this year, I expect Bafta to love Connell.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'd like to see The Skeleton Twins do well, I love Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig and the film looks like it'll be both very entertaining and a good showcase for their acting chops.

RatedRStar said...

GERMANNYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY, Mario Gotze for Bayern Munichhhh =D

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I agree with Michael. Both look very good.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar & Michael Patison: Your thoughts on Netherlands-Brazil and Germany-Argentina.

Also your top 5 goals & games of the tournament.

RatedRStar said...

Brazil were bad against The Netherlands, I am looking forward to seeing how Van Gaal handles Man Utd, as for the final, it was very close, but Argentina are a 1 man team, Messi and no one else, whereas Germany have plenty of 5 star caliber players, I knew Germany would win

5 goals for the tournament Luke, my top 5 are


1) Robin Van Persie against Spain
2) Tim Cahill against The Netherlands
3) James Rodriguez against Uruguay
4) Mario Gotze against Argentina
5)David Luiz against Colombia


Top 5 games are

1) Spain V Netherlands
2) Brazil V Germany
3) Brazil V Chile
4) Belgium V USA
5) Switzerland V France

RatedRStar said...

@Michael McCarthy: I agree about The Skeleton Twins, it looks good, but im not sure if the academy will feel the same.

luke higham said...

My Top 3 goals were:
1. Rodriguez's 1st vs. Uruguay
2. Van Persie's header vs. Spain
3. Cahill's Volley vs. Holland

My Top 3 Games were
1. Brazil 1-7 Germany
2. Spain 1-5 Holland
3. Holland 3-2 Australia

luke higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
luke higham said...

RatedRStar & Michael Patison: Also your top 5 players of the Tournament.

My Number one is James Rodriguez
Second is Thomas Muller
Third is Manuel Neuer

RatedRStar said...

My favorite players were


1) James Rodiguez (he is a star in the making he better leave Monaco because he is a talented and likable fellow)

2) Thomas Muller ( a very underated player, he isnt a fast or athletic player, but he is smart, he knows how to score, he was Germanys overall best player

3) Arjen Robben (he is a diver, as a honest Bayern fan, I know that, but as a skilled dribbler, he is amazing, he is not a young man, but he is like wine, improves with age

4) a tie between Tim Howard for Usa, Navas from Costa Rica, Manuel Neuer for Germany, and Ochoa from Mexico, they were amazing in this tournament, the saves they made were historic, Barack Obama even rang Howard and Clint Dempsey because he was amazed, that tells ya something, they gave it there all.

5) Michael Patison might love this choice, my 5th favorite player was.....Karim Benzema, he has underperformed sometimes for Real Madrid, but not here, he was great for France, a true goalscorer in the classic way, he was great, assured and confident, he is a poacher in the most classic way Gary Lineker style, I also should give a mention to Neymar, who is a very likable, and it doesnt matter if he doesnt win a world cup, he is a future legend in the making.


Michael Patison said...

I'll change my predictions:
1. Tim Holt
2. Pierre Fresnay
3. Noel Coward
4. Alan Ladd
5. Joel McCrea


Top 5 Goals:
1. RVP v Spain
2. James Rodriguez v Uruguay
3. Tim Cahill v Netherlands
4. Mario Gotze v Argentina
5. Clint Dempsey v Ghana

Top 5 Games:
1. Brazil 1-7 Germany
2. Netherlands 5-1 Spain
3. Ghana 1-2 United States
4. Belgium 2-1 United States
5. Brazil 0-0 Mexico

Top 5 Players:
1. James Rodriguez
2. Thomas Muller
3. Arjen Robben
4. Tim Howard
5. Karim Benzema

RatedRStar said...

=D who were your top 5 players Luke?

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Well with the Three that I mentioned beforehand, my 4th & 5th picks would be Arjen Robben & Guillermo Ochoa. Honorable mentions go to Navas, Howard & Benzema.

I completely disagree with Fifa's Decision to name Messi as Player of the Tournament, while Neuer's win for Best Keeper was Extremely Well Deserved.

Michael Patison said...

I agree with you, Luke. Giving Messi the Golden Ball was something of an insult to him and to the more deserving players he defeated. I also agree Neuer was deserving of the Golden Gloves. That being said, this was a tremendous tournament for keepers, and I don't think he was the best. He's most certainly the world's greatest keeper, but he was never given the opportunity to really show it.

Top 5 Keepers:
1. Tim Howard
2. Keylor Navas
3. Guillermo Ochoa
4. Manuel Neuer
5. Hugo Lloris
Honorable Mentions: David Ospina, Thibaut Courtois

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I saw Snowpiercer Louis. I really hate to say it, but I wasn't nearly as enamored by it as you. I loved the direction, acting and sets, but it had too many plot holes at the end.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Animal Kingdom:

Edgerton - 4
Weaver - 5

Pearce - 4(Pearce offers some much needed heart in the film, and acts as an honest portrayal sympathy which works perfectly against the deceitful performances by Mendelsohn and Weaver. I particularly love his confrontation scene with Weaver as pure honest and with pure dishonesty meet one another)

Stapleton - 3.5(A smaller role but he's effective in portraying his character's completely drugged up nature, and handles his final paranoia infused scene especially well)

Frecheville - 1.5(Horrendously bland performance where he seems to be trying to channel a mannequin most of the time. Of course some may try to say the point of his character is that he is emotionally ambivalent. That can be done well, but that's not the case for Frecheville. It's only made worse because in his one major emotional scene he's pretty terrible)

Pacino - 4(It's a good performance by Pacino and he's quite effective in his portrayal of his character's growing guilt and his intense physical decay from his insomnia. I do feel though his impact is slightly muted as Nolan often "directs" over his performance)

Honestly I could use a re-watch of American Gangster.

Anonymous:

Parker - 3.5(She's definitely supporting not lead in the film, and although she does well enough in the role I never thought that much came from her role. She's good but honestly I found Lee Grant was much more memorable despite having a far less emotionally charged role)


Jones - 4(A short performance but she runs the gambit pretty well going from a distant philosophical tone to an intimate desperation quite artfully)

Bladdeley - 3(She's emotionally charged couple of minutes. She does this well, but really she can only do so much with that little)

Baxter - 4(Baxter is given more of highlights of a character than a more concrete path, but whenever she appears she gives a rather powerful depiction of her character's despair. She certainly is the best part of the film, although that's not saying too much)

Wood - 3.5(Wood is fine for the most part, and has good enough chemistry with Dean. There are times though where I'm not sure where she wants to go with her character, and there is a certain awkwardness in her portrayal)

Harden - 2.5(The more times I've seen the film the more I'm starting to feel only Bacon, Fishburne, and of course Eli Wallach give good performances in the film. With Bacon's down to earth work the rest of the performances show themselves to be hammy work they are where there is just so much performing that it overwhelms the character into a bunch of mannerisms. Harden's included as I feel she stays one note in her constant portrayal of confusion, which does not grow as it should)

Anonymous:

Hemingway - 3.5(She combines the right naivety in her performance with a certain charm that partially comes from that naivety. I never thought she gave a great performance, but I felt she fit the part rather well)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Jesus Christ Superstar:

Anderson - 5(Perhaps my favorite musical performance. Anderson delivers every song with such a powerful intensity. He goes further than though giving a heartbreaking and very emotionally driven portrayal of Judas as a man first driven fear, then later overwhelmed by guilt)

Neeley - 4.5(Neeley voice has a certain unorthodox quality to it and I think it works quite well to make Jesus stand apart from everyone else. Neeley balances well the godly elements of Jesus have the right otherworldly distance, well bringing the right humanity through the warmth in his words. Neeley also delivers incredibly well with the songs particularly with "Gethsemane")

Bingham - 4(He's a great Caiaphas bringing such a command with his performance, and makes for an intimidating singing villain. He goes a little further though and has some nice subtle moments showing that Caiaphas is not simply evil)

Yaghjian - 4(The perfect two man show the Caiaphas and there high low voice routine is one of the my favorite parts of the film. Yaghjian like so many of the performers never just sings the songs as he makes Annas such a nice little weasel)

Dennen - 3.5(Technically probably should have a little more command as Pilate/ I feel he might not portray the two sides of Pilate with equal effectiveness but when he hits a high note with his performance it is very high)

Marshall - 3(Really a single scene performance but he makes the most of it infusing so much energy into making it into one of the highlights of the scene)

Toubus - 3(What's a seventies film without a future porno actor, well I don't know. Any way Toubus is actually pretty good in his brief role as Peter, and makes Peter's confession appropriately moving)

Elliman - 2.5(Delivers in her single number quite well, but I feel she plays the rest of the scene quite oddly suggesting Mary Magdalene as some unknowing innocent which really is not how she should be exactly)

Mostel - 2.5(The weirdest performance for the weirdest musical number. Mostel's not bad, and he's enjoyable enough although he's not extremely entertaining by any means)

JackiBoyz:

No major thoughts as I have not seen any of the films that are really being treated as future major players, and I really don't like to start judging or hoping for a film until I have seen it.

Robert:

Well I'm glad you liked most of the aspects of the film. I'm not a major stickler when it comes to plot holes in films to begin with, unless they distract me while I'm watching the film. In Snowpiercer's case I was so invested in the film by the ending I will admit I did not even notice any.