Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Ladd and His Gun: The Sequel

This is my entry in the Alan Ladd Blogathon hosted by Hamlette's Soliloquy

Alan Ladd has never really been on my radar as a film actor.  As a matter of fact, up until I started reading Hamlette's blog, the only movie in which I had ever seen him was Shane.  I have since gotten interested in watching him, especially his film noir outings.  I also discovered a radio series, Box 13, which is a mystery series from the bygone years.  I still don't have the fascination with him that she does. (I have stated elsewhere that the only actor with whom I have ever had a fascination is John Wayne, and I will watch ANY movie featuring him.)

But Ladd is still an interesting actor.  I haven't seen enough of him to get a line on his personality, but he seems to be a pretty good actor.  Some time down the line I think I might get to a double feature of his westerns (of which he made a few), but in the meantime, being the film noir aficionado that I am, I present this pairing for the blogathon.

Appointment with Danger (1951)  

 Alan Ladd plays a postal inspector in this entry.  (Who knew post office employees could have such hair-raising adventures?)  A postal inspector has been murdered and the follow up investigation, a postal inspector named Al Goddard (Ladd) tries to figure out why.

On a rainy night in Gary Indiana, two men murder a postal inspector.  The men are played by Harry Morgan (as George Soderquist) and Jack Webb (as Joe Regas).  Yes the two men who are well known as a pair of cops from the black and white TV series Dragnet play a couple of hoodlums.  This is one of the more interesting aspects of the film.  Webb in particular plays a rather sadistic sort, although, in my opinion, Webb played every character pretty much the same way, with his rather serious demeanor and distinct staccato delivery of lines.  Actually, Morgan is pretty much identifiable too, but he has a bigger range of emotions that he can play.

In the alley where they are trying to ditch the body they are spotted by a nun, Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert).  While George distracts the nun, Joe tries to manhandle the body and George tells the sister that the friend is drunk.  She goes on her way, but tells a cop about the incident.  Instead of checking it out the cop decides to chase down a speeding car instead.

Goddard is brought in on the case after the body is discovered and the cop has confessed he didn't investigate, but the nun is named as a witness.  Goddard's first job is to track down the nun.  When he finds her he has to remind her that it is her duty to identify the man she saw because she is reluctant to get involved.  Augustine tells the Mother Superior of the nunnery that she is reluctant because she sees that Goddard has "no heart, no charity".

(I should point out at this juncture that I wholeheartedly agree with the sister.  Ladd's character is a bit of a jerk, but you can chalk up some of that as his being dedicated to his job and the enforcement of law and order. Still, all in all, I doubt if I would be willing to knock back a few with Goddard after hours.  But then again, I would be willing to bet that he is a milk drinker and doesn't imbibe anyway...)

 Regas tells his boss, Earl Boettinger (Paul Stewart), that George has become a liability.  Regas wants to kill Soderquist, but Boettinger just wants to have George leave town.  When George refuses, Joe kills him.  Joe is a really sick individual.  He also wants to kill the nun because he thinks she can identify him too.  As such he tries to arrange an accident for her, but the plan falls through and she survives.

Goddard goes undercover as a rogue agent to infiltrate the mob planning their heist.  (They are going to rob a mail truck as it is transferring a load of money from one train to another).  Joe, being the suspicious sort, does not trust Goddard.   (I would bet Joe would look crosswise if someone handed him a diamond ring and told him it was a gift...)  There is some subterfuge going on and the suspense is tight in the movie.  On more than one occasion it looks like Goddard's plans might be revealed.  But Joe, being the weak link in the chain because of his obsessive nature, causes the plans to go awry himself.

If it hadn't been for my affinity to try to make double features out of my posts here, I might never have seen this movie.  I have Hamlette to thank for that, as it is a pretty entertaining flick, although I still don't like Goddard....even if he is the good guy.  Wikipedia notes that this was the last film noir film in Ladd's career, and he goes out with a pretty good bang.

The Blue Dahlia (1946)

Alan Ladd is one of three buddies who have just been released from military service, Johnny Morrison.  He and his palls, Buzz (William Bendix) and George (Hugh Beaumont, the dad on Leave it to Beaver) are recent Navy men.  Buzz suffers from shell shock and George has poor eyesight, but Johnny is released after meritorious service.

The three get off the bus in Hollywood where Johnny is married to a woman, Helen (Doris Dowling).  He goes home where he finds things aren't exactly as he thought they would be.  His wife is carrying on an affair with another man, Eddie Harwood (Howard da Silva).

To make matters worse, Helen has a secret she kept from Johnny.  Instead of dying from leukemia as she had originally told him, Helen and Johnny's son had been killed as a result of her being drunk and wrecking the car she was driving with the son in it.  Johnny is furious and initially pulls his service revolver, with the obvious intent to shoot her.  Instead he throws the gun on a chair and storms out.  (Big mistake there, honcho...)

Johnny wanders out in the rain where he is picked up by a woman (Veronica Lake).  He tells her his name is Jimmy Moore, and it is later revealed that she is the wife of the man with whom Helen had been having an affair.  Sometime after Johnny left Helen, she was shot and killed.  Johnny is prime suspect number one of course since she was shot with his gun.

Johnny makes out that he is in trouble and realizes the only way to clear himself is to find out who really shot his wife.  His first suspect, of course, is Harwood.  The gritty film nor plays all its cards pretty straight, by leading you on through several prime suspects, one of which is Buzz.  See Buzz has a problem with short term memory and the fact that "monkey music" (jazz) makes his head ache due to the plate in his head, the source of the shell shock.

The lives of all people in the movie intertwine rather well.  And believe me, when it is finally revealed who the culprit is, you will be as surprised as I was.   Justice is served in the end, something that was not exactly common in the average film noir.  At least, not the kind of justice that was servered here, anyway.  Ladd is a much more likeable character in this outing.  (And he does drink liquor, so he isn't as much a "stick-in-the-mud" as the character in the previous movie.)

I liked both movies.  Thanks to Hamlette for running this blogathon, (even if I did have to push the car, so to speak, to get it to jump start...:-D)



  1. Even I have trouble liking Ladd's character in Appointment with Danger. But I dig that he could play a character I don't like, and like you said, it's a good noir.

    But Blue Dahlia -- oh man, that is such a good movie. Even though Ladd's character there isn't exactly a boy scout either, you really get to caring for him. Also, this is the only original screenplay my favorite author, Raymond Chandler, ever wrote (he adapted quite a few books into screenplays, too), and I love the dialog so much.

    Thanks for the jump-start :-D

    1. Morrison may not be a Boy Scout, but he's no Raven, either. Chandler did justice to it, that's for sure. I'm a dialogue person so it works on that level, too. My favorite dialogue guy, though, is William Goldman, although as far as I know he never was involved in noir work. It would have to have been neo noir if he was... Thanks for reading.

    2. William Goldman is extremely entertaining too :-)

      Yeah, Morrison's definitely no Raven! Which is why he survives to the end of the film.

      Chandler had a totally different ending written, but the military made him change it, which means the whole ending feels a wee bit contrived, but it still works.

  2. Love The Blue Dhalia, though I've always been more taken by Bendix's performance that by Ladd's.

    But as you say, the real magic is how all the characters are so intertwined.

    1. Bendix is so much more than just Chester Riley, as I've found out in recent years. Thanks for reading.

  3. I think Shane was my first film with Ladd, too - well, excluding his bit part in Citizen Kane. I also think he is a good actor, and I'm liking him more and more with each film I see.


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