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Alan Walbridge Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964) was an American actor and film and television producer. Ladd found success in film in the 1940s and early 1950s, particularly in Westerns, such as Shane (1953), and in films noir. He was often paired with Veronica Lake in noirish films, such as This Gun for Hire (1942), The Glass Key (1942), and The Blue Dahlia (1946). His other notable credits include Two Years Before the Mast (1946), Whispering Smith (1948), which was his first Western and color film, and The Great Gatsby (1949). His popularity diminished in the mid-1950s, though he continued to appear in numerous films, including his first supporting role since This Gun for Hire in the smash hit The Carpetbaggers in 1963.
Despite Alan Ladd’s fathering 3 children, he frequented hot spots in Hollywood’s gay subculture. He was a regular at gay director George Cukor’s Sunday afternoon pool parties attended by closeted celebrities & attractive young men from the bars & gyms. His dream role was as gay adventurer T.E. Lawrence and Ladd lobbied hard for the role when it was announced that a film was to be made in 1962. But, director David Lean rejected the idea, casting Peter O’Toole in Lawrence Of Arabia, a disappointment from which Ladd never recovered. He may have realized that his time as a leading man was coming to an end, and his closeted gayness might also have contributed to his emotional state at the end of his life. Shortly after his 50th birthday, Ladd was found dead in his Palm Springs home from an overdose of sedatives & alcohol, an apparent suicide. Ironically his last role was that of a washed-up actor in The Carpetbaggers (1964).
Ladd married Marjorie Jane "Midge" Harrold, a high school sweetheart, in October 1936. Their only child, Alan Ladd, Jr., was born on October 22, 1937. They divorced in July 1941 and she died in 1957, having remarried.
On March 15, 1942, Ladd married his agent and manager, former film actress Sue Carol in Mexico City. They intended to be remarried in the U.S. in July because Ladd's divorce from his first wife was not final. Carol had a daughter from a previous marriage, Carol Lee (b. July 18, 1932), whom Alan and Sue raised. In addition, they had two children of their own, Alana (born April 21, 1943, when Ladd was in the army) and David Alan (1947).
On November 2, 1962, Ladd was found lying unconscious in a pool of blood with a bullet wound near his heart. The bullet penetrated Ladd's chest around the third and fourth rib, through the lungs, and bounced off the rib cage. At the time, Ladd said he thought he heard a prowler, grabbed a gun, and tripped over, accidentally shooting himself. This was accepted by the police investigating.
In January 1964, after injuring his knees, Ladd hoped to recuperate at his house in Palm Springs. On January 29, 1964, his butler said that he saw Ladd on his bed at 10 am; when he returned at 3:30 pm, Ladd was still there, dead. His death, due to cerebral edema caused by an acute overdose of alcohol, a barbituate, and two tranquilizers containing at least two depressants, was ruled accidental. Ladd suffered from chronic insomnia and regularly used sleeping pills and alcohol to induce sleep. While he had not taken a lethal amount of any one drug, the combination apparently caused fatal interaction. Suicide was ruled out. He was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. Ladd's funeral was held on February 1, with Edmond O'Brien giving the eulogy. Fans were allowed to see his coffin. He was buried with his wedding ring and a letter that his son David had written to him. Ladd died a wealthy man, with his holdings including a 5,000-acre ranch at Hidden Valley and a hardware store in Palm Springs. After he died, The Carpetbaggers was released and became a financial success.
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