The Alan Ladd Fest Continues


Time for another triple feature in my ongoing look at Alan Ladd’s movies. In today’s group, we have two WW2 stories centered on a military man hesitant to fight or lead, plus one western remake of a crime classic.


The Red Beret (1953) is a good war movie, a streamlined example of the “training-bonding-mission” plot formula. Ladd is a charming paratrooper pretending to be Canadian, so he can hide his USAF past and his guilt about ordering a man to his death. As he trains, he falls for parachute rigger (Susan Stephen), reluctantly opens up to her, and though he’s skilled and a natural leader, he refuses any promotion that would again give him responsibility over men’s fates. Poor Stanley Baker, he gets beaten up in a comically cool assault by Ladd during training, and then is killed in a shocking mishap. Leo Genn is fantastic as the kindly Major who has impressive aim when it comes to flinging his beret across the room and landing it on a hook (loved that moment, producer Albert Broccoli and writer Richard Maibaum repeated that trick later with 007). Genn plays Major Snow, a character based on the real Lt. Frost whose mission at Arnhem bridge was also depicted in A Bridge Too Far (1977). Here the focus is more on the mystery of Ladd’s character, and he does a great job with his likable way of mixing brooding with wisecracks, and being both vulnerable and aloof.


The Deep Six (1958), directed by Rudolph Maté, made a good companion to Red Beret, since both movies look at a man’s reluctance in battle. Here Ladd plays a Navy gunnery officer who doesn’t think his pacifist Quaker upbringing will prevent him from fighting, but is quickly branded a coward when he hesitates to fire on enemy aircraft (which turns out to be friendly!). James Whitmore is a sympathetic skipper who nevertheless reassigns Ladd and must be convinced when Ladd claims he’s found the will to fight. Keenan Wynn is a tough Lieutenant who rides Ladd hard, out of equal parts hatred for the enemy, Pearl Harbor survivor guilt, and an effort to hide his own cancer pain and morphine addiction. The prominent romance plot concerns Ladd’s struggle to fit career girl Dianne Foster into his life and vice versa, and the ship’s doctor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is an encouraging, matchmaking and morale boosting friend. Such scenes of bonding are reflected among the sailors (including Joey Bishop), as they make and lose buddies, brawl and womanize on leave, and make an Olympic sport of volleying quips. Best of all was the genuine warmth between Ladd and William Bendix, whose chatty, funny, loyal and heartbreaking Chief petty officer was a huge highlight. Liked this movie for those interactions and for good action, but the balance of serious subjects with comic relief didn’t always work for me, and Ladd’s character was hard to understand in his final “test.” After he proves to himself and others that he is indeed brave, he volunteers for a challenging rescue mission, confident that he’s “cured” of his yips, but once again in the heat of battle, he freezes, wastes valuable time and puts his men in danger before shooting back.


The Badlanders (1958): Saw this one years ago but it faded from memory enough to count as new-ish and therefore eligible for this Ladd-a-thon. Delmer Daves directs this western take on The Asphalt Jungle, wherein Ladd, fresh out of prison, plots the heist of a gold mine, and strikes a sneaky deal to sell the gold back to the mine’s owner (Kent Smith). Ladd gets the help of fellow ex-con Ernest Borgnine, who doesn’t much like Ladd but used to own the land over the mine and is just as unwelcome in town. The romance between Borgnine and Katy Jurado is sweet, touching and totally believable (no wonder, they were soon married in real life). The movie might, as some reviewers say, pale in comparison to Huston’s noir, but I had a great time watching. It was solid and satisfying, with much to enjoy in the emphasis on action, the comfortable chemistry between all the actors, the lighter ending and colourful cinematography. When Laddand Borgnine are joined by explosive expert (“powder monkey”) Nehemiah Persoff, their “heist” scenes are suspenseful, as they time their hammering and blasting in the abandoned shaft so the noise blends in with the work going on nearby.

Previously: The Great Gatsby, The Big Land, Santiago, Chicago Deadline, Drum Beat, Hell Below ZeroRed Mountain, Thunder in the East, The Iron Mistress, The Man in the NetWhispering SmithCalcutta, O.S.S., Two Years Before the Mast, BrandedAppointment with Danger.


15 thoughts on “The Alan Ladd Fest Continues”

  1. Yay!!

    Of this batch I’ve only seen THE DEEP SIX, which I felt was “clunky” yet enjoyed. The really funny thing was that when I saw the movie and was reading up on Dianne Foster, I realized her son is our family’s oral surgeon! Haven’t seen him since that discovery but if we ever do I will tell him how much I enjoy his mom. 🙂

    Thanks for continuing the Ladd fest, really enjoying it!

    Best wishes,

    1. That’s neat! I bet he’d be thrilled to hear it. Ladd and Foster in Deep Six, and Borgnine and Jurado in Badlanders are nice examples of adult romance. I liked the routine Ladd says he got from a book, on date night with Foster: soft music, fireplace, lost the key to the door, etc. 🙂 fun. Also the drawing bit, portraits of the people he loves, Foster and Bendix. Some things I didn’t love about that movie but enjoyed it overall anyway.

    2. Laura, that’s so interesting about Dianne Foster’s son! She’s long been a familiar face in my family circle, where she’s known as “the second choice girl.” Not a reflection on her worth or talents, but because she seems to specialize in playing women who get the hero on the rebound from another woman… examples being: The Kentuckian, The Violent Men, Three Hours to Kill, Bad for Each Other, & Night Passage.

      Kristina, I’ve heard it claimed that Stanley Baker’s voice was dubbed in Red Beret. but you didn’t mention it in your review, and I think you would have noticed it… now I’m thinking it’s probably a cyber myth?

      1. Yes, that’s true about Foster, funny. Baker was indeed dubbed here and get killed kind of early on, after being a tough taskmaster in training, his chute fails to open. Broccoli used him again with Ladd in Hell Below Zero, without dubbing :).

        1. Thanks for adding that information! I wonder why they dubbed him here, and not in Hell Below Zero? (he made a good villain in that.) Gee, getting killed off early, and then dubbed, is adding insult to injury (lol).

  2. Oh goody – more great tales of the Ladd!
    I have seen all three but neither of the two war films recently enough to really remember. However I watched “THE BADLANDERS” only recently. I think it’s another successful Ladd western. Although both it and its noir predecessor were based on Wiliam R. Burnett’s novel I prefer to not make comparisons but treat them very much as individual films.
    And, Kristina, in your mention of the ‘bit of business’ with the hat on the rack in both ‘Red Beret’ and 007, let us not forget that director Terence Young was responsible for not only the Ladd film but also some early Bond films. So another nice little connection.

    1. Yes, yes, how could I forget! (I was in a rush, that’s how) thank you! I loved that hat toss 🙂 it really stood out, and I liked seeing that angle on the Frost story too. Agree about Badlanders, enjoyed it as much as I remembered and it totally stands on its own in my opinion.

  3. The only one of these I can comment on is THE BADLANDERS, and I just saw that recently too. Really liked it, for all the same reasons you mentioned. I thought the location filming was really good. I LOVED Ladd’s character here as sort of a smart ass, a bit unsavory but still a handsome rogue– while he often played tough this was a different kind of character and it was great fun. I wish he had had the opportunity to develop his character acting talents more and give us more films. The rest of the cast was good too and I feel the film suffers from its inevitable comparison to the Huston film. It wasn’t a perfect film but certainly recommended. I must say it was a weird feeling to see the MGM logo at the beginning of a Ladd film! 🙂

    1. Same here re Badlanders, Ladd was great fun in it and watching all these movies, I’ve really enjoyed the ones with a strong buddy/adversary relationship, here with Borgnine, unpredictable but increasingly friendly. Good and different enough to be its own thing. Another good group, haven’t disliked one yet and gaining appreciation for Ladd all the time.

  4. Thanks for this look at Ladd’s work. I’ve only seen the film that got his career in films rolling, This Gun for Hire, his most famous role, Shane, and a quieter western he made with Olivia de Haviland-The Proud Rebel. The three you examined here sound interesting and fun-I’ll be searching them out for future viewings.

    1. This is an education and entertaining for me, to fill in most of his career this way. Love the movies you mention, hopefully you get inspired to see some of these too. Loved all the westerns I’ve seen in this run and a few more to come! Thanks for reading.

  5. Another most inspired threesome,
    I’m enjoying this series so much I don’t
    want it to end.
    THE BADLANDERS is very minor
    Delmer Daves…too much stuff in the mine for me
    but it has it’s moments.
    A rare big screen role for Claire Kelly-I thought
    she was terrific in SNOWFIRE which has generated
    lots of on-line buzz for a minor film.
    Laura has said that she may review SNOWFIRE soon,
    really looking forward to that.
    Ha! that’s the second time i’ve put Laura on the spot
    today-I am however aware the extent of her “to be viewed”
    backlog 🙂

    THE DEEP SIX is my least fave of the
    threesome and oddly it’s an “unofficial” remake
    of TORPEDO ALLEY. Even odder that TORPEDO ALLEY’s
    screenwriter Warren Douglas has a bit part in THE DEEP SIX

    1. You and me both don’t want it to end! I think I have enough for one or two more posts and then I’ll really miss seeing Mr. Ladd every day! But the nice thing is there are enough unseen movies here that I can do a lot more of these runs. My next post reveals who might be the next featured star. I just dvr’d SNOWFIRE couple weeks ago, so I might check that out soon then. Deep Six was my least fave of not only these but also in the lower group of the Ladds so far, but even so, I can’t say I disliked any.

  6. I haven’t seen The Deep Six so I can’t comment on that. The Red Beret felt somewhat soapy to me last time I saw it and I went away feeling less than satisfied – it has its moments but just not enough of them for me.
    The Badlanders is the best of this bunch in my opinion, not as dark or fatalistic in tone as Huston’s film and that changes it enough to make it a worthy remake. The Borgnine/Jurado dynamic is very strong, and is the highlight of the movie; it’s part of the soulful sensibility I expect to see Daves bring to a production and it’s very welcome.

    1. Agree on everything you said about Badlanders, loved Borgnine and Jurado and the lighter tone. Both Deep Six and Red Beret have romance and some comic moments mixed in with the action and tragedy, but the mixture worked a lot better for me in RB, but Bendix and Ladd in DS was great and helped make up for my complaints there. Nice thing is I haven’t been overly disappointed by any of these. Thanks!

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