Alan Ladd 3-Movie Roundup

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And now back to the diary of my Alan Ladd movie binge. This trio of pictures spans 16 years and has Ladd playing two doctors and a lumberjack.

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And Now Tomorrow (1944): Good romantic medical drama about an heiress, Emily (Loretta Young), who goes deaf after contracting meningitis. After exhausting every known treatment, she accepts she will never hear again and goes on with her life, which means marrying Jeff (Barry Sullivan) who’s having an affair with Emily’s sister Janice (Susan Hayward). Emily’s doctor (Cecil Kellaway) brings in a young new associate, Dr. Vance (Ladd), who tries out his experimental and possibly dangerous new serum on Emily while also teaching her a few things about her privileged life, and the two fall in love. I really liked the interaction between Ladd and Young here. Initially Vance judges Emily harshly, by her parents’ money and actions, which impacted his family when he was a boy. It isn;t fair, but it’s that tough love, administered by a cool and distant but still charming Ladd, that challenges Emily’s worldview and opens her eyes to the plight of the poor all around her. Emily’s curious about Vance’s actions and motives, and the first night she begs to go with him on a call, she shows she has a big heart and ends up assisting him in an emergency surgery on a dying child. By being useful to someone for more than her money, apparently for the first time in her life, she learns the value of work and humility and becomes someone Vance can love.

Emily’s not nearly as spoiled as Vance thinks, nor is he as prickly and unfeeling as he pretends to be, and the way these two learn those things about each other, makes for a relationship nicely woven into her treatment process, with twists like Vance getting an opportunity to move on to another city and better lab, and his discovery that Emily’s being cheated on and married out of pity. Young plays deaf very well, she carefully reads peoples’ lips and studies their expressions, and speaks in a softer monotone, and when she realizes her hearing is restored, her disbelief and joy is affecting. The scenes where she has fun surprising everyone with her hearing are great, and quickly turn into a shock for her, when Hayward tricks Sullivan into telling which woman he really loves. Directed by Irving Pichel from the Rachel Field novel.

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Botany Bay (1952): This is a story much like Two Years Before the Mast (1946), in that Ladd plays a man wrongly taken prisoner on an excruciatingly long sea voyage and mistreated by a sadistic captain. Both movies have the same director, John Farrow, but they’re different enough to both be entertaining in their own right. In this story, Ladd is Hugh Tallant, a medical student cleared of the “crime” of stealing back his own inheritance from a crooked executor, but evil Captain Gilbert (James Mason) won’t bother waiting a day to see that pardon. He sets sail for Botany Bay penal colony with Hugh on board, because he could use a doctor and another man to torment. Hugh’s attempts to escape earn him a flogging and a charge of mutiny, and the more Hugh acts and speaks out against Gilbert’s inhumane treatment, or tries to help the women and children locked up and dying below, things get worse for him. Gilbert orders a keelhauling and is dismayed when Hugh survives it; their battle goes on right through their arrival and camp at Australia, where Gilbert almost wins before being killed by an Aborigine’s spear, and Hugh finds mercy from the Governor.

Patricia Medina plays an intelligent prisoner who tries to stay on the Captain’s good side so she can share his luxurious living quarters and good meals, but she also has something juicy to blackmail him with, and plays that card once she falls for Hugh. Mason is, as usual, fantastic, and makes a memorable and relentless villain.

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Guns of the Timberland (1960): Ladd is lumberjack Jim, who arrives at Deep Well along with his partner Monty (Gilbert Roland) and large crew (including Noah Beery Jr.). The loggers may have the legal right to start clearing the forest, but as rancher Laura (Jeanne Crain) tells Jim, the townspeople won’t let them do it, since it’ll mean rains will wash out all their topsoil, destroy the ranches and leave the place a ghost town. When the loggers push back, Laura’s foreman Clay (Lyle Bettger) resorts to blocking roads with dynamite and trees, and things escalate until Monty and Jim’s friendship is ruined and all must work together to stop a raging forest fire.

Frankie Avalon gets a couple songs in his role as Laura’s ward, he looks up to Jim, has spats with his sweetheart, played by Ladd’s daughter Alana, and ends up collateral damage in the Deep Well war. Every time Laura and Jim think they’ve made progress, come closer to understanding each other and made headway in a working and romantic relationship, someone else destroys the truce. The ending felt terribly rushed, and I’d call it a lesser Ladd western, but it was still interesting, featured gorgeous colour photography, and Crain had a strong role. Directed by Robert D. Webb and adapted from a Louis L’Amour book.

Previously in my Alan Ladd festival: Salty O’Rourke, The Black Knight, The McConnell StoryThe Badlanders, The Deep Six, The Red BeretThe Great Gatsby, The Big Land, SantiagoChicago 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.

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20 thoughts on “Alan Ladd 3-Movie Roundup”

  1. Great stuff, Kristina!

    I’m not sure why this sentence — “This trio of pictures spans 16 years and has Ladd playing two doctors and a lumberjack” — had me chuckling, but it did. Perhaps it reminded me of Tom Lehrer’s “Hunting Song”?

    1. ha! I wasn’t familiar with that at all and just googled/watched on YT, so thanks for the chuckle! “…2 doctors, 7 loggers and a purebred cow.”

  2. Of these I’ve only seen Guns of the Timberland, which I’d agree is one of his lesser westerns. Still and all, I don’t dislike it as it does look very good and I’ve a soft spot for Louis L’Amour adaptations generally.

    1. Same here, it looked nice, had enough there to keep me interested, and Crain was super in it, so no wasted time there. I’m a broken record on this, but I’ve had a good time with all these films. I either like Ladd or movies way too much 🙂

  3. Done it again! Another interesting Ladd threesome, Kristina. “And Now Tomorrow” is Ladd at his peak and with a great cast.
    I watched “Guns Of The Timberland” only a week ago and would also describe it as one of his lesser westerns. Still enjoyed it though; it was the last of his Jaguar productions and I thought Crain was great in it.
    I was especially intrigued when watching it to see his daughter Alana Ladd. We have a brand new granddaughter named Alana. I commented to my daughter and son-in-law about how I enjoyed the Ladd connection.
    Their response – “Who is Alan Ladd”!!!!

    1. Can’t let him be forgotten, doing our small part with these discussions. That’s so cute, what a nice name. Agree about Guns being enjoyable, I liked Crain and their relationship, great-looking film too.

      And Now Tomorrow, and most of my favourites of this binge, hit that sweet spot for Ladd, where he seems like a bit of a jerk or is guarded, but is clearly a good guy at heart. Loved him and Young together, wouldn’t think of them as a good combo but for example, those scenes where they first meet, and he doesn’t realize she’s deaf, they did nice work together. I’ll admit that I left that one late since I prefer adventure/action/western and didn’t expect much, but really liked it. Thanks for reading!

  4. Haven’t seen any of these, sadly. I really need to get into some Alan Ladd.

    Shh. Between you and I, for years whenever I heard his name I thought of Alan Alda who I’ve seen in a number of films. Still do it, sometimes. For shame, I know.

    Great post.

    1. It’s almost an anagram! Well hopefully you find some good titles among all these that grab you, and I haven’t even covered his most famous ones like Shane, This Gun for Hire, etc. if you need more suggestions. Thanks!

  5. Will this Laddathon every end? Not complaining, mind you. I’ve seen two out of the three: “And Now Tomorrow” and “Guns of the Timberland.” The first is a great romance and “Guns” is great because it has Jeanne Crain in it. I’ll watch anything she’s in. I need to start a Crainathon! Anyway, great fun reading your reviews.

    1. Almost done, I have maybe 4-5 or so that I haven’t seen so why stop now! Agree about Crain and she was gorgeous in this. And agree about And Now Tomorrow, I saw China some years ago and really like Young and Ladd as a screen couple. Thanks!

      1. I read that Ladd and Young didn’t get along during the filming of “China” and Ladd vowed never to work with Young again. Well, then there’s “Now Tomorrow.” If that story is true just goes to show what pros Ladd and Young were.

  6. been years since i’ve seen this trio of Ladd titles. I am getting that ladd urge and have one ready to go in a couple days. Watched one with Dad, just like old times since he’s visiting. It’s your fest that got me thinking Ladd title to share with Dad. Thanks. He was always a fan as well.

    1. Good to hear! Can’t wait to see which one you picked. I’ll miss seeing him so often once I’m through these. But there’s always re-watching!

  7. Nice to see another set of Ladd reviews from you! 🙂 I liked AND NOW TOMORROW and wish it had been on that TCM set. The medical “stuff” was a bit off for me, but I found that there was more subtlety in plot and characterization than came across in my first viewing. Great supporting cast too. It’s odd to say but Young’s hairstyle bothered me here — it somehow looked out of proportion when she and Ladd were together. Comparing BOTANY BAY with TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST, I liked the latter better. Funny thing was, I remember thinking TYBTM would have been better in color. Something just seemed missing from BB. Loved the matchup between Ladd and Mason, though. GUNS OF THE TIMBERLAND I haven’t seen — I won’t be expecting a classic, but it should be fun. I haven’t seen Crain all that much so I’ll be interested to see her, and also Alana Ladd.

    1. Thanks, and nice to see another comment with your thoughts! Yes, ANT was a nice surprise, liked his character there and the way he pushes Young’s character out of her comfort zone. I watched Ladd and Young in China some years ago and can’t recall much about it, so I might revisit that one. Agree about TYBTM, I liked Ladd and his character better in that one, as well as the dynamic with the crew, Bendix, Donlevy, etc., really missed that element in BB.

  8. I guess this is a spoiler, but I’ve read Rachel Field’s book that the film starring Loretta Young and Alan Ladd is based on. Plot is a bit different, in that Young’s character is only engaged to Sullivan’s character when her sister steals him away. I wonder why Hollywood changed it to her being married to Sullivan? The engaged pair would meet the Hays Code better than having a married woman falling for Alan Ladd’s doctor. Oh well!

    1. No, you’re right they did keep that in the movie, I might not have been clear with my wording there 🙂 but she’s made Sullivan wait while she gets treatment (before meeting Ladd) and decided to go ahead with marrying him, but the wedding never happens once Hayward forces the issue. Good story isn’t it?

      1. Yes it is. The book points out very well the class distinctions in this New England mill town. How Young, Hayward, and Sullivan’s characters are all from the rich families in the town, and run with the Country Club and Ivy Leaguers. Ladd-my only other beef, is that he doesn’t fit the description of the young doctor, who is from one of the many immigrant families who lived on the wrong side of the tracks and worked the mills. He’s described as tall, dark and swarthy-I imagined Victor Mature in the role!

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