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|Also Known As:||Alan Walbridge Ladd Iii,Alan "Laddie" Ladd Jr.||Died:|
|Born:||October 22, 1937||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Los Angeles, California, USA||Profession:||Producer ... producer agent studio executive|
The son of movie star Alan Ladd, Alan Ladd, Jr. forged an impressive legacy of his own as a maverick producer and studio head responsible for several of the greatest films of the late-20th century. A former Hollywood talent agent, Ladd began his career as a producer in the United Kingdom on mid-range genre films like "The Walking Stick" (1970) and "Villain" (1971). Returning home to work at 20th Century Fox, Ladd oversaw such hits as "Young Frankenstein" (1974) on his way to being named studio chief. Among his more memorable achievements was the shepherding of such genre-defining classics as "Star Wars" (1977) and "Alien" (1979) through the haphazard production process. Soon after, he formed The Ladd Company, where he produced films like the Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire" (1981) and the iconic futuristic thriller "Blade Runner" (1982). Unfortunately, the box office failure of "The Right Stuff" (1983) contributed to the shuttering of The Ladd Company in the mid-1980s, although as Chairman of MGM/UA, Ladd continued to greenlight a series of instant classics, including "Moonstruck" (1987) and "Thelma and Louise" (1991). Resurrecting The Ladd Company under Paramount, Ladd garnered another Oscar for Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" (1995) and continued his success with "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995) and its sequel before returning to work as an independent producer on such films as director Ben Affleck's "Gone Baby Gone" (2007). Revered for his keen eye for talent and unwavering standards, Ladd's reputation as one of Hollywood's top producers was well deserved.
Born on Oct. 22, 1937 in Los Angeles, he was the son of Marjorie Jane Harrold and actor Alan Ladd, the brooding star of such films as "This Gun for Hire" (1942) and "The Blue Dahlia" (1946). After his parents' separation and divorce, Ladd lived with his mother for several years before joining his father and his second wife, former agent and actress Sue Carol, in his teens. More interested in the process that took place behind the camera than in front of it, after high school Ladd studied business administration at the University of Southern California. With Cold War tensions in Eastern Europe reaching the boiling point, Ladd, who had recently left USC, was called to duty by the Air Force Reserves during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. With an expanded world view, Ladd later returned to the U.S. and Hollywood, where he took on a low-level job at Creative Management Associates. By the mid-1960s Ladd had risen through the ranks to become one of the agency's top talent agents, representing entertainment luminaries like Judy Garland as well as such up-and-comers as Warren Beatty and Robert Redford. Within five years, Ladd was ready for a new challenge so he left Creative Management in 1969 and made the move to London to try his hand as an independent film producer.
Partnering up with Elliott Kastner, Ladd's debut as a producer was on "The Walking Stick" (1970), a romantic crime drama starring David Hemmings and Samantha Eggar. Later adding producer Jay Kanter into the mix, Ladd and his partners went on to work with stars like Richard Burton, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Caine on such projects as the gangster tale "Villain" (1971), the supernatural thriller "The Nightcomers" (1971), and the love triangle drama "X, Y and Zee" (1972). With the British film industry in decline, Ladd was ready to return stateside when 20th Century Fox invited him to run their creative affairs department in 1973. Ladd's rise at the studio was, to say the least, meteoric. Within a year he was made Vice President of Worldwide Productions and by 1976 Ladd had been installed as President of 20th Century Fox. "Young Frankenstein" (1974), "The Towering Inferno" (1974) and "The Omen" (1976) were only a handful of the titles Ladd shepherded through production during his climb to the top. It was also around this time that a young filmmaker named George Lucas caught Ladd's attention and convinced the studio chief to greenlight an ambitious science fiction adventure called "Star Wars" (1977). Ladd's unwavering support of Lucas, particularly when the increasingly skeptical members of the Fox board began to call for a shut down of the costly enterprise, would later become the stuff of legend in Hollywood, cementing Ladd's growing reputation as one of the few good guys in the front office.
Ladd's track record during his tenure at Fox was nothing short of spectacular, with some of the most acclaimed films of the decade making it to the screen under his watch. Providing several of cinema's greatest actresses with their finest roles, Ladd and Fox released such heralded dramas as "The Turning Point" (1977), "An Unmarried Woman" (1978), "Norma Rae" (1978) and "The Rose" (1979). Another risky, visionary science fiction project also went on to become one of the studio's greatest triumphs under Ladd's supervision - director Ridley Scott's deep space thriller, "Alien" (1979). Despite this string of successes and his growing reputation as one of the new moguls of Hollywood - a term the unassuming executive found distasteful - Ladd yearned to get back in the business of actually producing films. In the summer of 1979, he left his multi-million dollar position at Fox to do just that. Ladd immediately founded The Ladd Company, based at Warner Bros., in a deal that encompassed both film production and distribution. True to form, Ladd came out of the gate at full speed with the Academy Award-winning sports drama "Chariots of Fire" (1981), immortalized with its stirring theme music by the composer Vangelis.
Still willing to put his company's muscle behind a daring science fiction production, Ladd and his partners turned out such special effects spectaculars as "Outland" (1981), starring Sean Connery. The following year saw another collaboration with Ridley Scott on the visionary dystopian masterpiece, "Blade Runner" (1982), featuring Harrison Ford in an adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? While neither film experienced great commercial success during its initial run, "Night Shift" (1982), a low-budget comedy directed by recent actor-turned-director Ron Howard and co-starring an unknown by the name of Michael Keaton delivered a surprise hit for The Ladd Company. However, a string of increasing expensive box office failures the next year - including Bob Fosse's lurid true crime melodrama "Star 80" (1983), the George Lucas-produced animated feature "Twice Upon a Time" (1983), and the critically acclaimed space program docudrama "The Right Stuff" (1983) - put The Ladd Company on the verge of bankruptcy. And although the low-brow cop comedy "Police Academy" (1984) provided a bit of financial relief, by the time Sergio Leone's staggering crime epic "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984) was released, Ladd had already closed his company and taken a high paying position with another studio.
In 1983 Ladd became the Chairman and CEO of MGM/UA, where he oversaw successful franchise sequels like "Rocky IV" (1985) and "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" (1986). Even more acclaimed were the romantic entanglements and real-world drama found in the films "Moonstruck" (1987), "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988) and "Rain Man" (1988), all of which were mounted under the guidance of Ladd. One of Ladd's final projects as the MGM/UA head proved to also be one of his, and the director's, most successful: the unconventional road movie "Thelma and Louise" (1991), a smash hit that starred Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis and introduced the country to a young Brad Pitt. Two years later, Ladd left the executive world once more and revived The Ladd Company under the corporate umbrella of Paramount Pictures. Soon he had another acclaimed box office hit on his hands with the period biopic "Braveheart" (1995). Directed by Mel Gibson, who starred as Scottish folk hero William Wallace, its Best Director and Best Picture wins earned statuettes for both Gibson and Ladd. And while comedies like the good-natured send ups "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995) and its enjoyable "A Very Brady Sequel" (1996) provided The Ladd Company with further box office rewards, disappointing projects like the costly comic strip adventure movie "The Phantom" (1996) once again put the enterprise on the ropes.
With MGM/UA, Ladd served as executive producer on "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1998), an adaptation of Dumas 'swashbuckling adventure starring Leonardo DiCaprio, before leaving the studio to return to his roots as an independent producer. Subsequent projects in this capacity included the bucolic drama "An Unfinished Life" (2005), directed by Lasse Halström and starring Ladd's former client Robert Redford. He later teamed with actor Ben Affleck for the leading man's directorial debut, "Gone Baby Gone" (2007), an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel and starring the director's brother Casey Affleck as a young detective trying to locate a kidnapped girl in Boston's grim underbelly. While battling in the courts with former filmmaking partner Warner Bros. over unpaid revenues for Ladd Company films sold to television outlets, Ladd received some good news in the form of his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the fall of 2007. When a jury in the case against Warner Bros. initially found Ladd in favor, the studio immediately launched an appeal. With the earlier verdict upheld in the court of appeals, Warner Bros. eventually settled with Ladd for an undisclosed amount in 2011.
By Bryce P. Coleman
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