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A hired killer dodges police while tracking down the enemy agents who tried to frame him.
In San Francisco, during World War II, Philip Raven, a cold-blooded hired killer, awakens fully dressed from his late morning sleep to carry out a job. He is to murder Albert Baker, a chemist in possession of Nitrochemical Corporation's formula for poison gas, which he is using to blackmail the Los Angeles-based company. Raven mercilessly kills Baker and his secretary after retrieving the formula, and is paid $20,000 in ten-dollar bills by Willard Gates, an executive for Nitrochemical and an independent nightclub owner. Gates immediately registers the numbers on the bills with the police and claims that Raven stole the $20,000 from Nitrochemical's paymaster. Vacationing Los Angeles police lieutenant Michael Crane is assigned to the case. Coincidentally, Gates hires Michael's fiancée, Ellen Graham, who performs a singing magic act, to work at his Neptune Club in Los Angeles. Both men are unaware that Ellen is working undercover for Senator Burnett to determine Gates's involvement in the sale of the poison gas plans to the enemy. Raven outwits Michael and the police at his boardinghouse and, realizing that Gates has double-crossed him, follows him onto the train to Los Angeles. Ellen is forced to postpone her wedding plans because of her commitment to Burnett, and unwittingly shares her seat on the train to Los Angeles with Raven. When she notices that he has stolen five dollars from her purse, she demands the return of the money, but graciously refrains from turning him in. In the morning, Gates sees Raven and Ellen asleep on the same seat and suspects that they are in collusion with each other. He alerts the Los Angeles police, who then search the disembarking passengers, looking for a man with a distended wrist, Raven's most distinguishing feature. Raven takes Ellen hostage and eludes the police. Later he plans to shoot her in a condemned building, but is interrupted by a demolition crew, and Ellen escapes. Alvin Brewster, the elderly and powerful owner of Nitrochemical, reprimands Gates for losing Raven and insists that he determine Ellen's connection to the killer. Gates invites Ellen to his Hollywood mansion for dinner that night, and when she innocently lies about her seat partner on the train, he orders his chauffeur, Tommy, to get rid of her. Tommy knocks Ellen out and ties her up, intending to dump her in the river later as a mock suicide. Michael, meanwhile, returns to Los Angeles and, on a tip from a chorus girl, goes to Gates's house looking for Ellen. As Ellen is hidden in a closet, Michael leaves without her, but Raven, who has tracked Gates, knocks Tommy down a flight of stairs and rescues Ellen. Promising she will not be harmed, Raven takes her to the Neptune Club, but is unable to exact his revenge on Gates because Michael is there. Raven then escapes with Ellen, who surreptitiously leaves a trail of her monogrammed playing cards for Michael to follow. The fugitives hide in a shack in the railroad yards surrounded by the police, and form a bond when they each discover how Gates has betrayed them. When a cat comes into the shack, the hardened killer fondles the animal, but is forced to kill it when it nearly gives away their location. Raven reveals to Ellen the abuse he endured as an orphan child, which warped his wrist and led him into a life of crime. Touched, she urges him not to kill Gates, but to help his country by getting a signed confession of Gates's disloyalty. Raven initially resists her suggestion, but, having learned to trust her, agrees to the plan the next morning when she helps him escape. After Raven kills a police officer during his escape, Michael urges a reticent Ellen to reveal her involvement. Although Ellen refuses to speak, Michael correctly guesses that Raven is headed for the Nitrochemical Corp. building. Raven infiltrates the building and holds Brewster, a fifth columnist, and a sniveling Gates hostage, and insists that the traitors sign a written confession. Brewster's heart fails and he dies, and Raven kills Gates before being shot by Michael, who has entered the secured room from a painter's scaffolding. Raven resists killing Michael out of friendship for Ellen and is gunned down by the police. With his last breath, Raven seeks Ellen's assurance that she did not turn him in to the police, and, after receiving her absolution, he dies.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 13 May 1942|
|Release Date:||1942||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures, Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Paramount Pictures, Inc.|
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User Ratings & Review
Two newcomers Ladd, and Lake, are dynamite together in an otherwise mediocre plot, especially the corny ending. Imagine trying to do a remake without these...
Alan Ladd's First Major Film Role
Bruce Reber 2012-03-21
I watched "This Gun For Hire" on TCM again late Tuesday night 3/20/12 (actually 1:30 AM Wednesday 3/21/12), and it's a very powerful early...
Love this film
I just saw this movie a few days ago for the first time and loved it. I enjoyed Ladd's portrayal of a totally cold and amoral character. A shame...