Alan Ladd commits suicide
January 29, 1964
An actor, famous for his brooding, emotionally troubled roles, ends his own life.
In his desert home in Palm Springs, CA, the 50-year-old actor Alan Ladd was found dead from a fatal combination of alcohol and sedatives. The verdict that this lethal cocktail was not an accidental overdose was given weight by the fact that little more than a year before, in November 1962, Ladd had nearly killed himself with a self-inflicted gun wound. Ladd’s life had never been a happy story. After his father died when he was only four, Ladd found himself being dragged across the country by his alcoholic mom (who herself commited suicide years later by swallowing ant poison). In high school, desperate to gain social standing from his 5’5” stature, he buckled down and became an Olympics-bound swimmer/diver, only to be cut at the end by an injury. As an actor, again he found his height kept him down, as he was more often than not pushed into the extras line as too short for speaking part. In 1942, his luck seemed to turn when he was cast as the handsome, brooding hitman in This Gun For Hire. The chilling, romantic figure of the handsome stranger haunted by his past became Ladd’s specialty for nearly two decades, perfecting it in his most famous role as Shane. While Ladd had a hard time accepting his accomplishments, growing more and more depressed and ratcheting up his drinking in later years, others have acknowledged his seminal role in creating the modern anti-hero. On January 30, a day after his suicide, the New York Times stated in his obituary, “That the old fashioned motion picture gangster with his ugly face, gaudy cars, and flashy clothes was replaced by a smoother, better looking, and better dressed bad man was largely the work of Mr. Ladd.”