This Gun for Hire
It takes a special breed of man to open a movie by waking up in his clothes and then slapping around a maid for being mean to a kitten. And Alan Ladd is that man. His Philip Raven is a San Francisco hired killer contracted to murder a chemist so that his employer can blackmail a Los Angeles company—which he does, for $20K, throwing in a chemist’s secretary for free. Given that this 1942 noir staple is based on a Graham Greene novel, some double-crosses are coming—starting with Raven’s employer, Willard Gates (Laird Cregar), who pays Raven with stolen banknotes, sparking an intricately winding cat and mouse game with detective Michael Crane (Robert Preston) tailing Raven and a minor nightclub detour where Gates’ ice-queen fiancée, Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake), performs and may be doing a little double-crossing undercover work of her own. The clunky B-plot is easier to follow than it is to synopsize, thanks entirely to Ladd’s performance as an immovable object in a trench coat—though this Ladd-Lake snake dance is tame compared to the boozy, Raymond Chandler-penned wallop of 1946’s The Blue Dahlia.