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Passed | 1h 21min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 26 May (Canada) When assassin Philip Raven shoots a blackmailer and his beautiful female companion dead, he is paid off in marked bills by his treasonous employer who is working with foreign spies. Stars: Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake.
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Then, after all that violence, we see him help a disabled little girl retrieve her ball. All of these actions add up to a character that does not fit the simplistic dichotomy of good or bad presented in most Hollywood productions.
When Raven is betrayed by his boss Willard Gates Laird Cregar , he goes on the run, and meets a nightclub singer named Ellen Veronica Lake along the way. Ellen has just agreed to perform in the new nightclub run by Gates, and so Raven follows her from San Francisco down to LA to get his revenge. Ladd is convincing as the stoic, cold-hearted character, but also manages to sell an emotional monologue that comes late in the film.
His performance gives Raven, and therefore his own new screen persona, a mystery that makes his sudden stardom understandable. As the completely spineless villain, Cregar is perfectly cast—unlike in Joan of Paris , where he played a more conventional bad guy.
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Paramount knew they had a hit before the film even opened, and quickly reunited Ladd and Lake for a new version of The Glass Key. Buy it on DVD. His craven, thuggish sidekick Tommy completes the vaudevillian effect.
She and Raven become increasingly entangled in the Nitro Chemicals political and criminal racket. She is nevertheless, a luminous presence in the film.
Review: Frank Tuttle’s “This Gun For Hire,” Starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
Early scenes are characterised by a certain prosaic quality. Raven becomes hunted rather than hunter and increasingly inhabits the seedy nightclubs, train stations and oppressive urban locations that constitute the natural habitat of the beleaguered noir protagonist.
In the latter stages of the film, the police track Raven and Graham down in the wonderfully expressive environs of a deserted gasworks at night. Cinematographer John Seitz makes the most of this dramatic backdrop using the enigmatic play of shadows on built form to impressive effect.
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