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Doublecrossing A Killer, When he's his own Police
bkoganbing26 September 2006
The film that launched Alan Ladd's career, This Gun For Hire is a very short film like the earlier Public Enemy which gave James Cagney his stardom. This would be the normal length of a B film, but it definitely gets all it wants to say in its brief running time.

Essentially we have three stories where all the principal players get brought together in the end. The first involves Robert Preston investigating a reported payroll robbery of the firm that Tully Marshall is the president of. Note that I said 'reported robbery.' The second involves his girl friend, entertainer Veronica Lake being recruited by no one less than a United States Senator to get the goods on one of Marshall's top aides, Laird Cregar who they think is doing some fifth column work at the behest of Marshall. Finally we have contract killer Alan Ladd who's hired by Cregar to bump off Frank Ferguson who is blackmailing Marshall as to his treasonous activities. Preston, Ladd, and Lake don't know they are all on the same case, but by the end of the film they do.

Alan Ladd became Paramount's answer to Humphrey Bogart as a star of action/adventure films and noir films. This Gun for Hire launched his career. He was enormously popular through the Forties, Paramount's biggest star after Crosby and Hope. He played cynical tough guys in modern films, but then branched into westerns where for the most part he was the gallant hero. In fact the ultimate gallant white knight hero in Shane.

His part as Raven is a difficult one, yet he pulls it off. He's a cold blooded contract killer, one of the earliest ever portrayed as a film protagonist. Yet he's human and you see flashes of it, his concern for cats. As a cat lover, I can sure identify with that. Raven is also one of the earliest characters in cinema who talks about child abuse making him what he is. Groundbreaking when you think about it.

Next to Ladd, the biggest kudos have to go to Laird Cregar, borrowed from 20th Century Fox to play Willard Gates. Gates is a top company executive with Marshall's firm which is a defense contractor which is why the Senate is interested in him. He's basically a jerk who thinks he's so clever. Veronica Lake gets to him real easy because of his weakness for the nightclub scene. And he really doesn't take the full measure of Raven, even though the audience is very aware of how deadly he is.

When you think about it what Cregar and Marshall do is unbelievably stupid. They hire Ladd to kill Ferguson and then pay him with hot money, from the alleged robbery. Why would you do that? Chances are in the rackets they're involved in, they might have need of his services in the future. Not a guy to get mad at you. In fact their double cross is what sets the whole film plot in motion.

Moral is never double cross a guy who says and means that "I'm my own police."

This Gun for Hire was Director Frank Tuttle's finest film. He was a contract director for Paramount who did a whole bunch of films with their various stars in the Thirties and Forties. When he hadn't worked in a while, Alan Ladd got him a job directing him in Hell On Frisco Bay while he was at Warner Brothers and Tuttle also directed A Cry In the Night which Ladd produced. Ladd remembered and was grateful to Tuttle for helping break through into top star ranks. Ladd was like John Wayne that way, ever ready to help a colleague down on his luck.

Veronica Lake is recruited by a U.S. Senator with a fictitious name, but in fact there was a committee looking into all kinds of things like this in the Senate in regard to the conduct of the war. It was headed by a Senator from Missouri named Harry Truman who went on to higher office. I wonder if Truman liked This Gun for Hire? Veronica Lake got a big boost in her career. She and Ladd became a classic screen team as a result of this film.

This film is one great cinematic classic, so important to so many careers and still keeps you on the edge of your seat today.
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I like Cats! So says the icy cold broken wrist killer!
hitchcockthelegend4 March 2008
Phillip Raven is a hit man of no obvious moral fibre, he literally will kill anyone for the right price. After fulfilling a contract for the chocolate munching Willard Gates, he finds himself pursued by the law on account that he was paid by Gates with stolen money. Raven sets out for the ultimate revenge and dovetailing towards the explosive finale with him is sultry conjurer Ellen Graham and honest cop Michael Crane.

Based on the Graham Greene novel A Gun For Sale, this is not a straight out adaptation, the plot has been re-jigged with very impressive results. The most enlightening thing I found when reading up on the film was that the studio were so blown away by the efforts of Alan Ladd as Raven, they turned the script around to make him the films chief axis, and boy what a smart move that was for this is Alan Ladd's show all the way.

Ladd plays Raven with brilliant icy veneer, he's cold and devoid of emotion, his only trip to anything resembling caring is an affinity to cats because in his own words, "cats don't need anyone, they are on their own, just like me", the result is one of the most unnerving killers put on to the 40s cinema screens. Veronica Lake is the stunning female of the piece, she glides through the picture with ease as Ellen, a character with her own issues, but thankfully she's integral outside of any sort of romantic plot, even though she is the only one who gets close enough to Raven to learn anything about what makes him tick.

Robert Preston as Michael Crane was to be the pics focus but he becomes a mere side part thanks to Ladd's barnstorming show, and unsurprisingly Laird Cregar is suitably shifty as Gates. It's a fine film in its own right, it's tightly filmed, wonderfully scripted and contains a great noir ending, but ultimately it's all about the cold as death hit-man Raven, and the great performance by the man who played him. 8.5/10
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Great Classic
claudio_carvalho28 May 2005
Phillip Raven (Alan Ladd) is a hit-man hired by Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) to execute the blackmailer Albert Baker (Frank Ferguson) and retrieve a letter and some documents for his unknown boss. When the work is done, Raven is double-crossed by Gates, receiving marked ten dollar bills. Gates delivers the list with the serial number of the bills to the police, expecting they find and kill Raven. Meanwhile, the performer Ellen Graham (Veronika Lake), who is the fiancée of the L.A Detective Lieutenant Michael Crane (Robert Preston), is contacted by Senator Burnett (Roger Imhof) and asked to help investigating Gates. She accepts the invitation, and is hired by Gates to work in his private club in Los Angeles. The police force, leaded by Det. Crane, chases Raven for the death of Baker; Raven chases Gates and his unknown boss, expecting to kill them for their betrayal; Ellen secretly chases Gates for the government. This is the beginning of a great classic. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake have fantastic performances in this movie. Alan Ladd is magnificent in the role of a cold blood killer, needy of a friend, that loves cats. In order to show the personality of his character, there is a scene in the beginning of the story, where he almost shoots a crippled girl to eliminate any possible witness of his murder. Veronika Lake is wonderful and very gorgeous, inclusive singing two songs. I disagree with the reference of film-noir for "This Gun For Hire", since there is no "femme-fatale", no dirty cop, no weak man (other than Gates) or sordid motivation. Indeed it is a police story, showing a cold-blood hit-man without compassion, capable of killing without showing any emotion, hunting "worse guys" looking for his personal vengeance. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Alma Torturada" ("Tortured Soul")
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Nice Noir With Ladd And Lake
Terrell-412 August 2004
This is a straight-forward, linear, quick-moving story based on a much more interesting book. But it's still an entertaining movie, and probably close to required viewing if you enjoy noir and/or Forties movies.

Raven (Alan Ladd) is a hired killer, evidently without remorse or nerves, who is paid to knock off a blackmailer. The blackmailer was trying to take to the cleaners a corrupt industrialist who was coincidentally helping the enemy. (This is during WWII.) However, Raven is paid in counterfeit bills on the assumption the police will catch him when he spends the money. He discovers the plot and decides to take out the guy who hired him and the fellow, the industrialist, who was behind it all.

The movie bills Veronica Lake and Robert Preston above the title, Laird Cregar just below the title, and Alan Ladd last in big type as "Introducing Alan Ladd." Some introduction; according to IMDb, Ladd had already appeared in more than 40 films in unbilled and minor parts.

This was Ladd's breakthrough movie and he's very good in it. I don't think he was much of an actor, but he had a lot of star presence, especially in the movies he made in the Forties. There was always something passive but potentially dangerous about him. His looks could have kept him in the pretty boy category, but for whatever reason didn't. Veronica Lake, for me, is something of an acquired taste, but for whatever reason she and Ladd made an effective pairing that was repeated several times. Laird Cregar played the heavy, and he was an interesting actor. Big and fleshy, he was something of a Raymond Burr type but more versatile. Robert Preston is seldom mentioned in regard to this movie and this must have ticked him off. Here's a guy who usually played best friend of the lead, gets a good part as the lead in a solid movie -- and winds up being over-shadowed by Ladd.

The first five minutes or so of the movie are among the most efficient I've come across in establishing a major player's character and complexities. We first see Raven waking up in his rented rooms and checking the clock. Nothing out of the ordinary there. In very short order, however, he's taken a gun out, helped a stray kitten get into his room and given it some food, slapped hard and full in the face a maid who tried to kick out the cat, showed up at the blackmailer's place where he meets the blackmailer (who was supposed to be alone); the blackmailer has his "secretary" with him so he just kills them both; on the way out a little girl on the stairs asks him to get her ball which has rolled away; she sees his face, he obviously thinks about shooting her, too -- but gets the ball for her and leaves. In just a few minutes Raven's cold ruthlessness and his conflicts are established, and so is a sort of sympathy for him. These first few minutes, in my view, are what make the movie work.
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Hooray for Gates and Tommy!
theowinthrop6 July 2004
Frank Tuttle is one of those directors (like William Seiter) who is not consistently good, but who could do a terrific job now and then that retains our admiration. Seiter directed Laurel & Hardy in their best feature film, THE SONS OF THE DESERT (and turned in an above average job with the Marx Brothers in ROOM SERVICE). Tuttle did this film noir classic, and did it well. Based on a novel (or, as the author called it, an "entertainment") by Graham Greene, Tuttle made a star of Alan Ladd, and created the first of a series of films co-starring Ladd and Veronica Lake (as his cool, opposite number). He was ably abetted by a good cast of character actors: Laird Cregar, Tully Marshall, Robert Preston (at the start of his career), Marc Lawrence.... It was a terrific little thriller.

Laird Cregar's Willard Gates is one of the funniest neurotics in film noir. An overweight lady's man, he seems to go in both directions: using his money and nightclub to pick up women, and yet being a trembling tub of lard who enjoys reading "Naughty Paris at Night" while eating a box of chocolates in his private bedroom on his train. Cregar's Gates is augmented by his chauffeur - bodyguard - factotum Tommy, who has a wicked sense of ghoulish humor, and is able to make his queasy boss go nuts with fear just by describing a possible method of getting rid of Lake's prospectively dead body tied with cat gut that would disintegrate in a month (allowing her body to rise in a river, and leave her death a mystery. "Cat gut, what a horrible word!", quivers Gates. Marvelous - just look at Lawrence's grin as he speaks. He knows what he's doing.

The novel is a peculiar problem, not too frequently mentioned in discussing the film. It was set in 1935 in the midlands of England. At the beginning Raven is shown going to the office of a man who turns out to be Europe's leading peace advocate. He comes in using a letter from an unknown person. The peace advocate is happy at the recognition given to him by the letter's author and sits down to read it. In a moment Raven kills the man and then his secretary (who is a witness). This is changed in the movie to the murder of Baker, a blackmailer, and his girlfriend by Raven. The letter is from an important industrialist and munition dealer - Sir Marcus. His associate is the middle man between Sir Marcus and Raven, as Gates is in the film. But it is not in southern California in 1942 (and not dealing with treason with Japan). Instead Greene's villain is planning to help cause a new European War, for his profit.

Who is Sir Marcus? How is he different from the industrialist played by Tully Marshall? Marshall is a traitor for profit working for the Japanese Empire. Sir Marcus was Jewish.

Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh were the two greatest English Catholic novelists of the twentieth century, but in different ways. Greene's novels dealt with the issues of good and evil in us all, usually told in stories of crime or spies. Waugh wrote of a fading Catholic English aristocracy, and had a masterful sense of comedy. They complement each other as writers. Both were deserving of Nobel Prize recognition, and both failed to achieve it. Other Englishmen did get the prize (Shaw, William Golding), but they never did - though repeatedly they were recommended for it. The possible reason was their open anti-Semitism. Waugh's novels are full of Jewish stereotypes, like Augustus Fagin in DECLINE AND FALL. Greene did the same, with Sir Marcus and Colleoni in BRIGHTON ROCK. The only difference is that Greene (in later years) edited out the anti-Jewish sentiments in the novels. But if you get the original novel you have Raven (a murderer-for-hire, mind you) telling off Sir Marcus about his ancestry before shooting him. The screenplay keeps to the storyline, with the American and non-religious changes. It was all to the good, but we all should be aware of Greene's religious bigotry.
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Well worth hiring
TheLittleSongbird11 May 2019
Alan Ladd in his film debut. He and Veronica Lake together in their first collaboration of four films (the others being 'The Glass Key', 'The Blue Dahlia' and 'Saigon', the last of which the only one to not be a film noir), all at least watchable and serve them well. My love for film noir, though one could argue that the film predates it and that there are noir-ish elements. A film based on the novel 'A Gun for Sale' by one of the literary greats Graham Greene.

They are reasons enough to see any film, let alone 'This Gun for Hire'. 'This Gun for Hire' to me was an excellent film, with a huge amount to recommend it. Not quite a masterpiece but close, and its mostly positive reputation is more than understandable and am more than glad to be part of the positivity. A film most notable for the performances of the cast and its stylishness, though a lot is right with it.

From personal tastes, the ending was a touch on the heavy handed, the patriotic element being somewhat of an awkward fit, and over-sentimental side. Other than that, 'This Gun for Hire' is a winner.

Ladd's film debut is quite wonderful, can't believe it was actually a debut when he gave a performance of such icy steel. Liked a good deal of what he did and it was sad that he died too young, and still consider his performance here one of his best as one of his most demanding and most intriguing characters. Lake brings iciness, charm and vulnerability to her role and is a more than good match for Ladd, their chemistry sizzles (though it sizzles even more in 'The Blue Dahlia'). Laird Cregar plays an utter slimeball to perfection. All the cast are strong but Ladd, Lake and Cregar are the standouts here.

Credit is also due to Frank Tuttle in some of the best directing, whether visually, in direction of the cast and in keeping the story interesting and tight (all of which done never less than very well), of his career. Don't think he ever did better actually. 'This Gun for Hire' looks good, nicely shot with a lot of atmosphere. The script is taut and has an appropriate hard edge and the storytelling, while not quite as deep or as thrilling as Greene's source material, flies by and has the right amount of tension. At less than 80 minutes, would usually find that too short a length for a film but this is a not so common case of the length not being a problem.

In conclusion, excellent. 9/10
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Pay attention to the details! POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
manuel-pestalozzi13 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This Gun for Hire has an uncommon richness of details for a film noir and a terrific supporting cast. There are as many small original ideas and nuances as in an early Hitchcock movie. This Gun for Hire is impregnated with a kind of elegant sarcasm that later got lost as the noir genre became more and more minimalistic. Many scenes dug themselves deep into my memory (this is what makes watching movies so fascinating). It starts with Raven, the frail, insecure bad guy played by Alan Ladd, caring for a cat in his boarding house while someone plays harshly on a badly tuned piano somewhere in the vicinity.

Another beautiful scene: That Raven is not the hard boiled character he yearns to be is underlined by his meeting a crippled girl on the stairs that lead to the man he is to murder. On the way back after the job, the girl stops him and asks him to retrieve a ball she had let fall and cannot reach because of her impediment. First Raven wants to kill her because she is a witness. He reaches for his gun, then he hesitates and finally decides to pick up the ball, hands it over to the girl and leaves hastily. The well acted and filmed encounter does not take more than ten seconds, but it is deeply moving.

Veronica Lake sings! Apparently it was an item that her kind of character was required to deliver in a movie like this. Her curious "Hocuspocus" song, sung during an audition for a job as a conjurer, is a sheer delight! I know the refrain by heart and could recommend the film for this song alone. Never, ever have I seen someone sing with such a bored deadpan-attitude – it's fantastic! Lake is doing little conjuring tricks all along – the song's lyrics are actually commenting those tricks. And just listen to the quirky warbling of the accompanying orchestra!

Laird Cregar and Marc Lawrence constitute a memorable team as Willard Gates, the man who had framed Raven, and his chauffeur and sidekick Tommy. Willard Gates is afraid of Raven to the point of hysteria, Tommy likes nothing better than seeing his arrogant boss scared. The strange relationship between the two persists to the climactic ending during a gas-attack exercise. How Tommy happily gloats after having scared his boss by entering his office with a gas mask is a sight to behold. It is a fine example about how "Schadenfreude" can soothe a hurt self! Also notable is the character of the big schemer behind it all, a grizzled paralyzed tycoon who does not give up to the very end, trying to shoot Raven with a gun disguised as a pen. Finally he gets a heart seizure and, as his last act among the living, catapults a glass of milk from the tray fixed to his wheelchair.

Frank Tuttle belongs to Hollywood‘s lesser known directors. This film shows he could do a very good job. He added suspenseful action parts shot on location to his films; in This Gun for Hire, there are good shots of a railroad yard and of Raven fleeing over a long narrow footbridge across the tracks.
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And introducing Alan Ladd
blanche-210 February 2008
Both Alan Ladd and Tyrone Power made their film debuts in 1932's Tom Brown of Culver; by 1936, Power was a star. It took Alan Ladd a long 10 years and something like 40 films to make it, but make it he did as a cat-loving contract killer in "This Gun for Hire," also starring Veronica Lake, Laird Cregar and Robert Preston. Ladd plays Phillip Raven, a contract killer in San Francisco who is hired to "off" a blackmailer and retrieve a formula from him. What he doesn't know is that his employers paid him in marked bills and then reported him to the police as the killer of the man, hoping to get him out of the way. Their plan is to sell the formula to the Germans. A Senate committee is suspicious of one of the traitors, a night-club owner named Willard Gates (Cregar) and send in a performer, Ellen Graham (Lake) to work undercover for them, unbeknownst to her LA policeman boyfriend (Preston). Graham and Raven are mistakenly connected by Gates, and soon both are on the run from him.

"This Gun for Hire" is thickly plotted but nevertheless somehow holds the viewer's interest, most likely because of the characterizations. The diminutive, beautiful Lake is an absolute delight as a singer with a magician routine. As one of the villains, Laird Cregar creates an excellent character - a hugely built fraidy-cat who abhors violence. And Ladd's Phillip Raven, vicious though he is, is a man who learned in childhood not to trust anyone and not to get too close to anyone. He's a sad character - and this is as close to acting from Ladd as you'll get. In future films, he says his lines in a monotone, though his tough guy persona is very effective. Here, he plays a ruthless man given to outbursts as well as depression. His paired with Lake, which perhaps was continued because she was a good height for him, is heaven-sent - these are two noir actors who fit the genre perfectly, if for different reasons.

"This Gun for Hire" makes for compelling drama, but it's sad to watch as well. Cregar died two years after the film's release, at the age of 28, with what would have been a great career lost; after a failed suicide attempt (his mother was a suicide), Ladd would die of an alcohol and drug overdose at the age of 51; and the rage with her peek-a-boo hairdo, Lake, by the '50s, would be an alcoholic working as a bartender in a hotel before dying at age 54. You could say this is a "curse" film, but one can say that about so many - the lives of the people who made these classics just weren't fun. A shame, because they left us with such great work.
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Great early Noir
McGonigle28 December 2004
This is a great, compelling crime thriller that stands the test of time quite well. This would be one of the first movies I'd choose to show to a fan of recent movies who wants to explore classic thrillers but doesn't know where to start (along with "The Maltese Falcon" and one or two others). While many period pieces are "appreciated", this one still provides a jolt of adrenaline right from the opening scene, when Alan Ladd rips the maid's dress and slaps her. He's a bad man, no doubt about it, and his portrayal throughout most of the movie is surprisingly dark, even by today's standards. His character, Raven, is a man whose sole act of human compassion is not to murder a crippled orphan in cold blood, and Ladd's performance is underplayed just enough to make him chillingly believable.

This is a relatively early feature in the cycle that would later be called "film noir". A few films had begun to establish the new look and feel for the new generation of gangster movies, but the archetypal noirs were still a couple of years off. This movie is an interesting example of the early style because it visits the typical noir territory (culturally and emotionally) but avoids the stereotypical noir cast of characters. Rather than a flawed, weak man and a femme fatale, "This Gun For Hire" gives us a coldly amoral killer as the male lead and a tough, streetwise woman as the main "good guy" (her cop boyfriend spends most of the film running around frantically and accomplishing nothing).

Visually, this film is pure noir. It's directed by Frank Tuttle, who made the first version of "The Glass Key" in 1935, combining a hard-boiled gangster story and expressionist-influenced lighting. "This Gun For Hire" fits firmly into that mode, and shows that many of the stylistic trademarks of the supposedly "post-war" Noir style were firmly in place before the US had even been in WW2 for a full year. More importantly, it provides thrills, and a great dose of "the good stuff" in a neat, 81-minute-long package.
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Breath-taking Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake film noir
cyril19745 July 2004
Philip Raven (Alan Ladd) is a gun for hire. He lives alone in a small room and gives milk to a lonely cat every morning. But he doesn't seem to appreciate the company of humans. He never smiles and he won't trust anybody. He is asked by Willard Gates to kill a man and steal documents from him. After Gates paid Raven with hot money, Raven decided to find Gates to settle a score with him. In the meanwhile, a cabaret performer Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake), the girl friend of a Police lieutenant, is secretly charged by a senator to infiltrate a company – Nitro – that is suspected to sell army secrets to the Japanese. For this, she goes to an audition to be hired by Willard Gates, owner of a cabaret, but also an employee of Nitro. In the train on her way to Los Angeles, Ellen Graham meets Philip Raven, both unaware that they are involved in the same case. When they arrive in Los Angeles, the Police is after him and he has to kidnap Ellen to get away from it. Realizing they have the same enemy Ellen convinces Raven to forget his own interest and start to fight the people of Nitro in the interest of the country.

This is the first Alan Ladd Veronica Lake movie but it is also probably the best. The plot, the acting, the dialogue and the direction are so great that these make ‘This gun for hire' a classic film noir. At the beginning, the credits mention: introducing Alan Ladd. For his first leading role, the least we can say is that Ladd gives a great performance. It is obvious that his character inspired the character of Jeff in ‘Le samourai' by Jean-Pierre Melville with Alain Delon. Both characters have the same attitude and the same clothes. They live alone a small room. They never get involve in any relationship and both are very professional. They are only kind to animals and children (in `Le samourai', Delon had a bird in his room). Also, the sequence on the pedestrian bridge of the railroad has clearly its equivalent in ‘Le Samourai'. I was really impressed by the first sequence, when Ladd execute his contract and also by the sequence where Ladd and Lake are running across the city to escape from the Police (which is much of the movie). How breath-taking! This is truly great cinema, quiet a good surprise for a director (Frank Tuttle) who is not that well known. I've seen ‘The Blue Dahlia', `the Glass key' and `this gun for hire' these last three days (film noir retrospective in Oak Street Cinema, Minneapolis) in this order (reverse of the chronological one) but I must say that the quality increase in this order. ‘This gun for hire' is much darker and less funny than the movie they made together after that but it is a better film noir. Definitely a masterpiece. High recommended 9/10.
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This Gun for Hire
Scarecrow-885 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Hard-biting crime drama with a hired gun, Philip Raven(Alan Ladd, in his first starring role) who takes out a blackmailer and his secretary(she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, collateral damage)for a client, Willard Gates(Laird Cregar, HANOVER SQUARE; THE LODGER), working for the head honcho of a chemical plant. The victim, Baker, was holding onto something that would implicate Mr. Alvin Brewster(Tully Marshall), and he needed it back. When Gates and Brewster attempt to betray Raven, the movie follows his journey to get even.

Laird Cregar works as an executive for Nitro Chemical, owns an LA nightclub known as The Neptune Club, and could be associated with "foreign agents". It's his boss who hired Raven to kill the blackmailer and set up the assassin using stolen 10 dollar marked bills "stolen from the company". The elegant "magic performance artist" Veronica Lake(va va voom! What a voice and figure, these kinds of women are definitely missed)is commissioned to "go undercover" and attempt to see if Cregar is in fact a traitor to his country by performing for his Neptune club. Meanwhile Raven must elude the cops, led by detective Crane(Robert Preston), after being shanghaied by the conniving Cregar and his nefarious boss, Brewster.

Raven has a broken left wrist with a bone protruding, a nasty attitude and cold personality with one fixed facial expression devoid of any semblance of humanity, with one goal in mind and that is to find Gates and the Nitro Chemical chairman(a sickly old man confined to a wheelchair who cannot talk very loudly)to exact revenge for doublecrossing him. This is the kind of killer who can shoot a person if he or she places him in a dangerous predicament which threatens his own existence.

What a great cast. Ladd as the cold blooded professional killer, Cregar as a worried, nervy executive always bumbling into mistakes which makes his boss angry, the glamorous Veronica Lake and her sex appeal, the enthusiastic Preston, sure he will catch his man and excited(obviously)about wedding Lake as soon as her job is complete, Marc Lawrence as Cregar's trusting chauffeur, willing to kill Lake so his boss would not be harmed —it's always fun to watch a collection of talents at work. The movie's McGuffin is a formula for poison gas, Brewster in league with the dreaded Japanese, and Baker, the one killed by Raven, wanted hush money for it. It's Brewster's distrust in anyone with knowledge of the formula which eventually comes back to haunt him. Seeing Cregar all cowardly and panicky is a hoot, such a pathetic scaredy-cat he is, only caring for his own hide, concerned for his own welfare. Ladd may be a bit too good-looking for a hardened criminal, beat by his aunt as a child, this traumatizing past having shaped his Philip Raven into a killer. Preston as his dogged rival, pressed for time by his superiors to catch Ladd or else be replaced by someone who can, is interesting, cast-against-type as the good guy, even though he excels at portraying villains. Lake is top-billed and deservedly so, her overwhelming beauty an asset for any film. Movie is said to have been an inspiration in many ways to Melville's masterpiece, Le Samouraï.
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solid film-noir in all areas
aptpupil7912 September 2004
one of the things that can make a film noir great is the ability to, at each turn, make the audience think that things are going to turn out okay, and then slam the door in its face. this film is able to do just that. alan ladd doesn't get the lead billing (that honor goes to lake and preston), but make not mistake - he is the star of the film. he plays a loner hit-man and we pick up the action just before he's set to do a job. he holds up his end of the bargain, but the man who hired him pays him in marked bills in an attempt to pin a robbery on him. ladd goes on the lam, but runs into the girlfriend (lake) of a cop (preston) who is after him for having passed one of the marked bills. little does ladd, or even preston, know, but lake has been enlisted by the government to do some investigative work on the man who paid ladd for the hit with the marked dough. it's quite a criss-crossed story, but it's all very easy to follow and very fun to watch while it unfolds. lake is sworn to secrecy because of the sensitive nature of her investigation, and she has no idea that the man she meets on the train (ladd) is the same man her boyfriend is pursuing. it's not as dark a noir as detour, but the ending is surprisingly affecting and certainly dark enough to qualify as a noir. the lighting is more subtle than it is in some noir and i made a note of looking into the cinematographer on this film. my hunch was right - john seitz did the cinematography for this and such films as invaders from mars, sunset blvd., double indemnity, sullivan's travels, and big clock. it's a crime that i've never heard of the guy. but i redeemed myself by finally looking into his work after watching this film. with sunset blvd and double indemnity i probably attributed the good lighting and camera work to billy wilder and the same is true for sullivan's travels and preston sturges. at any rate, this is a good film - ladd and lake do a good job, preston is capable; the cinematography is good even though it doesn't knock you over the head with its brilliance; and the story is well-constructed despite being a little far-fetched in places. B+.
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aside from a few plot problems, a brilliant film
planktonrules13 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This was a break-out film for Alan Ladd. Up until then, he'd just been performing bit roles. Here, he is given 3rd billing, but he clearly is the star of the film.

Ladd plays a sociopathic hit-man who seems to have not one ounce of compassion for anyone--except animals. After fulfilling a contract, he meets with the super-sleazy guy who hired him (Laird Cregar) to get paid. Creger is great--he just drips sleaze and menace as well as cowardice! And, being a sleaze, he tries to get Ladd arrested by giving him money that was supposedly stolen. This point in the film actually made no sense--there was no reason to do this AND Ladd could always tell the cops about Creger.

Miraculously, Ladd escapes arrest and vows to kill Creger and the mystery man he was working for but who was not yet revealed. He meets up with Veronica Lake and she helps him escape. Now the ironies involving him meeting up with Lake is way over the top. She is ALREADY working secretly for the government spying on Creger AND her boyfriend just happens to be the cop leading the investigation of Ladd. This and the stolen money aspect bring the overall rating down to an 8--this film could have earned a 10 due to Ladd's characterization and the interesting plot (much of the time).

Instead of continuing to telling you the rest of the story and spoiling it, I will just point out that the actual story is deeper and involves selling poison gas to our enemy--the Japanese. It is then a propaganda film AND a Film Noir flick--a pretty good combination all-in-all.
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Ladd, Lake, Treason & Treachery
seymourblack-124 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"This Gun For Hire" is an excellent early film noir with an intriguing storyline and some memorable performances, especially from Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. The screenplay by W.R. Burnett and Albert Maltz was adapted from Graham Greene's novel "A Gun For Sale" and incorporates a heady mixture of blackmail, murder, betrayal, revenge, espionage and treason to ensure that the excitement never flags. This movie's famous for propelling Alan Ladd to star status and also features the first appearance of the now legendary Ladd-Lake partnership.

The opening scenes quickly establish that Phillip Raven (Alan Ladd) is a ruthless hit man who loves cats but has absolutely no compunction about violently attacking a maid without any real provocation. After killing a chemist who'd been blackmailing the Nitro Chemical Corporation (NCC) and having been paid by their employee, Willard Gates (Laird Cregar), he discovers that he's been paid in marked bills and that the police have been informed that the money was stolen from the NCC. Predictably, this sets Raven off in pursuit of Gates so that he can take revenge as swiftly as possible.

Gates also runs "The Neptune Club" where he employs an entertainer called Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake). By coincidence, Ellen is the fiancée of Police Lieutenant Michael Crane (Robert Preston), who's been put in charge of tracking down the alleged thief.

Raven's pursuit of Gates leads him to take a train journey to LA during which he meets Ellen. When Gates sees that Raven's on the train, he notifies the police but Raven's successful escape leads to a sequence of events which culminate in Ellen persuading Raven to abandon his quest for deadly revenge and to take a course of action which ultimately brings an end to the NCC's involvement in a plot to sell a secret poison gas formula to one of the US's wartime enemies.

Alan Ladd is very impressive as the cold, laconic, psychopathic killer who hates and distrusts everyone and never shows any sign of humour or emotion. The root of his personality disorder lies in his appalling childhood experiences which he describes to Ellen whose manner towards him draws out an element of trust which he, almost certainly, hasn't ever shown to anyone else before in his adult life.

Ellen is the most compelling character in the story as she's not only a singer, dancer and magician but also Crane's fiancée, Raven's confidante, Gates' employee and an agent who's been employed by the government to gather evidence about the traitorous activities of the NCC, Willard Gates and the corporation's evil boss, Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall). Veronica Lake displays a kind of cool composure which is very engaging and the level of warmth which she shows towards Raven in finely balanced and proves to be precisely what's required to gain his trust.

Laird Cregar provides good support as the fat, slimy Gates who's hooked on peppermints and perfectly happy to be an agent of death even though he has no stomach for violence himself. Tully Marshall also gives a very colourful performance as an elderly invalid who's irredeemably wicked and wheelchair bound but also a powerful and traitorous top industrialist. John Seitz's cinematography with its expert use of shadows perfectly enhances the sense of menace and distrust which seems to pervade the whole movie and the fact that it remains so interesting and entertaining so many years after it was made is strong evidence of its considerable quality.
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Fun thrilling hardboiled noir
SnoopyStyle5 September 2014
Philip Raven (Alan Ladd) is a harden killer hired by Gates to kill Baker who was a blackmailer. Raven recovers a chemical formula for Gates but he is double-crossed when he is paid with marked bills that have been reported to the police. LAPD detective Michael Crane (Robert Preston) has traveled to San Francisco to track down the bills for Gates and his boss Brewster who runs Nitro Chemical. Meanwhile Crane's girlfriend Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) is a magician/singer who auditions for Gates's nightclub. She is approached by Senator Burnett who tells her about a plot to sell a deadly toxic gas formula to Japan. He asks her to spy on Gates and his boss after getting the nightclub job in LA. By coincidence, Ellen Graham happens to sit right next to Raven as he travels by train to LA to track down Gates and find out who is behind his double-cross.

I love some of the hardboiled dialog. Overall, it's a compelling fun thriller noir. I love Veronica Lake although she has an unusual job as a magician in this movie. Maybe it's in the Graham Greene's novel, but they should have just changed her into a simple singer. Also the story has a few too many coincidences. The gas masks in the last act are a bit too much. Alan Ladd is a little too babyfaced to be that hard character. Even with all of these minor problems, the overall sense is one of thrills and spills.
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Skulduggery, Treason & Treachery...
Xstal8 November 2021
An outstanding piece of Film Noir as an assassin is betrayed and embarks on a vengeful mission to assuage his rage, but a lady magician may just save his soul and avoid the penalty of the ultimate toll.
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"Will ya take it easy? You only got one life."
classicsoncall8 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
What's not to like about "This Gun For Hire" if you're a noir fan. It's the film that 'introduced' Alan Ladd to moviegoers, even if he did have a couple dozen uncredited movie appearances by this time. You'd probably consider Ladd's character The Raven as pretty one dimensional; it would be hard to find another bad guy as cold blooded as The Raven, and he maintained that persona throughout. I almost believed he was going to gun down that crippled little girl on the steps until he thought better of it. He didn't even break character when Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) put her hand on his thigh in that one scene. Me, my knees went wobbly at the thought.

The funny thing about Veronica Lake is that depending on the lighting and the angle of her face, it's sometimes difficult to say whether she's a looker or not. In this picture the nod goes to the looker aspect of her character. You would think the men in the story would have been more head over heels for her, but it wasn't totally her show. As for Robert Preston, this could have been a no-show on his part for all that he was required to do. And getting top billing at that. Nice gig if you can get it.

It's funny too how you can take a story about a poison gas formula being sold to the Japanese and raise it to the level of intrigue as done here. The Charlie Chan flicks used that formula three times without nearly the same results (Murder Over New York, The Jade Mask, Docks of New Orleans), but then again, they never had Ladd, Lake or Laird Cregar on board. Man, you could just feel the sweat pouring off Cregar's character, Willard Gates. What a slime ball.

You know, I like Alan Ladd and I'm glad he got his shot here. In fact, "Shane' is one of my favorite Westerns, but consider what a real bad guy like Robert Mitchum might have done with the role of The Raven. I think he would have done the hit on the little girl.
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Digging below the surface...
keihan25 January 2001
My first glimpse of this film was in "L.A. Confidential", where Kim Basinger, a Veronica Lake look-alike hooker (I'm totally in agreement with Russell Crowe's character when he comments that Basinger looks better than Veronica Lake), has the movie playing in the background during the train scene. Having finally watched the whole thing, I can easily see why Curtis Hansen and Brian Helgaland gave "This Gun For Hire" that respectful tip of the hat.

It is obvious that this was made during WWII from its references to the overseas menace, but I personally wouldn't let such politics get in the way of enjoying and understanding this movie. To do that, one must focus on the character of Raven (as played by Alan Ladd), a vicious, detached hitman with a soft spot for kids and cats...but no friends. He doesn't kill because it's fun for him; it's just a job. He does live by his own code, a major tenet of which is never to doublecross him. One thing that seems to sail right over people's heads is the fact that Raven is the product of an abused childhood. That such a defining bit made it to the screen (and that the abuser was female) should tell one how little audiences paid attention to such things, in spite of the fact that such were not and are still not isolated incidents.

Patriotism does not motivate Raven in the slightest, just his own self interest. The reason he eventually does what he does has more to do with Veronica Lake, probably the only friend he has ever truly had. I almost wonder if, in her, he sees the mother that he never truly had...but one can also write that one off as Freudian BS so make of it what you will. One thing that shouldn't be ignored, on the other hand, is the fact that, but for a lucky distraction, he would have plugged her to leave less of a trail. It's only when she refuses to hand him over to his enemies that their strange friendship really begins. All this makes Raven one of the most unromantic, unglamourous hard-boiled protagonists that have made it to screen.

Now, as to Ms. Lake, the thing that struck me about her was how unglamourous SHE was here. I don't mean that as an insult, mind, just that she seemed to share a characteristic with Kathrine Hepburn in that comparing her with the other sex goddesses of the time would be like comparing the moon to the sun. As is fitting with the story, she strikes one as being more motherly rather than gun moll material. Not that she can't bring the house down; her opening song-and-magic routine is one of the great all-time showstoppers. In fact, the only time I really had cause to hate her is when she gets into the arms of her cop fiancee and says "Hold me." at the end, but it's a minor complaint. Had there been a more radiant actress, the whole thing would have fallen apart. As it is, she fits perfectly.

Don't let the overt mobilization messages distract you. "This Gun For Hire" has a lot more on its mind that's still with us today.
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The blonde raven
Christian-Doig3 June 2006
Two of the most beautiful actors in film history, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake got together for the first time in this crime drama that also launched the former's career; a combined fact that in itself is enough to make this a must-see feature. Ladd is justly remembered as the star of Shane, the classic George Stevens' revision on the Western mythology, but his legacy remains overlooked beyond that great achievement. He could be a fine performer, against the average public opinion, and a film like This Gun for Hire proves his neglected status as one of Film Noir's prime antiheroes.

As witty as she's a long-haired blonde, Miss Lake has a sexiness and a childlike casualness about her that only underline her smartness. Her character is neither a typically passionate nor a bitchy femme fatale, and it's kind of a relief that we see the Ladd's character through her eyes ultimately. I can't remember another female role in the genre -- or any noiresque role for that matter -- of such a personal balance and empathy.

This is a Graham Greene movie that somehow looks more a Dashiell Hammett one*. Greene's concern with morality puts things in motion as it would do in The Third Man and Our Man in Havana, both films directed by Carol Reed. Lake apparently plays the angelic symbol of redemption to the fallen angel of her captor, a reminder of the peculiar Catholicism the novelist professed.

* Next to This Gun for Hire, Ladd and Lake did make a Hammett film: The Glass Key (1942).
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"I don't go soft for anybody"
ackstasis29 November 2008
As a piece of cinema, Frank Tuttle's 'This Gun for Hire (1942)' is both brief and insignificant, a throwaway crime story about a hardened assassin, a glamorous girl, a police manhunt and an international conspiracy. It's just what you'd expect from an adaptation of Graham Greene's "A Gun for Sale," one of those novels with such low literary aspirations that the author affectionately labelled them "entertainments" to distinguish from his more noble and artistic works. Greene certainly wasn't kidding – entertainment is provided in great abundance, the film delivering short and sharp thrills that keep the viewer on the edge of their seats. Alan Ladd, in his first major role, carves up the screen as an emotionally-tormented contract killer who will cradle a kitten in his arms, but won't take kindly to any woman who gets in his way. Veronica Lake, looking positively luminous, is the woman who gets in his way, but whose charms are enough to melt even the hardest of hearts. The success of their teaming spawned a fruitful partnership during the 1940s.

Philip Raven (Ladd) is afforded the introduction of a classic hard-boiled anti-hero. After waking up to lovingly greet a stray cat with fresh milk, he then rips open the dress of the landlady's daughter, who tries to disrupt the cat's breakfast, before reprimanding her with a taut slap across the side of the face. Raven is not presented to us as a hero, but neither as a villain; like all good film noir protagonists, his personality and motivations are tantalisingly ambiguous, and so our sympathies towards him are confused. Blonde bombshell Veronica Lake arrives on the scene with a lively performance of "Now You See It, Now You Don't" (her singing voice dubbed by Martha Mears) that is sure to have any male viewers quickly sitting upright. In this film, Lake has none of the frail passiveness that of her follow-up Ladd collaboration 'The Glass Key (1942),' instead bringing an independent and subtly erotic charm that is reminiscent of what Lauren Bacall would provide two years later in 'To Have and Have Not (1944).'

Alan Ladd here also benefits from the absence of a love interest. One of the few weaknesses of 'The Glass Key' was the unintentionally awkward romantic sequences between Lake and himself. Ladd can surely play hard-boiled, but he doesn't do tender very well (unless the object of his affection is feline). In 'This Gun for Hire,' his relationship with Lake is first one of necessity, but gradually transforms into a mutual respect, and an understanding that hints just enough at sexual attraction without drawing attention to it. Robert Preston is adequate, though oddly insubstantial as the film's most reputable character, and Laird Cregar is interesting as the plump and cowardly villain who's inadvertently bitten off more than he can chew. The film winds down in its final twenty minutes or so, and the finale's weak attempt at patriotism – an apparent obligation under the current political climate – serves to distance the modern viewer from the engrossing and intimate thriller we had previously enjoyed. Nevertheless, if you see it on the rental shelf, this gun is very much worth hiring out.
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Dark and atmospheric noir
The_Void9 November 2008
This Gun for Hire was one of the earlier films in the film noir cycle, and was clearly shot on a budget; but in spite of that, this is still an excellent little thriller and one that all fans of noir will surely enjoy! The film works because of its compelling plot and intriguing characters; and it's also surprisingly dark and atmospheric. The film features a breakout role for Alan Ladd, who would go on to star in a number of noir flicks throughout the forties; and it also features a role for the beautiful Veronica Lake. The film focuses on cat loving hit-man Philip Raven. Raven does a job which involves killing the chemist and gets paid for it, but is not happy when he realises that he's been paid in hot bills. The police are soon on his tail; but Raven is smart enough to give them the slip and decides to go after his former employers. Meanwhile, a policeman's girlfriend who works as a nightclub entertainer takes a job with the hit-man's employers; and their paths inevitably cross.

The film is very short at only seventy eight minutes, but director Frank Tuttle makes good use of this time and the film remains captivating for its duration. The plot flows very well indeed and things are kept very tight which helps to keep things entertaining. The central performance courtesy of Alan Ladd is excellent and the actor really does a good job in creating the right atmosphere for his character and it does the film a lot of favours. Starring opposite him is Veronica Lake who is given less to do but is never the less impressive. The atmosphere is very dark and the film draws suspense from this which ensures that it's always satisfying. The lead character is the main source of interest, and he's certainly very interesting; but there's also plenty going on in terms of the plot. The film is not as complex as some other films in the noir cycle; but it's fun and entertaining to watch and I'm sure any noir fan that catches this film will enjoy it. Recommended.
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"I Don't Remember Breaking Any Commandments."
Noirdame794 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Grahame Greene's novel "A Gun For Sale" is brought to excellent life in this 1942 early film noir. This was Alan Ladd's breakthrough performance, and although he is billed under the title with introducing credits, he had made many films prior to this, often in small, unrewarding roles, sometimes uncredited. His Philip Raven is cold-blooded, ruthless, but vulnerable, his abusive past always foremost in his mind, although he shows a soft spot for cats, children, and Veronica Lake. In their first pairing, Ladd and Lake show the electric intensity that made them a great screen pair of the 1940s. Both were petite, blond, with cool acting styles that belied their sometimes sensitive natures, no matter what kind of a tough front they presented. Lake's character, Ellen Grahame, is a nightclub performer (her vocals were dubbed by Martha Mears), who finds herself drawn into spying on her rather suspicious boss. Laird Cregar is the almost sympathetic villain, Gates, who burned Raven and in doing so, has signed his own death warrant. Robert Preston portrays Ellen's fiancée, Lt. Michael Craven, who is determined to capture Raven. When Ellen unwittingly finds herself alongside Phillip on a train, she ends up in on his "job" and, later in the proceedings, as his 'hostage'. They soon form a rather tentative bond as Raven relates his horrendous childhood beatings at the hand of a nasty relative. She reaches out to him, and although he rejects her comfort (he thinks she's trying to make him "go soft"), he agrees to help her get Gates to reveal his dastardly plans for America involving bombs (this was during WW2, after all). There is an almost misty eyed longing in their faces, sensing that maybe, if in another time or another place, things might have been different. A touching moment when Raven rests his head on Lake's shoulder on the train, his telltale deformed wrist exposed.

There can be no good ending for this killer, for he is a bad guy. But after pulling off what he was so set on doing, he also has redeemed himself through his friendship with Ellen. "Did I do okay for you?" Phillip asks her with his dying breath, to which she responds with a compassionate smile and nod. A tiny grin briefly crosses his face before he closes his eyes. Ellen embraces Michael, uttering the somewhat inane phrase, "Oh, Michael, my darling, hold me." Fade out to final credits.

The other films Ladd and Lake made together are becoming increasingly hard to find; there really ought to be a DVD box set.

The DVD looks very good; however, there are no extras included, not even the original theatrical trailer. But even without the special features, it's worth having in your collection, especially if you are a fan of Alan and Veronica or film noir.
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Classic noir with offbeat Ladd and dazzling Lake.
barevfilm2 February 2019
This Gun For Hire" 1942, classic film noir with Ladd and Lake. Viewed at the 2017 Noir City week in Hollywood. Noir means Black in French, and Film Noir is the appelation invented by French film critics to describe the kinds of low budget dark but sprightly B crime melodramas churned out by the Hollywoid studios in the forties and early fifties. They were basically made to appeal to a lower middlebrow clientele as a kind of pulp fiction on celluloid. However, the craftsmen who worked on them were experts in their field and many of these films are now seen in retrospect as top drawer quasi-art films and minor treasures of the american Cinemateque. One of the very best of the crop, "This Gun For Hire", opened this years Noir City edition at the Ancient Egyptian theatre on Hollywood Blvd. in the heart of the Hollywood tourist belt. Directed by Frank Tuttle, a respected veteran helmer for Paramount, TGFH was no B movie as it featured rising star Veronica Lake opposite established leading man Robert Preston, plus hefty star character actor, Laird Cregar, but it became a gigantic hit with the introduction of Alan Ladd in his screen debut as a cold blooded gun for hire whose hardness is softened by an incredibly attractive and insanely beautiful Veronica Lake. It is seen on the original poster that Preston's name is far bigger than Ladd below, but Preston was quickly forgotten as Ladd became Hollywood's biggest wartime star. The chemistry between Ladd and Lake was so potent that they became a starring couple throughout the decade in such thrillers as The Glass Key, The Blue Dahlia, and Saigon. The interesting amoral twist in this picture is that Lake, who is the fiancée of detective Preston, dumps him when she goes soft on her killer captor Ladd and helps him get away. When Lake started sporting a "peekaboo" hairdo with one lock of her long blond hair covering her right eye this became all the rage and was imitated by women all over the country. This being wartime the government banned the hairstyle for fear it could get caught in the machinery of defense industry factories which employed mostly women. Apparently some such cases actually occurred. For the period of her teaming with Ladd in the forties Veronica Lake was even more popular (and rightfully so) than reigning glamour queens like Betty Grable, Lana Turner, et al. Unfortunately her career went into decline too soon due to alcoholism and personal problems. Nevertheless, in Gun For Hire she remains a dazzling female monument of Film Noir and film in general. Mistakenly believing that I had already seen "This Gun For Hire" years ago I quickly realized I hadn't, and it just blew me away ... especially that amazing young lady, Veronica Lake!
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Excellent film, but falls short of its potential
ecapital4618 September 2005
This is definitely an enjoyable film to watch. It starts out like gangbusters with great film noir qualities having the trajectory of a bona fide classic. Alan Ladd is superb as the cold-blooded killing man for hire and Laird Cregor - who unfortunately was to die at 30 only two years after this film - is equally superb in his role. The film misses the mark, however, when the patriotic aspects of World War II (then a current event) are used in the end to appeal to the conscious of the cold-blooded killing Ladd. For a character of Ladd's ilk to be won over on such a near-corny patriotic appeal is a bit of a stretch, and takes away from the true grit realism of the movie's potential. Sort of reminds me of all the romance and self-righteousness that frequently is the focus of movies or intellectual discussions of the U. S. Civil War, rather than simply telling the true plain cold-blooded reasons for its initiation and declaration, regardless of how evil, and immoral the facts. But alas, Hollywood is about entertainment, not necessarily realism. And, we can't forget the near-mandatory Studio happy-ending requirements.

On a lighter note, those with an ear for a good tune with their flicks will enjoy two Frank Loesser compositions in the film, particularly "Now you see it, Now you don't," where Veronica Lake does an excellent job lip-synching Martha Mears' vocal.
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Good atmosphere and performances let down by a story heavily reliant on contrivance, coincidence and convenience
bob the moo15 November 2013
I have been trying to mix up what I watch recently – I watch far too much television and too many "easy" modern films so it doesn't hurt to dip back some decades and into different genres. Based on material from Graham Greene and with Alan Ladd in his first starring role, this film is considered a classic and has plenty of praise here, so I was quite looking forward to seeing it. The plot sees a hit-man (Raven) betrayed by his bosses and looking for revenge. Meanwhile the subject of his revenge (Gates) is busy hiring a showgirl in San Francisco to work in his club in LA. Unbeknownst to him this showgirl (Ellen) is the girlfriend of the cop charged with capturing Raven (due to him being set up by Gates). Unbeknownst to any of them, Ellen also has another side gig, as she has been recruited by Senator Burnett to use her new job as cover to try and get information about possible treasonous activities that gates and his employer may be up to.

As you can see from above, there is a lot of plot here and it could so easily have been unwieldy and out of control, but it isn't in this case. Instead it is incredibly compact and tidy – far too tidy in fact, as the film relies so much on coincidence and convenience to keep things moving. So for example we have the officer chasing Raven being the partner of Ellen, then we have Ellen and Raven both on the same train to go see Gates – but not just the same train, but seats next to one another. This throws them together so the rest of the film can play out, but it is also rather filled with bits of writing that don't really convince in reality and seem just too convenient. I'm not sure how closely this sticks to Greene's original material, but I'm guessing it is not too closely. The story still flows along reasonably well but it is tidy to a fault and it hurts how much I could get into the material.

What helped it though is the tough tone throughout. We open with a guy looking after a kitten but yet slapping around a maid before going onto murder people in cold blood – a character we're used to seeing nowadays but quite the antihero even for the genre and period. The other lead is a woman who is more together than her cop boyfriend (who does his bit but is in her shadow) and this is also a nice dynamic as, although she is not a total mould breaker, she isn't defined by the men around her. The cast do well with the material – Ladd in particular is ruthlessly cold and rarely shows even a bit of humanity, indeed that small act of kindness we see early in the film is cancelled out quite shockingly later on. Lake is pretty good; she has the looks and generally is engaging but some of the narrative dialogue is clunky and she can't do much with it. Cregar steals every scene he is in with his villain so cowardly and slimy that it nearly comes out of the screen. Preston's Crane is OK but on the edge of the film.

This film has plenty of praise and I was really quite disappointed by how much of the story either didn't ring true (why would they put the police onto Raven in the first place rather than just getting the job done properly?) or was filled with convenience and tidiness for the sake of events whether it was likely or not. The atmosphere makes it worth watching though and the performances of Ladd and Cregar in particular. Shame the story is really very weak though.
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