Film Flick Friday: This Gun for Hire

Friday, April 6, 2012

"I read somewhere about a kind of doctor, a psycho-something—you tell him your dream, and you don’t have to dream it anymore."- This Gun for Hire
This Gun for Hire (originally a story published in Britain as This Gun for Sale) is supposed to be about a corrupt official with suspected Anti-American activities, and a murder case.plot lines intersect unexpectedly- and not always gracefully- when . Despite knowing the plot, some viewers might get the impression that this silver screen treat isn’t really sure what its supposed to be. The film has a definite Noir flare and ,if classified as part of that genre, it would certainly be one of the earliest noirs, being filmed in 1942, before the war even ended. But the political subplot interferes with the dark moodiness and grim of a true Noir, and Veronica Lake’s singing magician character, though arguably ultimately fatal some of the men around her, is not a femme fatale. The very idea of a Singing Magician screams the word “plucky” instead. All this doesn’t mean This Gun for Hire isn’t worth the watch.

Despite only getting fourth billing, the thing that really stands out in This Gun for Hire is Alan Ladd. What had felt like underplaying on set, came off as cold and calculated when viewed on screen. Ladd was lucky though; the screen writers added to his part. In the original book Raven is a harelipped man. This would never do for the glamorous, visual medium of the movies, so the writers traded in a an ugly face for a broken wrist. The wrist had added depth to the character when Ladd explains in one emotionally-charged scene how it resulted from some nasty child abuse. Other scenes also gave Ladd a chance to showcase the emotional complexity of his character. Today, we might find a cold hearted killer loving a kitty cliche, but this is the story that originated the trope. His portrayal of Raven is to Lone Gunmen what Bogart’s Sam Spade was to Private Dicks.

With Ladd’s star rising, he would later be paired with the studio’s major box office draw, Veronica Lake. Though no love story had intentionally been written between the two’s characters in This Gun for Hire, the mutually underplayed scenes were rife with sexual tension. Audiences loved it so much that studio execs would work to recreate that movie magic three more times with the Ladd and Lake pairing. I for one, definitely want to be watching these two again.

4 comments

  1. i love older films, but i've never heard of this one before. might just have to give it a try :)
    xo TJ

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    1. Thanks for the comment. Let me know if you do watch it!

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  2. I don't think I've ever seen this, but now I'm going to make sure I do!

    Maria @ Orchard Bloom

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the comment. Let me know what you end up thinking of this film!

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