Alan Ladd once said of himself that he had the face of an aging choirboy. But did he have the physical stature of a choirboy as well?
The question of the actor’s height seems to hold some fascination with our readers, and every once in a while, we like to set forth what we believe to be the facts.
Although never a favorite of critics, Ladd was hugely popular with general audiences who flocked to see the seven movies he made with favorite costar, Veronica Lake, from 1942 to 1946.
One of these — The Blue Dahlia with a screenplay by Raymond Chandler — is a film noir classic that stands up well to this day.
Born in 1913 in Hot Springs, Ark., Ladd endured a hard scrabble childhood that more than occasionally left him malnourished. He was undersized as a result (his nickname was “Tiny”).
At 5-foot-6-1/4-inches, the fully-grown Ladd was one of the shortest leading male figures in Hollywood history. All manner of devices — hidden platforms, low camera angles, shoe lifts — were employed during filming to mask Ladd’s diminutive stature especially relative to his leading ladies.
Ladd is best known today for his role as the weary, gentle-spoken gun fighter in George Stevens classic 1953 western, Shane (pictured above). Watch carefully how Stevens filmed the climatic gunfight scene showing Ladd squaring off against 6-foot-4-inch Jack Palance as the cold-blooded villain.
However short in stature, Ladd enjoyed a lengthy career, appearing in more than 90 movies. He also had his share of problems towards the end. He eagerly sought the lead in Lawrence of Arabia that went to Peter O’Toole. A long second marriage to agent Sue Carol was showing signs of strain.
Ladd embarked on an unhappy affair with June Allyson. He died in 1964 in Palm Springs, California, of an alcohol-barbiturate overdose. He was just 50 years old. (Final factoid: As a struggling actor, Ladd appeared in a small role as a newspaper reporter in Orson Welles 1941 masterpiece, Citizen Kane.)