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This Gun for Hire

USA 1942. Dir: Frank Tuttle. 80 min. 35mm

Based on Graham Greene’s novel and set in San Francisco, this moody, morbid wartime thriller is one of the foundational films noir and features Alan Ladd in his breakthrough role. He’s trench-coat-clad Philip Raven, a pitiless assassin-for-hire who’s been double-crossed by his most recent employer. Veronica Lake is luscious Ellen Graham, the nightclub singer with a secret who crosses Raven’s dangerous path. The movie marked the first screen pairing of Ladd and Lake, who became one of Hollywood’s (and noir’s) most popular on-screen couples. The dialogue is laconic; the mix of studio sets and locations provides excellent atmosphere; the moral ambiguity is striking. “Ladd’s unsmiling performance — the prototype for the killer as angel of death — employs a repertory of classic gestures; no wonder Melville and Delon lifted so much of this film for Le Samouraï” (Chris Petit, Time Out).


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