This Gun for Hire
|This Gun for Hire|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Tuttle|
|Produced by||Richard Blumenthal|
|Music by||David Buttolph|
|Editing by||Archie Marshek|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||May 13, 1942
|Running time||80 minutes|
In wartime San Francisco, chemist and blackmailer Albert Baker (Frank Ferguson) is killed by remorseless hit man Raven (Ladd), who recovers a stolen chemical formula. Raven is double-crossed by his employer, Willard Gates (Cregar), who pays him with marked bills and reports them to the Los Angeles Police as stolen from his company, Nitro Chemical. Raven learns of the set up and decides to get revenge. LAPD detective lieutenant Michael Crane (Robert Preston), vacationing in San Francisco to visit his girlfriend and nightclub entertainer Ellen Graham (Lake), is immediately assigned the case but Raven eludes an attempt at capture.
Meanwhile, Gates is set up to hire Ellen to work in his LA nightclub. She is taken to a clandestine meeting with Senator Burnett (Roger Imhof), where she learns that Gates and Nitro Chemical are under secret investigation as suspected traitors, and is recruited to spy on Gates. Gates and Ellen board a train for Los Angeles, followed by Raven. By chance, the first empty seat Raven can find is beside Ellen's. The next morning, Gates is alarmed when he sees them asleep with Raven's head on her shoulder. He wires ahead to alert the police, but Raven forces Ellen at gunpoint to help him elude them again. He is about to kill her but is interrupted by workmen, allowing Ellen to flee. She tries to contact Crane, but he has left San Francisco to return to LA.
That evening the suspicious Gates invites Ellen to his Hollywood mansion, where his chauffeur Tommy (Marc Lawrence) knocks her unconscious to set up a fake suicide. Crane goes to the mansion looking for Ellen but Gates has already left. While Crane questions Tommy, Raven arrives and hides outside, where he sees Tommy discard Ellen's purse, to keep Crane from spotting it. Raven realizes that Ellen is in danger. After Crane leaves, Raven knocks Tommy down a flight of stairs when the chauffeur denies Ellen is still there. Raven searches the house and rescues her. Tommy recovers and warns Gates at his club, where Crane has caught up with him. Raven and Ellen are confronted as they enter the club, so Raven takes her hostage as he flees. She surreptitiously drops monogrammed playing cards as a trail of "breadcrumbs". The police corner them in a railroad yard but wait for daylight to move in.
Raven reveals to Ellen that he was orphaned at a young age and raised by an aunt who beat him until he snapped one day and killed her, for which he was imprisoned in reform school. She tells him that the formula he recovered was for a poison gas that Nitro is selling to the Japanese and begs him to extract a signed confession instead of killing Gates. Ellen helps Raven escape the dragnet, hoping she has appealed to his patriotism. However he breaks his promise to her and kills a policeman to get away.
Raven arrives as Nitro Chemical conducts a gas attack drill and its employees wear gas masks, obscuring their faces. Gates orders Tommy to guard his door. However Tommy spots Raven and gives chase, but is knocked out. Raven disguises himself in Tommy's uniform and gas mask to surprise Gates, forcing him to take him to company president Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall), the criminal mastermind. Raven barricades himself with them when the police and Ellen arrive, and coerces both into signing a confession. Brewster dies of a heart attack while trying to kill Raven, who then cold-bloodedly shoots Gates. Crane is lowered on a scaffold and exchanges gunfire with Raven, wounding him. Raven passes up the opportunity to kill Crane when he sees Ellen helping the detective. Other police fatally shoot Raven, but he lives long enough to assure Ellen that he got the confession and receive her assurance that she did not turn him in.
- Veronica Lake as Ellen Graham
- Robert Preston as Michael Crane
- Laird Cregar as Willard Gates
- Alan Ladd as Philip Raven
- Tully Marshall as Alvin Brewster
- Marc Lawrence as Tommy
- Olin Howland as Blair Fletcher
- Roger Imhof as Senator Burnett
- Pamela Blake as Annie
- Frank Ferguson as Albert Baker
- Victor Kilian as Drew
- Patricia Farr as Ruby
- Harry Shannon as Steve Finnerty
Yvonne De Carlo has a small role.
Ladd received fourth billing. Because of fan reaction and critical praise, the film made him a star. Bosley Crowther, the critic for The New York Times, wrote that while the actors credited ahead of him gave good performances, "Mr. Ladd is the buster; he is really an actor to watch. After this stinging performance, he has something to live tip [sic] to—or live down."
Crowther characterized the film itself as a "fast and exciting melodrama."
Lake's star was rising rapidly due to her performances in the 1941 films I Wanted Wings and Sullivan's Travels. This Gun for Hire was a big box office success when released and Lake's other films of 1942, The Glass Key and I Married a Witch were also box office hits. Paramount then considered Veronica Lake their top star ahead of others such as Dorothy Lamour.
Adaptations to other media 
|This Gun for Hire on Lux Radio Theater: January 25, 1943|
|This Gun for Hire on Screen Guild Theater: April 2, 1945|
This Gun For Hire was adapted as a radio play on the January 25, 1943 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater and the April 2, 1945 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater. Alan Ladd reprised his role in both adaptations while Veronica Lake reprised in the latter, but was replaced with Joan Blondell in the former.
See also 
- Bosley Crowther (May 14, 1942). "This Gun for Hire (1942)". The New York Times.