This Gun For Hire (1942)

Rating: **
Review Date: 6/29/14
Cast: Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar, Alan Ladd

Raven (Alad Ladd) is a cold-blooded professional killer who gets double-crossed by his latest client and will stop at nothing to get revenge. A singing magician named Ellen (dreamy Veronica Lake) gets talked into spying on the same guy that Raven is after, and it doesn't take long for their paths to cross. Through shear dumb luck, they manage to form an uneasy alliance in order to achieve a common goal - provided they can stay alive and elude the police long enough.

While Veronica Lake is given star billing, the film is best remembered as the picture that made Alan Ladd a star. His portrayal of Raven is cold and rough, but weighed down with a conscience and twisted by memories that he can't forget. His left wrist is also horribly disfigured, which is difficult to look at. It's frightfully realistic looking, and I have no idea if it's real or not. Veronica Lake is lovely and performs some dazzling illusions as a glamorous showgirl, but she really comes alive when she's on the run with Ladd, and her delivery is a delicious mix of sympathy, disdain, and despair. Laird Cregar is delightful as a squeamish corporate toady who doesn't like getting his hands dirty, but has no qualms about dishing out evil from behind a desk. The World War II patriotism angle borders on propaganda and is hard to stomach, but typical and extremely relevant for the time period. It's a nice looking production and a taut thriller, but the pacing can be sluggish and the plot is just a little too convenient at times. It also employs some awkward and unconvincing rear projection, which is visually jarring at best. If nothing else, it makes me want to track down more of Ms. Lake's work from the same time period.