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Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies review – Star Wars film boss gets his name up in lights

Andrew Pulver
·2-min read

Here is a highly watchable documentary about Hollywood executive Alan Ladd Jr: an old gold Hollywood profile leavened with top-notes of family strife and reconciliation. Ladd, famously, was the studio boss at 20th Century Fox who got Star Wars through when the corporate brass wanted to pull the plug; but as this film shows, there was quite a lot more to him than that.

As his name indicates, Ladd was the son of troubled he-man actor Alan Ladd (This Gun for Hire, Shane) and it’s safe to say they didn’t have the best of relationships: as a gawky teenager, Ladd Jr didn’t fit in with his father’s attempts to project a wholesome family image and can be seen scowling in the background of publicity photos as his younger siblings were pushed front and centre. The film’s director, Ladd Jr’s daughter Amanda Ladd-Jones takes this theme pretty seriously, as well she might; she talks in voiceover about feeling abandoned as a kid by her work-obsessed father, and Ladd himself relates his voracious moviegoing appetite to his isolation.

An impressive series of talking heads, including Ron Howard, Mel Brooks and Ridley Scott, line up to shower praise on Ladd – apparently a man of excellent taste, steadfast loyalty, and unfailing modesty. There’s no reason not to take this on trust; in any case his projects speak for themselves. As well as Star Wars he greenlit Alien, Young Frankenstein and The Omen for Fox; later, at MGM, he put through A Fish Called Wanda, Moonstruck and Thelma & Louise. In between studio stints he acted as an independent producer, working on Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner and Braveheart. (He is possibly less proud of starting the Police Academy series.) Ladd-Jones is heartfelt in her desire to communicate her father’s special qualities, as well as outline the sacrifices made (on both sides). An illuminating, affecting piece of work.

• Laddie: The Man Behind The Movies is released on 26 April on digital platforms.