Academy Award-winning producer Alan Ladd Jr. passes at age 84

Alan Ladd, Jr. (October 22, 1937 – March 2, 2022 CREDIT: Paul Smith / Featureflash

Academy Award-winning producer Alan Ladd Jr, who was behind an array of iconic films, has passed away at age 84. 

Affectionately known as “Laddie”, Alan Ladd Jr. was involved in 14 best-picture nominees, including Young Frankenstein, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Chariots of Fire, and Blade Runner. As an independent producer, Ladd Jr. helped steer films including Once Upon a Time in America, The Right Stuff, Gone, Baby Gone, and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, for which he won best picture.

News of his passing was shared on his daughter Amanda Ladd-Jones’ Facebook page for her documentary film, Laddie: The Man Behind The Movies which read:

“With the heaviest of hearts, we announce that on March 2, 2022, Alan Ladd, Jr. died peacefully at home surrounded by his family. Words cannot express how deeply he will be missed. His impact on films and filmmaking will live on in his absence.

Alan Ladd, Jr. 10/22/37-03/02/22”

Born on Oct. 22, 1937, in Los Angeles, California, Ladd Jr. was the son of Alan Ladd, an actor and producer who found film success throughout the 1940s and early 1950s.

Alan Ladd Jr. began his career in the industry in 1963 as a motion picture talent agent at Creative Management Associates. His client list included Judy Garland, Warren Beatty and Robert Redford. Five years later, he shifted gears and turned to independent production and moved to London, where he produced his first nine films in four years.

In 1973, Twentieth Century Fox persuaded Ladd to return to Los Angeles to become their Head of Creative Affairs. Ladd quickly rose through the executive ranks and, by 1976, was named President of Twentieth Century Fox.

After viewing a screening of American Graffiti, Ladd met with George Lucas and asked if he had any ideas for future projects he hoped to make. Lucas proceeded to describe an ambitious, character-driven science fiction story set in outer space. Though nothing like it had ever been done before and the costs were high on all fronts, Ladd loved the idea and decided to take a chance on Lucas and his vision.

He commissioned Lucas to write this screenplay for Fox, and the resulting Star Wars franchise went on to gross billions of dollars, became a worldwide phenomenon, and, in introducing the blockbuster to the Hollywood industry, forever changed the face of moviemaking.

“The only reason it got off the ground was that Alan liked American Graffiti and said, ‘I don’t understand this movie, I don’t get it at all, but I think you’re a talented guy and I want you to make it,'” Lucas said in Tom Shone’s 2004 book Blockbuster.

“My biggest contribution to Star Wars was keeping my mouth shut and standing by the picture,” Ladd told Variety.

In addition to the wild success of Star Wars and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Ladd greenlit and/or saw to completion some of the most profitable and iconographic films in Fox’s history (and, arguably, Hollywood’s history).

Ridley Scott’s box office smash Alien spawned Oscar-winning sequels, becoming a highly successful franchise for Fox. Julia, starring Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave and Jason Robards earned a total of 11 Oscar nominations and three wins.

The Towering Inferno, with its all-star cast of Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Faye Dunaway and Richard Chamberlain, was a commercial hit, garnering 8 total Oscar nominations, and three wins. Academy Award-winning hit The Omen, directed by Richard Donner and starring Gregory Peck, would prove lucrative to Fox for many years.

Other noteworthy releases Ladd guided through include: Kagemusha, Young Frankenstein, Breaking Away, Norma Rae, The Boys from Brazil, The Turning Point, An Unmarried Woman, All That Jazz, Silver Streak, The Rose, 9 to 5, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, to name just a few.

Not only did he make filmmaking history, Ladd made human rights history in the mid-1970s when he named Ashley Boone Fox’s President of Marketing and Distribution. Boone was the first African-American to achieve President status in Hollywood.

Ladd later took Boone with him when he left Fox to form “The Ladd Company.” Ladd believed in equality among the sexes and across racial lines. He would always hire the best person for the job, blind to sex or race. Ladd’s views and actions set the stage for other studio heads to follow suit, firmly establishing the human rights movement in Hollywood.

Ladd’s career spanned five decades and he found success as an agent, an independent producer and studio head. In addition to his extensive list of credits, Ladd was also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America, the American Film Institute Second Decade Council, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

He served on the Academy Board of Governors and received an honorary degree from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television, where he was instrumental in shaping the curriculum of the Critical Studies program.

Star Wars star Mark Hamill took to Twitter to bring to light the key accomplishment Ladd made.

Many others also posted their respects on Twitter:

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In addition to his daughter Ladd-Jones, Ladd Jr. is survived by his second wife, Cindra, other daughters Kelliann and Tracy, and brother David. He was preceded in death by his other daughter, Chelsea, who passed away at age 34 in March 2021.

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