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  Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies A Mogul We Can Get Behind
Year: 2017
Director: Amanda Ladd-Jones
Stars: Alan Ladd Jr, Amanda Ladd-Jones, Ben Affleck, Mel Brooks, Richard Donner, Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Rob Howard, David Ladd, George Lucas, Paul Mazursky, Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver, Jay Kanter, Michael Gruskoff, Jenno Topping, Lucy Fisher
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Amanda Ladd-Jones was growing up (she was born in 1972) she spent most of her time with her mother, as her father was usually off at work, which she now recognises as providing for her and her sisters, but back then felt neglectful as she never had much of an impression of him as a vital presence in her life. Funnily enough, her father was Alan Ladd Jr, son of the popular movie star Alan Ladd who he never felt close to either, though there was another reason for that: the celebrity's health was in decline when "Laddie", as his son became known, was young, eventually leading to his early death in the mid-nineteen-sixties. But Amanda did not want this state of affairs to perpetuate into her own parental relationships...

Therefore we have this film, which she created as a way of understanding just what Laddie was doing all those years of her childhood when he was not in the picture at home, for he was in the picture business at work. She starts it off with a few vox pops at a Star Wars convention, asking the (often costumed) attendees if they have ever heard of Alan Ladd Jr. Most of them have not, some think she is talking about Alan Ladd, movie star of Shane, and a couple can tell her that if it had not been for her father, there would be no fandom for these people to join, for he was the executive at 20th Century Fox who was determined Star Wars be made in the first place, and had to fight daily battles on behalf of director George Lucas to ensure the film was completed.

If Laddie had merely had that film to his credit, he would be a major figure in the latter half of the previous century's motion picture landscape, but he had so many more in his filmography, making this documentary a welcome reminder of his hits and misses that became cult efforts with the passing of the years. A small sample of the titles discussed, with the talents behind them interviewed (because they wanted to pay tribute), would be Harry and Tonto, The Towering Inferno, Young Frankenstein, The Omen, Silver Streak, An Unmarried Woman, Alien and Breaking Away - and that's just the nineteen-seventies, as in his future were the likes of Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner, Police Academy, Moonstruck, Thelma & Louise, Braveheart and Gone Baby Gone. Not everything was a hit, and he had ups and downs in his executive roles, but it's one impressive career.

Ladd-Jones is keen to emphasise how progressive he was, and while she doesn't mention he hired the first ever African American film studio executive, she does go into some depth at Laddie's support for women, giving many powerful players a break such as Lucy Fisher and Jenno Topping, as well as stars like Sigourney Weaver. She puts this down to his family life where he was surrounded by females, and they were a good influence on him as he wanted to do right by them, though you imagine most of those who sought out this film would be interested in hearing about the blockbusters. Nevertheless, the taciturn, modest to a fault central subject could have been a dud to make a movie around - who wants to hear about a faceless executive? - yet his ability to be correct on so many movies, some way ahead of their time which vindicates their initial underperformance, renders him an absorbing character to hear about, even if it's by association with the big personalities he helped. Though there was a lot of the Blu-ray featurette about this, it was a cheering tribute from a daughter to her father, and from film buffs to a real friend.

[Laddie: The Man Behind The Movies will be released on 26th April and available to rent and buy on Sky Store, iTunes/ Apple, YouTube, Google Play and Rakuten.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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