“Laddie is the center of movie knowledge,” Mel Brooks says in the documentary It’s Always About the Story: Conversations with Alan Ladd Jr. (2016, TCM premiere). Brooks’ high opinion of Ladd is shared with many in the movie industry who know him as one of the most accomplished studio executives in Hollywood history. The producer/director of the documentary, Stanley Isaacs, joins TCM host Ben Mankiewicz to discuss Ladd’s career and influence. It’s Always About the Story will be screened, along with two of the many outstanding movies produced by Ladd: Best Picture Oscar® winner Chariots of Fire (1981) and The Right Stuff (1983).

Alan Walbridge Ladd Jr. was born in 1937 in Los Angeles, the son of famed actor Alan Ladd (1913-1964) and his first wife, Marjorie Jane Harrold. The senior Ladd was the star of such films as This Gun for Hire (1942), The Great Gatsby (1949), and Shane (1953). The junior Ladd began in films as an agent, and in the late 1960s moved to London to produce movies including Elizabeth Taylor’s X Y and Zee (1972). In 1973, he returned to the U.S. to become Head of Creative Affairs at 20th Century Fox.

Ladd Jr. saw George Lucas through the production of Star Wars (1977) and for three very successful years was president of Fox, where Alien (1979) was also produced under his supervision. Ladd formed his own production unit in 1979, The Ladd Company, which produced such films as Night Shift (1982), Blade Runner (1982) and Police Academy (1984), along with Chariots of Fire and The Right Stuff.

In 1985, Ladd joined MGM/UA and eventually became Chairman and CEO of MGM-Pathé Communications, where successes included Moonstruck (1987), A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and Thelma and Louise (1991). The Ladd Company was reformed at Paramount in 1993, where Ladd produced another Best Picture Oscar® winner, Braveheart (1995). Ladd now produces independently through The Ladd Company.

Stanley Isaacs has been a film industry professional since 1979, writing and producing a wide range of film and television projects for Columbia Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Walt Disney, Paramount Pictures and other companies. He says that in the Alan Ladd Jr. documentary his subject “shares an intimate oral history of the trials, tribulations, heartbreak and joy of bringing some of the most iconic and memorable motion pictures to the screen.”

by Roger Fristoe