This Gun for Hire (1942)

It’s 2pm as Philip Raven (Alan Ladd) awakens to the ringing of the alarm clock in the dusky afternoon of San Francisco.  He’s still wearing the smell of his suit to bed as he takes an envelope for an Albert Baker at hand that has a paperclip note attached to it, indicating he’ll be home alone between three and four pm. Swiftly, he puts the gun into his wallet bag and puts on his hat. 

It’s gonna be just you and me baby​

The cleaning maid has come to sweep his apartment, only to find a stray cat eating some cat food beside the window. She tries to scare it away but barely moments pass before Raven grabs her arm, accidentally causing a tear at the shoulders, her sharp annoyance adding to getting a slap across her face. Upon leaving in a hurry she cries “ Look at my dress.. You ought to buy me a new one… Cheapskate! “

The mid afternoon trip becomes a short but successful one, though not without  some of its hiccups along the way because “they said he’d be alone” nonetheless, Raven seems to be good at the one hit wonders and now he was drinking coffee with his employer – Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) who anxiously hands over Ravens cut of the money in exchange for some secret formulated paper, anxiously telling him ” if the bills were bad, you couldn’t very well complain to the police, could you?”  

Ravens face doesn’t twitch a bit, the sort of face that doesn’t feel so threatened, reminding Gates that he is his own police. Toying  his little sharp knife in both hands, he assures him that “first I’d find out who you’re stoogin for..then i’d whittle off a little off that blubber “, making Gates mouthfuls of Sundae seemingly deflate, as he bids Raven farewell and rushes out the diner.

Willard Gates, the big man with a coward heart heads off to the safety of the police explaining that his Nitro Chemical Firm has been robbed by the same marked bills he had earlier given Raven. With no face to the name, it was going to be a game of ‘spot that seriel number ‘. A pompous trade he makes with the officers, offering them a reward for him- dead or alive.

Meanwhile, over at Fletcher Theatrical Agency Auditions, there’s a certain kind of charm that is ‘audience proof’, in the colour of blond locks and in the beauty of  Ellen Graham, (Veronica Lake) who dazzels her audience in a sparkling dress, singing her way through a magic number and suddenly ‘presto, chango, fiddle dee- dee’, Ellens charm seems to have worked its trick on Gates, who hires her to work in his Neptune Club which would give her bigger balls to juggle, as she is discretely informed by the Senator that Gates “has been seeing men that are suspected of being foreign agents. Yet our investigators can’t turn up anything, and that’s where you come in”. 

Ellen keeps her composure and with a mid air kiss farewell to her copper boyfriend -Michael Crane ( Robert Preston), makes a lengthy trip to Los Angeles. The train rides slow and  steady but matters were going to get steamy, as who should coincidentally be aboard the train journey there but Gates, proceeded by Raven sat besides stranger Ellen who introduces himself as “i’m no pick Pocket” and tells her that his on his way to visit a fat man who likes his perppermints.

Hot on his trail, Raven has his work cut out for him  to find the bigger man behind those treats. A guy who’s landed him in hot money, armed with a look of vengenace that could surely kill a guy or two. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t trust anyone but takes a liking to cats because” their on their own. They don’t need anybody” . With a deadpan attitude  that serves his purpose through his guarded gun at all times, Ravens looking to fill up his end of the cup, but he was going to have to trust somebody more than his gut could handle if he was to bite the other end of the bullet. 

Directed by : Frank Tuttle ( Based on the novel A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene )

Screenplay by : Albert Maltz, W.R. Burnett

Starring : Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Laird Cregar, Robert Preston and other greats

Music composed by : David Buttolph

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