Called “the most infamous studio head you’ve never heard of,” Alan Ladd Jr. is known to few as the soft-spoken studio titan who said “yes” to a little project known as Star Wars. Directed by his daughter, Amanda Ladd-Jones, Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies puts a spotlight on the executive who lived a life behind the camera. Boasting interviews from the filmmaking elite such as George Lucas, Mel Brooks, Ridley Scott, and countless more, the documentary is a love letter to cinema told by those who make it.
Beginning with Alan Ladd Jr.’s life in the shadow of an estranged father, actor Alan Ladd Sr., the film highlights Laddie’s rise from studio mail clerk to an agent of the stars. The director then chronicles his climb to becoming a studio executive and the massive successes and personal triumphs of his career. From the 50+ Oscar wins to the groundbreaking work of Star Wars and Blade Runner, the producer had a knack for picking projects that audiences and critics could appreciate.
“..Alan Ladd Jr. is known to few as the soft-spoken studio titan who said ‘yes’ to a little project known as Star Wars.”
I cannot stress enough the sheer star power in the interviews for the movie. Along with the legendary directors already mentioned, Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Ron Howard, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Affleck, and virtually anyone who worked with the man in his long career are on hand to share stories. The roster of stars alone is impressive but, it is in what they share that allows Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies to stand out. Each interview adds depth to the story of this mild-mannered executive who believed in his artists and bet on creativity.
Accompanying the interviews are mountains of archived footage from the films in Ladd’s extensive catalog. Not only does the footage capture the colossal impacts of Laddie’s career, but their use punctuates a deep romance with movies felt by Laddie. Ladd-Jones conveys her own love of cinema by showing how directing this project has given her a platform to know her dad. It is equal parts homage to the influence of one man and the connective bond between father and daughter.
Laddie: The Man Behind the Movies champions many themes of the man himself. It speaks about the importance of trusting filmmakers, empowering women in film, and simply telling a great story. Admittedly the documentary loses some momentum in the second half and skims over some major films. However, when you consider the massive career of the subject, it is difficult to hit on everything. I would unreservedly recommend this to fans of pop culture documentaries like The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story or Empire of Dreams. The movie gushes about films in a way only cinema buffs could and tells the unknown story of a Hollywood giant in a way only his daughter could.