A stoic, masculine icon despite his diminutive frame, Alan Ladd became an overnight star by playing Raven, a sensitive hit man, in "This Gun for Hire" (1942). His soft-spoken strength set him apart from his less subtle peers, instantly endearing him to audiences who admired his new brand of onscreen masculinity. During the 1940s, Ladd one of the era's top box office draws for many years. Frequently cast opposite Veronica Lake, he scored with the noir smashes "The Glass Key" (1942) and "The Blue Dahlia" (1946), in the adventure "Two Years before the Mast" (1946), and in the adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" (1949). His most iconic role came as the mysterious former gunslinger "Shane" (1953), considered to be one of the all-time greatest Westerns of all time. Ladd continued his streak of playing tough guys with films like "Hell below Zero" (1954) and "All the Young Men" (1960) opposite Sidney Poitier, and ended his career with a supporting turn in "The Carpetbaggers" (1964). After a lifetime of struggling with personal demons and a tumultuous childhood, the actor attempted suicide in 1962; on Jan. 29, 1964, he was found dead of an accidental drug overdose. His children, most notably film executive Alan Ladd, Jr., continued the family business. Although he rarely received the critical acclaim of many of his noir-era peers, Alan Ladd became one of the most popular movie stars of all time - a magnetic, unique performer who left a lasting mark on Hollywood in more ways than one.