Legendary Oscar-winning producer Alan Ladd Jr., who was best known for greenlighting George Lucas’ blockbuster hit “Star Wars,” has died at the age of 84 in his Los Angeles home. The former studio boss was a top executive at 20th Century Fox in the 1970s.
Daughter Amanda Ladd-Jones, who directed the documentary “Laddie” The Man Behind the Movies,” wrote on the film’s Facebook page that Ladd Jr. passed away early Wednesday. No cause of death was given. The iconic film producer was 84 years old.
Ladd Jr. was the namesake of the legendary star of the 1953 Western classic “Shane.” He was once described as “one of Hollywood’s favorite sons.”
Known as one of Hollywood’s most liked and respected movie executives and producers, Ladd Jr., also known as Laddie, was described as shy and laconic.
Ladd Jr. worked as a talent agent. He became an independent producer in London in the late 1960s. In 1973, Ladd Jr. became vice president of creative affairs at 20th Century Fox. He was appointed president of Fox’s feature film division three years later.
It is reported that at Fox, Ladd Jr. was enthused after watching an early, smuggled print of “American Graffiti, which is a 1973 Universal Pictures film released by Lucas. He jumped at the Fox opportunity to do “Star Wars,” the young filmmaker’s next movie.
“Laddie believed in me when no one else did and gambled on a young kid with a crazy idea for a science-fiction adventure — something that wasn’t exactly marketable at the time,” Mr. Lucas told Variety in 2007.
Ladd Jr. said, recalling his meeting with Lucas, in a 2008 interview with the Montreal Gazette that “He was going on about faraway galaxies and sand people and special effects, and frankly I didn’t have a clue what in the world he was talking about. … But I just hoped like hell he knew what he was talking about.”
“Star Wars” was released in 1977. It became an overnight movie sensation and one of the highest-grossing movies in history.
“My biggest contribution to ‘Star Wars’ was keeping my mouth shut and standing by the picture,” Mr. Ladd told Variety, recalling that he ignored a research report that said “the worst words to use in a title are ‘Star’ and ‘War.’”
The studio produced such hits as “Alien,” “The Turning Point,” and “An Unmarried Woman.” It also churned out bombs such as “At Long Last Love” and “The Blue Bird,” under the direction of Ladd Jr.
Ladd Jr. is survived by his wife, Cindra Pincock; children Kelliann, Tracy, and Amanda; half-brother, David Ladd; half-sister, Alana Ladd; and stepsister Carol Lee Stuart-Ladd.
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