In the 1942 This Gun For Hire, he was only a supporting actor. But his portrayal of a cold, ruthless killer with a core of gentle sadness had an impact on audiences everywhere. Teamed with diminutive Veronica Lake, he became an immediately saleable commodity, and in the process helped launch the age of film noir. By 1954, Photoplay Magazine voted him the world's most popular male film star; his fellow award-winner was Marilyn Monroe. But Alan Ladd's fabulous success already contained within it the mechanism to self-destruct.