Glass Key, The (1942): Classic Film Noir, Starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake

Stuart Heisler directed The Glass Key a crime film noir, based on Dashiell Hammett’s novel of the same name, which catapulted the third-billed Ladd to major stardom.

Theatrical release poster

Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key had been made by Paramount in 1935 as a George Raft vehicle. Paramount decided to remake the movie as  a star vehicle after the success of This Gun for Hire.

After falling for Janet Henry (Veronica Lake), the daughter of reform candidate for governor Ralph Henry, political boss Paul Madvig is determined to help Henry win.

Paul’s right-hand man, Ed Beaumont (Ladd), believes the it’s a mistake. He distrusts both Janet’s and her father’s motives, feeling they are stringing Paul along and will dump him after the election.

Janet becomes engaged to Paul, but put off by his crudity, she shows interest in Ed. He fends off her advances out of strong loyalty to Paul. The deluded Paul boasts that Henry has given him the key to his house; Ed warns him that it is liable to be a glass key, which can break at any moment.

Initially, Paulette Godard was cast as the female lead, only to be replaced by Patricia Morison.  However, after the success of their first teaming in This Gun for Hire, Veronica Lake got the part.


Brian Donlevy as Paul Madvig
Veronica Lake as Janet Henry
Alan Ladd as Ed Beaumont
Bonita Granville as Opal “Snip” Madvig
Richard Denning as Taylor Henry
Joseph Calleia as Nick Varna
William Bendix as Jeff
Frances Gifford as Nurse
Donald MacBride as District Attorney Farr
Margaret Hayes as Eloise Matthews
Moroni Olsen as Ralph Henry
Eddie Marr as Rusty
Arthur Loft as Clyde Matthews
George Meader as Claude Tuttle

On Screen Team:

Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd made 7 movies together:

Star Spangled Rhythm (1942); This Gun for Hire (1942); The Glass Key (1942); Duffy’s Tavern (1945); The Blue Dahlia (1946); Variety Girl (1947); and Saigon (1948).


TCM showed this movie on January 10, 2021.