13 July, 2008

Glenn Ford

Gwyllyn Samuel Newton "Glenn" Ford was an acclaimed Canadian-born American actor from Hollywood's Golden Era with a career that spanned seven decades. Ford was a versatile actor best known for playing either cowboys or ordinary men in unusual circumstances.

He was born at Jeffrey Hale Hospital in Quebec City, Quebec, to Anglo-Quebecer parents Hannah and Newton Ford, who was a railroad executive. Ford moved to Santa Monica, California with his family at the age of eight, and became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939.

After Ford graduated from Santa Monica High School, he began working in small theatre groups. Ford later commented that his railroad executive father had no objection to his growing interest in acting, but told him, "It’s all right for you to try to act, if you learn something else first. Be able to take a car apart and put it together. Be able to build a house, every bit of it. Then you'll always have something." Ford heeded the advice and during the 1950s, when he was one of Hollywood's most popular actors, he regularly worked on plumbing, wiring and air conditioning at home. At times, he worked as a roofer and installer of plate-glass windows.

He acted in West Coast stage companies, before joining Columbia Pictures in 1939. His stage name came from his father's hometown of Glenford, Canada. His first major movie part was in the 1939 film Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence.

In 1942, Ford's film career was interrupted when he volunteered for duty in World War II with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on 13 December as a photographic specialist at the rank of Sergeant. He was assigned in March 1943 to active duty at the Marine Corps Base in San Diego. He was sent to Marine Corps Schools Detachment in Quantico, Virginia, that June, with orders as a motion-picture production technician. Sergeant Ford returned to the San Diego base in February 1944 and was assigned next to the radio section of the Public Relations Office, Headquarters Company, Base Headquarters Battalion. There he staged and broadcast the radio program Halls of Montezuma. Glenn Ford was honorably discharged from the Marines on 7 December 1944.

In 1958, he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and was commissioned as a lieutenant commander with a 1655 designator. During his annual training tours, he promoted the Navy through radio and television broadcasts, personal appearances, and documentary films. He was promoted to commander in 1963 and captain in 1968.

Ford went to Vietnam in 1967 for a month's tour of duty as a location scout for combat scenes in a training film entitled Global Marine. He traveled with a combat camera crew from the demilitarized zone south to the Mekong Delta. For his service in Vietnam, the Navy awarded him a Navy Commendation Medal. His World War II decorations are as follows: American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Rifle Marksman Badge, and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Medal. He retired from the Naval Reserve in the 1970s at the rank of captain.

Following military service, Ford's breakthrough role was in 1946, starring alongside Rita Hayworth in Gilda. He went on to be a leading man opposite her in a total of five films. While the movie is mostly remembered as the vehicle for Hayworth's "provocative rendition of a song called Put the Blame on Mame", The New York Times movie reviewer Bosley Crowther praised Ford's "stamina and poise in a thankless role" despite the movie's poor direction.

Ford's career flourished in the 1950s and into the 1960s, and continued into the early 1990s, with an increasing number of television roles. His major roles in thrillers, dramas and action films include A Stolen Life with Bette Davis, The Secret of Convict Lake with Gene Tierney, The Big Heat, Framed, Blackboard Jungle, Interrupted Melody with Eleanor Parker, Experiment in Terror with Lee Remick, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Ransom!, Superman and westerns such as The Fastest Gun Alive, 3:10 to Yuma and Cimarron. Ford's versatility also allowed him to star in a number of popular comedies, including The Teahouse of the August Moon, Don't Go Near the Water, The Gazebo, Cry For Happy, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father.

In 1971, Ford signed with CBS to star in his first television series, a half hour comedy/drama titled The Glenn Ford Show. However, CBS head Fred Silverman noticed that many of the featured films being shown at a Glenn Ford film festival were westerns. He suggested doing a western series instead, which resulted in the "modern day western" series, Cade's County. Ford played southwestern Sheriff Cade for one season (1971-1972) in a mix of western drama and police mystery. In The Family Holvak (1975-1976), Ford portrayed a depression era preacher in a family drama, reprising the same character he had played in the TV film The Greatest Gift. Julie Harris co-starred as his wife and Lance Kerwin as his son.

In 1978, Ford had a supporting role in Superman, as Clark Kent's adopted father, Jonathan Kent, a role that introduced Ford to a new generation of film audiences. Ford's final scene in the film begins with a direct reference to Blackboard Jungle - the earlier film's theme song "Rock Around the Clock" is heard on a car radio.

In 1991, Ford agreed to star in a cable network series, African Skies. However, prior to the start of the series, he developed blood clots in his legs which required a lengthy stay in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Eventually he recovered, but at one time his situation was so severe that he was listed in critical condition. Ford was forced to drop out of the series and was replaced by Robert Mitchum.

In the 2006 movie Superman Returns, there is a scene where Ma Kent (played by Eva Marie Saint) stands next to the living room mantel after Superman returns from his quest to find remnants of Krypton. On that mantel is a picture of Pa Kent. This "cameo" of sorts was Ford's last screen appearance.

Ford's first wife was actress and dancer Eleanor Powell (1943-1959), with whom he had his only child, Peter (born 1945). The couple appeared together on screen once, in a short subject produced in the 1950s entitled The Faith of Our Children. Ford subsequently married actress Kathryn Hays (1966-1969); Cynthia Hayward (1977-1984) and Jeanne Baus (1993-1994). All four marriages ended in divorce. Ford was not on good terms with his ex-wives. He also had a long-term relationship with actress Hope Lange, although they never married.

For the first half of his life, Glenn Ford supported the US Democratic Party - in the 1950s he supported Adlai Stevenson for President - and in later years became a supporter of the Republican Party, campaigning for his friend Ronald Reagan in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections.

Ford suffered a series of minor strokes which left him in frail health in the years leading up to his death. He died in his Beverly Hills home on August 30, 2006 at the age of 90.



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