Glenn Ford – MovieActors.com
About Glenn Ford (1916 – 2006)
Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford was born at Jeffrey Hale Hospital in Quebec City, the son of Hannah Wood (Mitchell) and Newton Ford, a railway man. Through his father, Ford was a great-nephew of Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and also related to U.S. President Martin Van Buren. Ford moved to Santa Monica, California, with his family at the age of eight. He 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. While in high school, he took odd jobs, including working for Will Rogers, who taught him horsemanship. 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.
Ford acted in west coast stage companies before joining Columbia Pictures in 1939, where he took his stage name from his father's hometown of Glenford, Alberta. His first major movie part was in the 1939 film Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence. Top Hollywood director John Cromwell was impressed enough with his work to borrow him from Columbia for the independently produced drama, So Ends Our Night, where Ford delivered a poignant portrayal of a 19-year-old German exile on the run in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Working with Academy Award-winning Fredric March and wooing (onscreen) 30-year-old Margaret Sullavan, recently nominated for an Oscar, Ford's shy, ardent young refugee riveted attention even in such stellar company. "Glenn Ford, a most promising newcomer," wrote The New York Times's Bosley Crowther drew a review on February 28, 1941, "draws more substance and appealing simplicity from his role of the boy than any one else in the cast."
After a highly publicized premiere in Los Angeles and a gala fundraiser in Miami, the White House hosted a private screening of So Ends Our Night for President Roosevelt, who admired the film greatly. The starstruck youngster was invited to Roosevelt's annual Birthday Ball. He returned to Los Angeles and promptly registered as a Democrat, becoming a fervent FDR supporter. "I was so impressed when I met Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt," he recalled to his son decades later, "I was thrilled when I got back to Los Angeles and found a beautiful photograph personally autographed to me. It always held a place of high honor in my home."
After 35 interviews and glowing reviews for him personally, Glenn Ford had young female fans begging for his autograph, too. But he was disappointed when Columbia Pictures did nothing with this prestige and new visibility and instead kept plugging him into conventional films for the rest of his contract. His next picture, Texas, was his first Western, a genre with which he would become associated for the rest of his life. Set after the Civil War, it paired him with another young male star under contract, Bill Holden, who became a lifelong friend. More routine films followed, none of them memorable, but lucrative enough to allow Ford to buy his mother and himself a beautiful new home in the Pacific Palisades.
So Ends Our Night also affected the young star in another way: in the summer of 1941, while the United States was still officially neutral in World War II, he enlisted in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, though he had a class 3 deferment (for being his mother's sole support). He began his training in September, 1941, driving three nights a week to his unit in San Pedro and spending most weekends there.
Ten months after Ford's portrait of a young anti-Nazi exile, the U.S. entered the war. After playing a young pilot in his 11th Columbia film, Flight Lieutenant, Ford went on a cross-country 12-city tour to sell war bonds for Army and Navy Relief. In the midst of the many stars also donating their time - from Bob Hope to Cary Grant to Claudette Colbert - he met the popular dancing star Eleanor Powell. The two soon fell in love; they attended the official opening of the Hollywood USO together in October. Then, while making another war drama - Destroyer - with Edward G. Robinson, an ardent anti-Fascist, Glenn volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. The startled studio had to beg the Marines to give their second male lead four more weeks to complete shooting. In the meantime, Ford proposed to Powell, who soon announced her retirement from the screen to be near her fiancé as he began boot camp.
Ford recalled to his son that Bill Holden, who had joined the Army Air Corps and he, "talked about it and we were both convinced that our careers, which were just getting established, would likely be forgotten by the time we got back... if we got back." He was assigned in March 1943 to active duty at the Marine Corps Base in San Diego. With his Coast Guard service, he was offered a position as an officer, but Ford declined, feeling it would be interpreted as preferential treatment for a movie star and instead entered the Marines as a private. He trained at the Marine base in San Diego, where Tyrone Power, the number-one male movie star at the time, was also based. Power suggested Ford join him in the Marine's weekly radio show, Halls of Montezuma, which was broadcast Sunday evenings from San Diego. Ford excelled in his training, winning the Rifle Marksman Badge and named "Honor Man" of the platoon and promoted to sergeant by the time he finished.
Awaiting assignment at Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune, Ford volunteered to play a Marine raider - uncredited - in the film Guadalcanal Diary, with Ford and others storming the beaches of Southern California. He later showed this to his little boy, Peter, along with his many other black-and-white battle scenes in other films. Frustratingly for Ford, filming battle scenes was the closest he would ever get to any action. After being sent to the photographic section of the Marine Corps Schools Detachment in Quantico, Virginia, three months later, Ford came back to the San Diego base in February 1944 and was assigned to the radio section of the Public Relations Office, Headquarters Company, Base Headquarters Battalion, where he resumed work on Halls of Montezuma.
Unfortunately - just as Eleanor, now his wife, was expecting the birth of their child, and Ford himself was looking forward to Officers Training School - he was struck by inexplicable abdominal pain and hospitalized at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego with what turned out to be duodenal ulcers, an affliction that stayed with him for the rest of his life. He was in and out of the hospital for the next five months, and finally received a medical discharge on the third anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Though his time in the Marines passed without the combat duty he'd been hoping for, Ford nonetheless served his country for longer than it had technically been at war and won several commemorative medals for his three years in the Marines Reserve Corps.
The most memorable role of Ford's career came with his first postwar film in 1946, starring alongside Rita Hayworth in Gilda. It was his second pairing with Hayworth; his first was in The Lady In Question (1940), a well-received courtroom drama in which he played a boy who falls in love with Rita when his father, Brian Aherne, tries to rehabilitate her in their bicycle shop. Directed by Hungarian emigre Charles Vidor, the two rising young stars had an instant chemistry with each other, on and off-screen.
New York Times movie reviewer Bosley Crowther did not much like, or, as he freely admitted, even understand, the movie, but he noted that Ford "just returned from war duty," demonstrated "a certain stamina and poise in the role of a tough young gambler." Reviewing the film in 1946, Crowther had no way of knowing that Gilda heralded a new, hard-bitten, steamy genre that frequently flouted logic to make its dark points about the human heart. He, in fact, did not yet have the phrase by which Gilda would soon thereafter be associated: film noir, with Hayworth its most remarkable femme fatale. The erotic sadism and covert homoeroticism were actively encouraged on set by director Vidor, a sophisticated Vienna-born expatriate, though Ford always denied any awareness of the latter in his character's fervent loyalty to his boss, who had unwittingly married the love of Johnny's life.
The film was entered in the Cannes Film Festival, then in its first year. Ford went on to be a leading man opposite Hayworth in a total of five films. and the two, after their location romance (his marriage survived, hers did not) became lifelong friends and next-door neighbors. Beautifully shot in black-and-white by cinematographer Rudolph Mate, Gilda has endured as a classic of film noir. It has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and, in 2013, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
With a return like this, Glenn Ford, not to mention Bill Holden, need not have worried about their future careers after the war. Both men flourished throughout the 1950s and 1960s as male icons for those decades, but Ford was frustrated that he was not given the opportunities to work with directors of the caliber that led Holden to his Oscar-winning career, such as Billy Wilder and David Lean. Glenn Ford missed out on From Here to Eternity - as did Rita Hayworth - when production was stalled by Columbia studio head Harry Cohn. He also made the mistake, which he bitterly regretted later, of turning down the lead in the brilliant comedy Born Yesterday (also planned with Rita Hayworth) which Holden then snatched up.
He instead continued to bring in solid performances in thrillers, dramas, and action films such as A Stolen Life with Bette Davis, memorable film noir: The Big Heat directed by Hitler refugee Fritz Lang, co-starring Gloria Grahame, and reteamed with the same in the following year in Human Desire, loosely based on La Bete Humaine, the 1870 Emile Zola novel. Framed, Experiment in Terror with Lee Remick, and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were other dramas, often expensive and high-profile projects, if not always profitable.
Blackboard Jungle was a watershed cinematic exploration of teen angst. Unlike the comparatively white-bread Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle tackled racial conflicts head-on as Ford played an idealistic but harassed teacher of an urban high school that included a very young Sidney Poitier and other black and Hispanic cast members. Messed-up white kids were there, too, particularly one played by Vic Morrow, depicting a new phenomenon known as the juvenile delinquent. Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" under the opening credits was the first use of a rock and roll song in a Hollywood film. Richard Brooks, the film's writer and director, discovered it when he heard Ford's son, Peter, playing the record at Glenn's home.
In Interrupted Melody, Ford starred with Eleanor Parker, and the Westerns with which he would always be associated included Jubal, The Fastest Gun Alive, Cowboy, The Secret of Convict Lake with Gene Tierney, and the classic tale 3:10 to Yuma.
Ford's versatility also led to starring roles in several popular comedies, almost always as the beleaguered, well-meaning, but nonplussed straight man set upon by circumstances, such as The Teahouse of the August Moon, in which he played an American soldier sent to Okinawa to convert the occupied island natives to the American way of life, and is instead converted by them. Also, he starred in The Gazebo, Cry for Happy, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, and the naval-themed Don't Go Near The Water, with Gia Scala.
In 1978, Ford had a supporting role in Superman, as Clark Kent's adoptive father Jonathan Kent — a role that introduced Ford to a new generation of film audiences. In his final scene in the film, the theme song from Blackboard Jungle, "Rock Around the Clock", plays on a car radio.
Unusually for a World War Two vet, Ford signed up for yet a third time in 1958 and entered the U.S. Naval Reserve, where he was commissioned as a lieutenant commander and made a public affairs officer – ironically, the very position he'd portrayed the year before in the successful comedy Don't Go Near the Water. During his annual training tours, he promoted the Navy through radio and television broadcasts, personal appearances, and documentaries.
Ford continued to combine his film career with his military service, and was promoted to commander in 1963 and captain in 1968, after he 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. In support of Democrat President Lyndon Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War, 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. He finally retired from the Naval Reserve in the 1970s at the rank of captain. He was awarded the Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon, which recognizes those who spend 10 years of honorable reserve service.
In 1971, Ford signed with CBS to star in his first TV series, a half-hour comedy/drama titled The Glenn Ford Show. 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 police mystery and western drama. In The Family Holvak (1975–1976), Ford portrayed a Depression-era preacher in a family drama, reprising the same character he'd played in the TV film The Greatest Gift.
In 1981, Ford co-starred with Melissa Sue Anderson in the slasher film Happy Birthday to Me.
In 1991, Ford agreed to star in a cable network series, African Skies, but prior to the start of the series he developed blood clots in his legs, which required a lengthy stay in the hospital. 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.
The 2006 movie Superman Returns includes 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 Glenn Ford as Pa Kent.
Ford's first wife was actress and dancer Eleanor Powell (1943–1959), with whom he had his only child, actor Peter Ford, born in 1945. The couple appeared together on screen only once, in a short subject produced in the 1950s entitled Have Faith in Our Children. When they married, Powell was more famous than Ford. Ford dated Christiane Schmidtmer during the mid-1960s, but 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, except for Cynthia Hayward, with whom he remained close until his death. He also had a long-term relationship with actress Hope Lange in the early 1960s.
At the height of his stardom, Ford supported the U.S. Democratic Party. He supported Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940s, Adlai Stevenson in 1956, and John F. Kennedy in 1960. Later he switched to the Republican Party, and campaigned for his old friend Ronald Reagan.
Ford attempted to purchase the Atlanta Flames in May 1980 with the intention of keeping the team in the city. He was prepared to match a $14 million offer made by Byron and Daryl Seaman, but was outbid by an investment group led by Nelson Skalbania and included the Seaman brothers, which acquired the franchise for $16 million and eventually moved it to Calgary.
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.
Glenn Ford's movie credits include...
|1937||Night in Manhattan||on-camera host|
|1939||Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence||Joe|
|1939||My Son Is Guilty||Barney|
|1940||Convicted Woman||Reporter Jim Brent|
|1940||Men Without Souls||Johnny Adams|
|1940||Babies for Sale||Steve Burton aka Oscar Hanson|
|1940||The Lady in Question||Pierre Morestan|
|1940||Blondie Plays Cupid||Charlie|
|1941||So Ends Our Night||Ludwig Kern|
|1941||Go West, Young Lady||Sheriff Tex Miller|
|1942||The Adventures of Martin Eden||Martin Eden|
|1942||Flight Lieutenant||Danny Doyle|
|1943||The Desperadoes||Cheyenne Rogers|
|1946||A Stolen Life||Bill Emerson|
|1946||Gallant Journey||John Joseph Montgomery|
|1948||The Mating of Millie||Doug Andrews|
|1948||The Man from Colorado||Col. Owen Devereaux|
|1948||The Loves of Carmen||Don José Lizarabengoa|
|1948||The Return of October||Prof. Bentley Bassett Jr.|
|1949||The Undercover Man||Frank Warren|
|1949||Lust for Gold||Jacob "Dutch" Walz|
|1949||Mr. Soft Touch||Joe Miracle|
|1949||The Doctor and the Girl||Dr. Michael Corday|
|1950||The White Tower||Martin Ordway|
|1950||The Flying Missile||Cmdr. William A. Talbot|
|1951||The Redhead and the Cowboy||Gil Kyle|
|1951||Follow the Sun||Ben Hogan|
|1951||The Secret of Convict Lake||Jim Canfield|
|1952||The Green Glove||Michael "Mike" Blake|
|1952||Young Man With Ideas||Maxwell Webster|
|1952||Affair in Trinidad||Steve Emery|
|1953||Time Bomb aka Terror on a Train||Maj. Peter Lyncort|
|1953||The Man from the Alamo||John Stroud|
|1953||Plunder of the Sun||Al Colby|
|1953||The Big Heat||Det. Sgt. Dave Bannion|
|1953||Appointment in Honduras||Steve Corbett|
|1954||Human Desire||Jeff Warren|
|1955||The Americano||Sam Dent|
|1955||The Violent Men||John Parrish|
|1955||Blackboard Jungle||Richard Dadier|
|1955||Interrupted Melody||Dr. Thomas "Tom" King|
|1956||Ransom!||David G. "Dave" Stannard|
|1956||The Fastest Gun Alive||George Temple/George Kelby, Jr.|
|1956||The Teahouse of the August Moon||Capt. Fisby|
|1957||3:10 to Yuma||Ben Wade|
|1957||Don't Go Near the Water||Lt. J.G. Max Siegel|
|1958||The Sheepman||Jason Sweet|
|1958||Imitation General||MSgt. Murphy Savage|
|1958||Torpedo Run||Lt. Cmdr. Barney Doyle|
|1959||It Started with a Kiss||Sgt. Joe Fitzpatrick|
|1959||The Gazebo||Elliott Nash|
|1960||Cimarron||Yancey "Cimarron" Cravat|
|1961||Cry for Happy||CPO Andy Cyphers|
|1961||Pocketful of Miracles||Dave "the Dude" Conway|
|1962||Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse||Julio Desnoyers|
|1962||Experiment in Terror||John "Rip" Ripley|
|1963||The Courtship of Eddie's Father||Tom Corbett|
|1963||Love Is a Ball||John Lathrop Davis|
|1964||Advance to the Rear||Capt. Jared Heath|
|1964||Fate Is the Hunter||Sam C. McBane|
|1964||Dear Heart||Harry Mork|
|1965||The Rounders||Ben Jones|
|1965||The Money Trap||Joe Baron|
|1966||Is Paris Burning?||Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley|
|1967||A Time for Killing||Maj. Tom Wolcott|
|1967||The Last Challenge||Marshal Dan Blaine|
|1968||Day of the Evil Gun||Lorne Warfield|
|1969||Heaven with a Gun||Jim Killian/Pastor Jim|
|1976||Midway||RAdm. Raymond A. Spruance|
|1978||Superman||Det. Jake Durham|
|1979||The Visitor||Jonathan Kent|
|1979||Day of the Assassin||Christakis|
|1981||Happy Birthday to Me||Dr. David Faraday|
|1981||Superman II||opening title flashback - uncredited - Jonathan Kent|
|1989||Casablanca Express||Major Gen. Williams|
|1990||Border Shootout||Sheriff John Danaher|
|1991||Raw Nerve||Captain Gavin|
Glenn Ford's television credits include...
|1970||The Brotherhood of the Bell||Prof. Andrew Patterson|
|1971||Cade's County||Sam Cade|
|1974||The Greatest Gift||Rev. Holvak|
|1974||Punch and Jody||Peter "Punch" Travers|
|1974||The Disappearance of Flight 412||Colonel Pete Moore|
|1975||The Family Holvak||Rev. Tom Holvak|
|1976||Once an Eagle||Gen. George Caldwell|
|1977||The 3,000 Mile Chase||Paul Dvorak/Leonard Staveck|
|1978||Evening in Byzantium||Jesse Craig|
|1979||The Sacketts||Tom Sunday|
|1979||Beggarman, Thief||David Donnelly|
|1979||The Gift||Billy Devlin|
|1986||My Town||Lucas Wheeler|
|1991||Final Verdict||Rev. Rogers|
Memorable Quotes by Glenn Ford
“When I'm on camera, I have to do things pretty much the way I do things in everyday life. It gives the audience someone real to identify with.”
“The Western is a man's world and I love it.”
“If they tried to rush me, I'd always say I've only got one other speed, and it's slower.”
“Let's never forget that to remain free we must always be strong. That's an important lesson I learned in my Navy career in World War II. National defense must be the top priority for our country. If you are strong, you are safe. Now is the time for every American to be proud. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. If we are not brave, we will not be free.”
“Never give up. Take what life throws at you and throw it right back. If life keeps throwing then you have a tennis match going. Learn to like tennis.”
“Some actors count their lines as soon as they receive a script. I'm the opposite. I try to see how many lines I can whittle down...You can say just as much in 4 as you can in 14.”
Things You May Not Know About Glenn Ford
On May 1st, 2006, Glenn had a gala 90th birthday celebration at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. There was a showing of a newly-restored print of Gilda (1946) and his son, Peter Ford, hosted the event. Over 700 tickets went on sale and were quickly sold out.
His ancestry included English, Scottish, Irish, and Dutch. He had some family roots in the English town of Horwich, near Bolton, Lancashire.
Like his close friend Ronald Reagan, Ford started as a Democrat but gradually switched to becoming a conservative Republican.
His first screen test at 20th Century Fox did not turn out well. He was given a second chance by Columbia a year later, however, and was signed.
During his salad days, he worked in a Santa Monica bar as a barkeep for $5 a week.
Despite his excellence and popularity as a star, he was never nominated for an Oscar.