Glenn Ford: 1916 - 2006

Glenn Ford: 1916 - 2006
Glenn Ford, the laconic actor best known for his roles in Gilda, Blackboard Jungle, and as Jonathan Kent, the adoptive father in Superman, died Wednesday (8/30) in Los Angeles. Ford had suffered a series of strokes over the last ten years and was in failing health. He was 90. Ford played the strong but silent type, most frequently on the range in films such as The Rounders and 3:10 to Yuma, but just as effectively in urban settings such as his role as the put-upon teacher in Blackboard Jungle. Born May 1st, 1916 as Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford in Quebec, Canada did not seem a likely start for a man to become a box-office draw in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. When his family moved to Southern California at age 8, however, Ford became smitten with all things show business, leading to high school plays and West Coast stage productions. Under contract with the notoriously difficult Harry Cohn at Columbia Ford was requested to change his name to something catchier. He salvaged what he could of his birth name, keeping his last name and switching his first to Glenn, after his father's birthplace of Glenford, Wales. Ford labored for several years in productions that ranged from the broad serialized comedy of Blondie Play Cupid to program westerns such as Texas (which also starred contemporary and sometimes rival for acting parts, William Holden). But Ford found particular on-screen chemistry with Rita Hayworth and their 1946 noir classic Gilda catapulted them both into stardom. Ford played Hayworth's ex-lover, who is put into the tempting position of watching over her by her unsuspecting crime-boss husband. The sultry turn for Hayworth made her a superstar and Ford a leading man, assuring work for him for the next two decades, including several more films with Hayworth (The Loves of Carmen and Affair in Trinidad). In The Big Heat Ford was given the chance to work with Fritz Lang, a true craftsman (and again in Human Desire), and the actor also starred in lesser films of Frank Capra (Pocketful of Miracles) and Vincente Minelli. The second film Ford made with Minelli, a collaboration called The Courtship of Eddie's Father, was quite popular and inspired a television show of the same name. More often than not, however, he took direction from under-appreciated, work-for-hire helmers such as Budd Boetticher and George Marshall. His work in the `70s was largely restricted to television, of varying quality. In 1978 his brief role as Jonathan Kent, the man who adopts Kal-El in Superman, Ford lent some moral heft and humanity to the film as the warm counterpart to Kal-El's Krypton father, Marlon Brando's cold intellectual, Jor-El. Ford was married to famed dancer-actress Eleanor Powell for 16 years (1943-1959) and they had one son, Peter. Powell passed away in 1982. Peter hosted a gala birthday celebration at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Ford's 90th birthday in May (featuring a restored 35mm print of Gilda) but, due to setbacks in his health, the actor was unable to attend and sent a videotaped message in his stead.

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