Last Friday, we provided a small appreciation of what turned out to be a very big career. And now, here’s a bit more.
The former Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford, born in Canada’s Quebec province in 1916, began making movies in 1937. Glenn Ford’s father, a railroad executive, moved the family early on to Santa Monica where the actor’s acting ambitions showed themselves in high school.
A subsequent stint in a professional theatrical company led to his “discovery” by a 20th Century Fox agent. His official debut outing was in the 1939 drama, Heaven With A Barbed Wire Fence. (That’s Ford below to the right with costars Richard Conte and Jean Rogers.)
World War II upended Ford’s burgeoning career. He joined the Marines, the beginning of a long military affiliation with the U.S. Navy capped by the rank of Captain during the Viet Nam War.
Offscreen, Ford attained notoriety with his marriage — his first of four — in 1943 to the highly accomplished actress/dancer, Eleanor Powell. The union last 16 years and produced a son, Peter Ford, who wrote a biography of his father in 2011 (Glenn Ford: A Life).
‘He wasn’t the best dad,’ Peter Ford told The Seattle Times. His biography is intended to honor his father’s legacy, though it doesn’t sugarcoat Ford’s infidelities (during his marriage to Powell) and absences when his son was young.
Ford’s movie path broadened considerably after his memorable costarring turn with Rita Hayworth in the 1946 perennial, Gilda.
In all he made five pictures with Hayworth, beginning with 1940’s The Lady In Question. After Gilda came 1948’s The Loves of Carmen, 1952’s Affair in Trinidad and 1965’s The Money Trap.
The actor also made a splash in film noir. He is remembered for his calm-under-pressure role as a severely beleaguered teacher trying to instruct an inner city classroom in 1955’s Blackboard Jungle.
Ford’s popularity soared in the late Forties, Fifties and Sixties largely on the strength of his superb performances in the some two dozen westerns he starred in.
Notably, in 1957’s 3:10 to Yuma, he plays very much against type (see his somewhat stereotypical performance in the 1963 romantic comedy, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father) as the hardened outlaw being escorted to a gritty Arizona slammer by a very nervous, impoverished rancher (Van Heflin). A fine performance in a fine picture.
For a major star, Ford had as prolific career as a classic Hollywood character actor. In all, he rolled up some 110 movie and tv credits over more than five decades. (Some 15 years after he retired, he died in 2006 at the age of 90.)
Indeed, what a career!