Thursday, August 31, 2006
Glenn Ford (1916-2006)
Another screen legend has passed away before the Academy ever got around to lauding him with an honorary Oscar. Glenn Ford was 90. Ford, really one of the most underrated of actors, had a long career, often in Westerns, but appeared in several notable films. He made his film debut in 1937 in a movie called Night in Manhattan, appearing under the name Gwyllyn Ford. Most of his early career was spent in Westerns but his real breakthrough came as Johnny Farrell in 1946's classic Gilda opposite Rita Hayworth, giving steel and wit to what could have been the stand noir role of the male dupe. That same year he appeared opposite Bette Davis in A Stolen Life, where Davis played twins and he was a lighthouse inspector on Martha's Vineyard. I've never seen the film, but I remember the spoof of it from The Carol Burnett Show.
He continued to appear in all sorts of genres, including Westerns such as 1955's The Violent Men and detective dramas like Fritz Lang's The Big Heat in 1953. In 1955, he entered the classroom with Sidney Poitier as one of his students in The Blackboard Jungle. In 1956, he starred in Ransom! (later remade by Ron Howard and Mel Gibson), The Fastest Gun Alive and The Teahouse of the August Moon. He had one of his best roles in a rare turn as a bad guy in 1957's 3:10 to Yuma opposite Van Heflin.
In 1960, he starred in Anthony Mann's remake of the early Oscar-winning best picture Cimarron, which covered more of the Edna Ferber novel. Both films were based on ranging from the Oklahoma Land Run to the Spanish-American War. In 1961, he produced and played against type as The Dude in Frank Capra's A Pocketful of Miracles, an ill-advised remake of Capra's own Lady for a Day. Ford continued to work steadily throughout the 1960s and 1970s, in films such as The Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Rounders and Midway (in Sensurround!) Younger audiences — and given that the film is 26 years old now, that may not even be true — probably recognize him most from playing Pa Kent in 1978's Superman. Unfortunately, that's probably his last notable feature, though he appeared in many television movies, because I think we all should forget his role in the dreadful 1981 slasher flick Happy Birthday to Me.
Read The Washington Post obit here.
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