Glenn Ford Biography
Gwyllyn Samuel Newton “Glenn” Ford was a Canadian actor who held dual Canadian and American citizenship. His career lasted more than 50 years. Although he played many different roles, Ford was best known for playing ordinary men in unusual circumstances. He was most prominent during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford was born on May 1, 1916 in Sainte-Christine-d’Auvergne, Quebec,to Hannah Wood 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. In the year 1924, at the age of eight, Ford moved to Santa Monica, California with his family. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939.
Glenn Ford Career
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.
In 1939, Ford acted in West Coast stage companies before joining Columbia Pictures . His stage name came 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 (1941), 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 in 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 Franklin 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, a fervent FDR supporter. “I was so impressed when I met Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt,” recalled Glenn Ford 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. However, the young man 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 7-year contract. His next picture, Texas, was his first Western, a genre with which he would be 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 technically neutral, 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.
In 1943 Ford married legendary tap dancer Eleanor Powell, and had one son, Peter Ford. Like many actors returning to Hollywood after the war (including James Stewart and Holden (who had already acquired a serious alcohol problem), he found it initially difficult to regain his career momentum. He was able to resume his movie career with the help of Bette Davis, who gave him his first postwar break in the 1946 movie A Stolen Life (1946). However, it was not until his acclaimed performance in a 1946 classic film noir, Gilda (1946), with Rita Hayworth, that he became a major star and one of the the most popular actors of his time. He scored big with the film noir classics The Big Heat (1953) and Blackboard Jungle (1955), and was usually been cast as a calm and collected everyday-hero, showing courage under pressure. Ford continued to make many notable films during his prestigious 50-year movie career, but he is best known for his fine westerns such as 3:10 to Yuma (1957) and The Rounders (1965). Ford pulled a hugely entertaining turn in The Sheepman (1958) and many more fine films. In the 1970s, Ford made his television debut in the controversial The Brotherhood of the Bell (1970) and appeared in two fondly remembered television series: Cade’s County (1971) and The Family Holvak (1975). During the 1980s and 1990s, Ford limited his appearance to documentaries and occasional films, including a nice cameo in Superman (1978).
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. 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. 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.
Glenn Ford Personal life
Ford’s first wife was actress and dancer Eleanor Powell (1943–1959), with whom he had his only child, actor Peter Ford (born 1945). The couple appeared together on screen just once, in a short film 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, although they never married.
At the height of his stardom, Glenn Ford supported the Democratic Party. He supported Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940s, Adlai Stevenson II in 1956, and John F. Kennedy in 1960. Ford later switched his support to the Republican Party. He campaigned for his old friend and fellow actor Ronald Reagan, who would become the successful Republican candidate in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections.
Ford attempted to purchase the Atlanta Flames in May 1980 with the intention of keeping the National Hockey League 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 on May 23 and eventually moved it to Calgary.Ford lived in Beverly Hills, California, where he illegally raised 140 leghorn chickens until he was stopped by the Beverly Hills Police Department.
Glenn Ford Death
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 Awards
After being nominated in 1957 and 1958, in 1962, Ford won a Golden Globe Award as Best Actor for his performance in Frank Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles.Ford was listed in Quigley’s Annual List of Top Ten Box Office Champions in 1956, 1958 and 1959, topping the list at number one in 1958.In 1958 Ford won the Golden Laurel Award for Top Male Comedy Performance for his role in Don’t Go Near the Water.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ford has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6933 Hollywood Blvd. In 1978, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1987, he received the Donostia Award in the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and in 1992, he was awarded the Légion d’honneur medal for his actions in the Second World War.
Ford was scheduled to make his first public appearance in 15 years at a 90th-birthday tribute gala in his honor hosted by the American Cinematheque at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on May 1, 2006, but at the last minute, he had to bow out. Anticipating that his health might prevent his attendance, Ford had the previous week recorded a special filmed message for the audience, which was screened after a series of in-person tributes from friends including Martin Landau, Shirley Jones, Jamie Farr, and Debbie Reynolds.
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On October 4, 2008, Peter Ford auctioned off some of his father’s possessions, including Ford’s lacquered cowboy boots (opening bid $2,500), Ford’s jacket and cap from The White Tower ($400), his wool trench coat from Young Man With Ideas ($300), and his United States Naval Reserve uniform cap ($250). The auction also offered the sofa where the senior Ford allegedly claimed to have had a romantic “encounter” with Marilyn Monroe ($1,750).