Hollywood leading man Glenn Ford died yesterday at the age of 90. He starred in a number of classic movies over the years, from 3:10 to Yuma to The Blackboard Jungle to The Big Heat.
Ford was born May 1, 1916 in Sainte-Christine, Portneuf, Quebec to a Candian railroad executive and his wife. The family later moved to Santa Monica, California. He started acting in high school. He later acted in a travelling theatre company on the West Coast. He made his first appearance on film in 1937 in a small part in A Night in Manhattan. His first major role was in 1939's Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence. His first starring role was alongside William Holden in 1941's Texas. It was also the first of many Westerns Ford would make.
During World War II Ford volunteered for service in the Marine Corps, interuppting his film career. It was after World War II that Ford would appear in his breakthrough role in Gilda. Released in 1946, Ford played a small time hoodlum running a casino in Buenos Aires. Rita Hayworth was the title character. The film proved to be a hit, so that Ford and Hayworth were teamed in five more films. With Gilda Ford's career took off, with most of his biggest films being relesed in the late Forties and early Fifties. Among the films he made at the time were The Big Heat, The Blackboard Jungle, 3:10 to Yuma, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father.
It was in 1963 that Ford made his first apperance on television, as a guest host on The Dick Powell Show. In the Seventies he would appear on television more and more often. He was the lead in the TV shows Cade's County and The Family Holvak. He also appeared in several TV movies, among them The Disappearance of Flight 412 and The 3,000 Mile Chase.
While Ford did a good deal of television in the Seventies, he continued to appear on the big screen. He played the title role in Santee. In Midway he played Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. He appeared as Jonathan "Pa" Kent (Clark Kent's adoptive father) in Superman.
Ford was a versatile actor, capable of playing heroes, villains, and ordinary men. In 3:10 to Yuma he played the leader of an outlaw gang, yet in The Big Heat he played an honest cop investigating his partner's death. And in The Blackboard Jungle he played a caring teacher who must face down a gang of unruly high school hoodlums. All of these parts were quite different and yet he was convincing in all of them. In fact, even though he was the leading man in many of the films he made in his career, I often find it hard to think of Ford as a leading man. He seemed to me to be more of a character actor who just happened to be in the lead role. Indeed, while he may be best known for his roles in Westerns, his filmography is filled with roles in which he played not only cowboys, sheriffs, and outlaws, but criminals, lawyers, and police officers. There aren't many actors who had as a varied a career as Glenn Ford.