Born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford, May 1, 1916, in Ste.-Christine, Canada; died August 30, 2006, in Beverly Hills, CA. Actor. Glenn Ford was one of the great actors from the Golden Era of Hollywood. He was a major box-office draw from the 1940s through the 1960s. Some of Ford's most memorable films are Gilda, Blackboard Jungle , and Pocketful of Miracles . Fellow actor Sydney Poitier, quoted on the CNN website, said of Ford, "He had those magical qualities that are intangible but quite impactful on the screen. He was a movie star."
Ford was born in 1916 in Ste.-Christine, Canada. His parents owned a paper mill and his father was the nephew of the former prime minister of Canada, Sir John Macdonald. Ford was also a descendant of Martin Van Buren, who was the eighth president of the United States.
When Ford was seven years old, the family moved to Santa Monica, California. At an early age, he knew he wanted a career in Hollywood. Ford held a series of menial jobs, including working as a stable hand for actor Will Rogers and also cleaning a bar before debuting in a stage production as a grocery boy. He found more stage work in New York. Ford won a screen test with 20th Century Fox Studios, but he failed to impress. He was given another chance, this time with Columbia Pictures, and received a role in 1939's Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence .
Ford signed a multi-year contract with Columbia. Studio head Harry Cohn tried to change his name to John Gower, but Ford opted for Glenn Ford, after the name of his father's birthplace of Glenford and the name of the family paper mill. He landed roles in a number of movies; most were low-budget films. In 1943 he joined the Marines, serving for two years during World War II.
Upon his release, Ford earned roles in a number of films that made him a marquee name. He co-starred with Rita Hayworth in Gilda in 1947. The next performance which garnered him acclaim was 1953's The Big Heat . Ford's strong portrayal of an idealistic high school teacher in 1955's Blackboard Jungle made the film a huge success; it earned four Oscar nominations.
Though known mostly for his dramatic roles, Ford's acting ability also shone in the parts he played in light comedies. He was also a hard-working actor, sometimes overlapping films. According to the New York Times , when someone asked his reason for taking so little time off in a five-year period, he replied, "I like to work." Ford also found steady work in a number of westerns in the 1960s. Concerning his lean toward the genre, he told the Los Angeles Times , "You don't have to speak English to understand what's going on." Throughout his career, he worked with several major stars, including Poitier, Bette Davis, and William Holden. In all Ford appeared in 85 films that spanned more than five decades.
In the 1970s, Ford turned to television, starring in Cade's Country and The Family Holvak , which was based on his grandfather, Thomas Ford. He also hosted the television series, When Havoc Struck . His frequency in films grew less and less. One of his last appearances included a small part as Clark Kent's earthly father in 1978's Superman .
In the early 1990s, Ford suffered a series of strokes that further removed him from the spotlight. In May of 2006, he was scheduled to attend a tribute to his contribution to film, but could not attend due to poor health; he did, however, send a videotaped message. Ford died on August 30, 2006, at his home in Beverly Hills, California; the cause of death was unknown. He was 90. Although his films won acclaim throughout his career and he did win a Golden Globe award for his role in Pocketful of Miracles , Ford will be best remembered for his consistently strong portrayals of a variety of characters from all walks of life. Ford was married and divorced four times. He is survived by his son, actor Peter Ford.
CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/Movies/08/30/glenn.ford.dead.ap/index.html (September 1, 2006); Chicago Tribune , August 31, 2006, sec. 3, p. 7; E! Online, http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,19908,00.html (September 1, 2006); Los Angeles Times , August 31, 2006, p. B10; New York Times , September 1, 2006, p. C11; Times (London), September 1, 2006, p. 68.