Best known for the film noir Gilda, the Western 3:10 to Yuma, and the racial charged Blackboard Jungle.
Night in Manhattan
Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence
My Son Is Guilty
Men Without Souls
Babies for Sale
The Lady in Question
Blondie Plays Cupid
So Ends Our Night
Go West, Young Lady
The Adventures of Martin Eden
The Mating of Millie
The Man from Colorado
The Loves of Carmen
The Return of October
The Undercover Man
Lust for Gold
Mr. Soft Touch
The Doctor and the Girl
The White Tower
The Flying Missile
The Redhead and the Cowboy
Follow the Sun
The Secret of Convict Lake
The Green Glove
Young Man With Ideas
Time Bomb aka Terror on a Train
The Man from the Alamo
Plunder of the Sun
Appointment in Honduras
The Violent Men
The Fastest Gun Alive
The Teahouse of the August Moon
Don’t Go Near the Water
It Started with a Kiss
Cry for Happy
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Experiment in Terror
The Courtship of Eddie’s Father
Love Is a Ball
Advance to the Rear
Fate Is the Hunter
The Money Trap
Is Paris Burning?
A Time for Killing
The Last Challenge
Day of the Evil Gun
Heaven with a Gun
Target: Eva Jones
Day of the Assassin
Happy Birthday to Me
Glenn Ford was never nominated for an Academy Award
Gwyllyn “Glenn” Samuel Newton Ford was born on May 1, 1916 in Sainte-Christine-d’Auvergne, Quebec, Canada. In 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.
While in high school, he took odd jobs, including working for Will Rogers, who taught him horsemanship. After Ford graduated from Santa Monica High School, he began working in small theatre groups.
Ford acted in West Coast stage companies before joining Columbia Pictures in 1939. 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. 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.
After 35 interviews and glowing reviews for him personally, Glenn Ford had young female fans begging for his autograph. 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).
Ten months after Ford’s portrait of a young anti-Nazi exile, the United States entered World War II. After playing a young pilot in his 11th Columbia film, Flight Lieutenant (1942), Ford went on a cross-country 12-city tour to sell war bonds for Army and Navy Relief. In the midst of the many stars also donating their time – from Bob Hope to Cary Grant to Claudette Colbert – he met the popular dancing star, Eleanor Powell. The two soon fell in love.
Then, while making another war drama, Destroyer, with Edward G. Robinson, an ardent anti-Fascist, Glenn impulsively volunteered for the United States Marine Corps Reserve on December 13, 1942. The studio had to beg the Marines to give their second male lead four more weeks to complete shooting. In the meantime, Ford proposed to Eleanor Powell, who subsequently announced her retirement from the screen to be near her fiancé as he started boot camp.
He trained at the Marine base in San Diego, where Tyrone Power was also based. Power suggested Ford join him in the Marine’s weekly radio show, Halls of Montezuma broadcast Sunday evenings.
Awaiting assignment at Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune, Ford volunteered to play a Marine raider – uncredited – in the film Guadalcanal Diary, made by Fox, with Ford and others charging up the beaches of Southern California. Frustratingly for Ford, filming battle scenes was the closest he would ever get to any action. After being sent to Marine Corps Schools Detachment (Photographic Section) in Quantico, Virginia, three months later, Ford returned to the San Diego base in February 1944 and was assigned to the radio section of the Public Relations Office, Headquarters Company, Base Headquarters Battalion, where he resumed work on Halls of Montezuma.
Unfortunately – just as Eleanor, now his wife, was expecting the birth of their child, and Ford himself was looking forward to Officers Training School – he was felled by inexplicable abdominal pain and hospitalized at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego. He was in and out of the hospital for the next five months, and finally received a medical discharge.
The most memorable role of Ford’s career came with his first postwar film in 1946, starring alongside Rita Hayworth in Gilda. This was Glenn Ford’s second pairing with Hayworth; his first was in The Lady In Question (1940), a well-received courtroom drama in which Glenn plays a boy who falls in love with Rita Hayworth when his father, Brian Aherne, tries to rehabilitate her in their bicycle shop. Directed by Hungarian emigre Charles Vidor, the two rising young stars instantly bonded. Their on-screen chemistry was not immortalized, however, until Gilda, also directed by Charles Vidor, who knew a good thing when he saw it.
With a return like this, Glenn Ford, not to mention his friend Bill Holden, need not have worried about their future careers after the war. Both men flourished throughout the 1950s and 1960s as male icons for those decades, but Ford was frustrated that he was not given the opportunities to work with directors of the caliber that led Holden to his Oscar-winning career, such as Billy Wilder and David Lean.
He continued to bring in solid performances in thrillers, dramas, and action films such as A Stolen Life with Bette Davis, memorable film noir: The Big Heat directed by Hitler refugee Fritz Lang, co-starring Gloria Grahame, and re-teamed with her again in the following year in Human Desire. Framed, Experiment in Terror with Lee Remick, and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were other dramas, often expensive and high-profile projects, if not always profitable, from the studio.
Blackboard Jungle (1955) was a landmark film of teen angst. Unlike the comparatively white-bread Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle tackled racial conflicts head-on as Ford played an idealistic but harassed teacher of an urban high school that included a very young Sidney Poitier and other black and Hispanic cast members.
In Interrupted Melody, he starred with Eleanor Parker, and the Westerns with which he would always be associated included Jubal, The Fastest Gun Alive, Cowboy, The Secret of Convict Lake with Gene Tierney, and what would become a classics 3:10 to Yuma, and Cimarron.
Ford’s versatility also allowed him to star in a number of popular comedies, almost always as the beleaguered, well-meaning, but nonplussed straight man, set upon by circumstances, as in The Teahouse of the August Moon, in which he played an American soldier sent to Okinawa to convert the occupied island natives to the American way of life, and is instead converted by them. Also, he starred in The Gazebo, Cry for Happy, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and the naval-themed Don’t Go Near The Water with Gia Scala.
In 1978, Ford had a supporting role in Superman: The Movie, as Clark Kent’s adoptive father, Jonathan Kent, a role that introduced Ford to a new generation of film audiences. In Ford’s final scene in the film, the theme song from Blackboard Jungle, “Rock Around the Clock”, is heard on a car radio.
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
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.