Glenn Ford (May 1 1916–August 30 2006)

Today it was announced that the Canadian-born Hollywood actor Glenn Ford died at the age of 90. In a career that began in 1938, he appeared, it is said, in some 200 films. He made his first big impact when he was teamed with Hayworth in Charles Vidor’s studio-bound, but still terrific, film noir Gilda (1946), a teaming so successful that it would be repeated in several less distinguished films over the following years.  

Fords finest period came in the fifties when he starred in Fritz Lang’s classic noir The Big Heat (1953), Richard Brooks over-earnest and now-dated schoolroom drama The Blackboard Jungle (1955), Delmer Daves classic western 3.10 to Yuma (1957) and George Marshall’s tone-perfect comedy western The Sheepman (1958) and a number of other films which made him popular at the box-office. 

Ford was one of those actors who could be truly called dependable. No matter what he was required to do on the screen, he appeared to do it with consummate ease and with very little ostentation. When critics thought a film he was in less than good, the finger of blame was very rarely pointed at Ford. Even a miscast Ford would give his all.  

Indeed, it was frequently said that the films might have been a lot worse without him. When Fritz Lang adapted Emile Zola’s novel La Bête Humaine for the screen as Human Desire (1954), it was not thought to be a great success. But Ford, in the role in which he was predictably going to be compared with the great Jean Gabin who had played the role in Jean Renoir’s 1938 adaptation, came away from the project with his reputation intact. 

Jacques Tournier’s 1953 thriller Appointment in Honduras would have probably been a fairly ordinary thriller if Ford had not thrown himself so wholeheartedly in to the role of the hero. Two westerns, one,  the rather underdeveloped The Violent Men (1955), and the other, Delmer Daves very fine Jubal (1956) – a reworking of Shakespeare’s Othello as a western – are lifted, the first above mediocrity and the second greater stature, by Ford’s excellent playing.  

I seem recall reading somewhere that Ford once claimed that he spent his apprenticeship “learning how not to act”. It was an apprenticeship well spent, and the lesson well learned.


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