Thursday, 31 August 2006

Obituary: Glenn Ford

BBC News:
Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford: May 1, 1916 – August 30, 2006
In more than 100 film appearances and several television series, Glenn Ford's talent lay in bringing his innate nobility to a vast range of characters, from the gun-toting outlaw of 3:10 to Yuma, to the far more complex hero of Gilda.
Although his performance in Gilda propelled Ford to Hollywood's A-list, his debut film appearance came in 1939's Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence, and he always said his favourite films were Westerns.
They came easily to a man who himself raised cattle, horses and claimed descent from a Native American chief.
The Hollywood star got his stage name from the town of Glenford in his native Canada. The son of a railroad executive, young Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford moved to Santa Monica with his family, aged eight.
Catching the acting bug in high school, Ford toured with several stage companies before joining Columbia Pictures in 1939.
Churning out a new film every five days from the studios' B-unit gave the fledgling actor the opportunity to hone his craft.
Wartime called a temporary halt to Ford's film career but, an action man on and off the screen, he spent the time serving with the Marines.
Back in Hollywood, his career flourished and he was paired with such leading ladies as Bette Davis in A Stolen Life (1946), and the same year with Rita Hayworth in Gilda, Ford's own favourite film.
Although married by then to actress Eleanor Powell, Ford later admitted his love for Hayworth had authenticated their on-screen chemistry.
His performance as the twisted misogynist with the yearning eyes was to herald a six-film partnership with Hayworth and bring Ford his own taste of Hollywood stardom.
During the next few years, this likeable actor proved he was able to repeat the role of tormented hero in such films as The Big Heat (1953) and Human Desire (1954).
But unlike some of his Hollywood contemporaries, Ford dared to extend his range, both to such comedy as Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) and The Gazebo (1959), and the romance of The Loves of Carmen (1948) and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962).
Despite his enormous talent, Ford never failed to return to his original genre.
More than half his films were Westerns, and in films such as The Desperadoes (1943), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) and Cowboy (1958), he showed his mastery of the introspective, tough hero.
By 1958, he was Hollywood's number one male box-office attraction.
Ford's great strength lay in staying strong, silent and believable. And in The Blackboard Jungle and Ransom (both 1955), audiences saw a well-meaning young man, facing threatening situations and showing courage under pressure.
These performances were borne out by Ford's life off screen. A captain of the US naval reserve, he saw service in Vietnam, overcame many health problems, and took up hang-gliding at the age of 64.
Aged 76, he married his young nurse, only to divorce her two months later. This, his fourth marriage, he took in his stride. He once said, "I don't look back. I only think about the next day, the next dinner and the next film."

My personal favourite has to be 'The Sheepman', where he plays a meek mannered but tough sheep rancher who falls for his rival's fiancee (Shirley MacLaine) and causes trouble by driving his sheep through cattle country.