Glenn Ford (1916-2006)

Glenn Ford
Glenn Ford
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Glenn Ford was a Canadian-born actor who established himself as a leading stage actor on Broadway, and then enjoyed a long Hollywood career, making over 80 films between 1939 and 1991. He became famous for portraying normal men in abnormal situations, and his talent for appearing not to be acting, were shown across a variety of genres including drama, films noir, comedy and Westerns. Later in his career he became a regular performer on television.


Glenn Ford was born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford in Portneuf, Quebec City, Canada on May 1, 1916. His Christian name reflects his family's Welsh roots. Gwyllyn's father was a nephew of Sir John MacDonald, Canada's first prime minister of Canada. Another family ancestor was Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States.

His family moved to California in 1924 and settled in Santa Monica where Ford attended Santa Monica High School where his interest in the theater developed. He decided to make acting his career and, on graduation, he worked with a local theater group before touring with professional West Coast stage companies. During this early period he took various jobs to keep money coming in, such as bar cleaner, and roofer but gradually he became better known and the parts and the plays became bigger. In 1935, aged 19, he appeared on Broadway in Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour" and began to establish himself as a well known stage actor.


Whilst gaining experience on stage, Gwyllyn had ambitions to appear in movies. In 1937 he had an unsuccessful screen test with 20th Century Fox and had a part, billed as Gwyllyn Ford, in a short Paramount musical short 'Night in Manhattan'. His first contract was with Columbia Pictures in 1939 and he made his feature movie debut in that year in 'Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence'. He changed his name to Glenn Ford, naming himself after his father's Canadian hometown of Glenford.

His early Hollywood career was as a promising young actor appearing in many, largely undistinguished 'B' movies such as 'Men Without Souls' and 'Babies for Sale' in 1940 and 'So Ends Our Night', 'Texas' and 'Go West, Young Lady' in 1941, but he usually managed to receive positive critical attention which the films rarely got. His movie career was thus proceeding well when it was interrupted by his World War II service.

World War II

Ford had become a naturalised American citizen in 1939 and when America entered the Second World War in 1942 he volunteered for duty with the Marine Corps Reserve. He began as motion picture technician and after promotion to sergeant was assigned to the Public Relations Office of the Marine Headquarters Division. In 1992, Ford was awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal for his service in France during the war aiding those fleeing from the Nazis. He eventually left the marines in 1944 after being hospitalised with duodenal ulcers.

Hollywood Stardom

After discharge Ford returned to Hollywood and resumed his career as a budding leading man. His break into the big time came with two excellent movies in 1946. He was cast opposite screen siren Rita Hayworth in 'Gilda' and although his co-star got all the acclaim, Ford's solid performance did not go unnoticed and after 'A Stolen Life' in the same year with Bette Davis, his popularity soared and he came to be regarded as an 'A' list leading man.

For several years the movies he starred in were not of the top quality such as 'The Man from Colorado' and 'The Mating of Millie' in 1948 and 'The Doctor and the Girl' in 1949, and there was no significant improvement at the start of the 1950's with disappointing films like 'Young Man with Ideas' and 'Affair in Trinidad' in 1952 in which he again co-starred with Rita Hayworth. Nevertheless most of his movies made money and Ford's own reputation continued to grow.

He became one of the top Hollywood stars after the magnificent film noir 'The Big Heat' in 1953 and 'The Blackboard Jungle' in 1955, in which he co-starred with Sidney Poitier, and played an idealistic teacher in a rough area. He followed these classics with a lighter, more comic role opposite Marlon Brando in 'The Teahouse of the August Moon' in 1956. For the next fifteen years he appeared in many quality movies giving thoughtful, well crafted performances.

Ford was an excellent horseman and a genuine fast draw as a gunman, and he played in several well received Westerns, including 'The Fastest Gun Alive' in 1956, '3:10 to Yuma' in 1957, and 'Cowboy' in 1958.

In the 1960's he continued to grind out the movies with some dross amongst the very good films. His better efforts included a remake of 'Cimarron' in 1960, 'The Courtship of Eddie's Father' in 1963, and two more Westerns, 'The Rounders' in 1965 and 'Heaven With a Gun' in 1969.

Ford appeared more and more on television acting during the 1970's with regular appearances in the series 'Cade's County' from 1971-2, 'The Family Holvak' in 1975 and 'Once an Eagle' from 1976-77. He did not fade completely from the big screen and performed a well received cameo role as Superman's adoptive father in 'Superman: The Movie' in 1978 and another small role in the disappointing 'Day of the Assassin' in 1979, but his best days were behind him.


Ford was a ladies' man and was linked romantically with a number of actresses. He married four times, each marriage ending in divorce. His first wife was the dancer and actress, Eleanor Powell whom he married in 1943. They met at a war-bond event during Ford's military service when she was much more famous than him, having starred in top MGM musicals like 'Born to Dance' in 1936, and 'Rosalie' in 1938. The couple had one child, Peter, in 1945, and divorced in 1959. He was married to singer and TV actress, Kathryn Hays from 1966 to 1969 and then to another TV actress, Cynthia Hayward from 1977 to 1984. His last marriage was to Jeanne Baus and lasted just one year.

In addition his name was linked with his co-stars, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Debbie Reynolds and Hope Lange as well as a number of other actresses such as Joan Crawford, Brigitte Bardot, Linda Christian, Dinah Shore and Laraine Day.

Glenn Ford died in his Beverly Hills home, on August 30, 2006, aged 90, after a series of strokes during the previous few years had left him weak and frail. He was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, California.

Glenn Ford Academy Awards

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Glenn Ford Filmography

Night in Manhattan (short) (as Gwyllyn Ford)
Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence
Crime's End
Convicted Woman
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
Flight Lieutenant
The Desperadoes
A Stolen Life
Gallant Journey
The Mating of Millie
The Man from Colorado
The Loves of Carmen
A Date with Destiny
The Undercover Man
For Those Who Dare
House of Settlement
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
Affair in Trinidad
Time Bomb
The Man from the Alamo
Plunder of the Sun
The Big Heat
Appointment in Honduras
City Story (short)
Human Desire
The Americano
Rough Company
Blackboard Jungle
Interrupted Melody
Fearful Decision
The Fastest Gun Alive
The Teahouse of the August Moon
3:10 to Yuma
Don't Go Near the Water
The Sheepman
Imitation General
Torpedo Run
It Started with a Kiss
The Gazebo