Glenn Ford is gone

Glenn Ford died today at age 90, and I’m sorry. A good life he had. But let’s be honest and admit the basic facts. Ford broke through with Gilda (1946), but his face and manner seemed a bit too young and smooth back then — he lacked character. He had taken some on by the time he starred in Fritz Lang ‘s The Big Heat (1953), and from then until the mid ’60s he was “Glenn Ford”.

Then his career eased down and stayed that way until the end 40 years later. He worked through the ’70s and sporadically in the ’80s, but Ford never aged or devel- oped into my idea of an especially rich or dynamic man — he didn’t ripen. Ford was always a reasonable middle type fellow. Being fierce and volcanic was never in his quill.
He conveyed steeliness and repression at times, but Ford was mainly about middle-class attitudes and presumptions, soothed feelings, “there, there” and thoughtful, average-guy decency. He peaked with lead perfs in movies like The Blackboard Jungle (’55), Teahouse of the August Moon (’56), 3:10 to Yuma (’57), The Cowboys (’58) , Cimarron (’60) and Pocketful of Miracles (’61) . His last really tight and tangy role was as a cryptic San Francisco detective in Blake Edwards Experiment in Terror (’62).
At the risk of sounding disrespectful (which I’m not trying to be), Glenn Ford does- n’t travel in today’s culture. He hasn’t for decades. He’s a 1950s man, and that era doesn’t figure into anyone’s consciousness any more.

38 thoughts on “Glenn Ford is gone

  1. Boy, what a true jerk you are Mr. Wells! On the day a man dies, Jesus Christ! I don’t recall the same sort of attitude for Mr. A-Hole Marlon Brando when that fat jerk finally and thankfully died! He did nothing for the past 20 years of his career
    even though he was more than capable! Anyway, it saddens me that the last of Anthony Mann’s western heroes has passed away! A great man and a better man than most of these so-called Hollywood legends! I truly loved his performance in ‘Cimmarron’ “Being fierce and volcanic was never in his quill” WHAT? You clearly haven’t seen a lot of his movies.

  2. So what was the point of this, then?
    Why does this feel like JW is trying to position himself yet again as the iconclast against what he must perceive as the inevitable of outpouring of respect and sadness the rest of the media will in most likelihood TRICKLE and not pour down on Ford.
    Look, the man was professional actor his entire life and managed to appear in several films that are still watched today. No one ever tries to stick Glenn Ford up on some Parthenon of acting greatness, but he certainly did more than remember his lines and avoid the furniture. As a celebrity, he avoided embarrassing his friends, family and studios.
    And for that he deserves some fucking consideration no matter how long ago his best work was made.
    I was nearly 14 when SUPERMAN was released, so I didn’t have a backlog of Glenn Ford roles in my head when he appeared as Jonathon Kent. To me, he WAS Kent. He only has something like under 7 minutes of actual screen time, but what does it say about an actors performance that when he grabs his wrist to find his pulse is gone with that look of bewildered denial it hit me as hard as Clark and Martha. It still chokes me up when I see it today.
    I have a glass of Chilean wine here and the first toast will be to Glenn Ford, because he deserves his last moment of esteem.

  3. The ’50s doesn’t fit into anyone’s consciousness anymore? Like it never existed? Thanks for letting me know! Nice to know we’re all so darn dedicated to historical amnesia. Are you so rooted to the next jigga-second that you can so glibly dismiss all previous influences of time and culture among all your readers? Of course we’ve moved on since then, but it’s also an outstandingly patronizing way of marginalizing Glenn Ford. However, good to know you have your oracle license in working order. Sometimes we need to be reminded of what is not in our consciousness anymore!

  4. I have always been amazed that Ford, Van Johnson, and Pat O’Brien were movie stars because of their almost unvarying blandness. Ford is pleasant enough, but except for 3:10 to Yuma, there’s never much there.

  5. I loved Glenn in Experiment in Terror. RIP. He reminded me of my dad in his films. Somewhat boring and plain maybe but a good man.

  6. Bryan Singer thought enough of Ford’s work in Superman to pay homage to him in Superman Returns. His believeable pa Kent lent far more gravity to Donner’s film than Brando’s work. Say what you will, but Ford was still an icon of old Hollywood and he will be missed.

  7. Ford was a highly successful actor, who had to work under the studio system back in the 40′s and 50′s. He didn’t often to get to chose his own films back then, but my gawd, look at his filmography! He did some great work in some great films in a career that spanned almost half a century!
    Maybe he should have been choosier, but I think he knew his limits since he often mentioned that he was best playing himself. In the right films, like 3:10 to Yuma and Gilda, among many, he was simply…. perfect.
    Wells, this piece is bad form. Glenn Ford, RIP.

  8. Maybe I’m just too enamored of the olden days, but Glen Ford figures heavily in my consciousness. He’s one of the ’50s stars whose movies I almost always try to catch on TCM if I haven’t seen them before.
    Great actor, and if the commentary track on THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE is to be believed, a heck of a guy. R.I.P.

  9. Jeff is correcto about Ford I don’t think Jeff means any disrespect at all. i was born in 38 and grew up with Ford….at the movies. When i saw Gilda….wow….it was all Hayworth singing that song…..but i basically agree with Jeff and his thoughts on GF.

  10. WELLS TO OUTRAGED READERS: I meant no disrespect for Ford. I liked him quite a lot in those ’50s films I mentioned, and in “Gilda” and “Experiment in Terror.” But the fact that a man has passed on doesn’t mean everything that was true about his career and his creative output is suddenly off the discussion table. Ford’s easgoing persona and settled-down vibe was a good match and a nice neck massage for the complacency of the Eisenhower era. Once “the ’60s” began to happen he was finished — his relaxed movie star vibe suddenly didn’t fit the times. That’s one reason why he stopped getting the good roles around ’65 or thereabouts. It’s not a criminal or shameful thing to have been bypassed by changing times — it happens to the best & worst of us.

  11. Who died???
    I was a little suprised to see this on the tv-news ticker this morning…why this rated as newsworthy I’m not sure. T.S. Idiots post about him/Van Johnson is right…kind of bland and not really memorable. He might have been a nice person though, but who knows.
    Sorry, but I was more upset when the “time to make the donuts” guy died.

  12. Ease up before you toss him in the volcano, folks. I’ve developed an eye for Jeff’s digital piss and vinegar, and this isn’t it. I don’t see any intentional disrespect, just observation of something unfortunate: this venerable performer has been passed by the times.
    If you want to be shocked about something, talk about the dog fucking post and get the rod out of your ass on this.

  13. Of course the 1950′s still exits. It exists in the assumptions of every baby boomer who is so terrified of going back to them that we still have to act as though we live in a repressed 1950′s culture.
    Every time you hear a terrified baby boomer say “We never want to relive the fifties”, you know you have just met someone who is obsessed with the fifties. It’s especially sad when you you hear people too young to have lived then say that.
    But Glenn Ford will always be Superman’s dad to many, and that respect, he will live on forever. God bless you Glenn.

  14. One of the goldfish in my office was belly up when I arrived this morning. I barely noticed. Why?
    Well, it was a damned goldfish. It didn’t bark, purr, fetch or play with a ball of yarn. It didn’t entertain me or make any sort of impact on my life.
    Ford falls into the same category. He was just…there. It’s not my fault that he failed to make any impact on modern audiences.
    I feel bad for his family and friends, but I’m not going to start waxing poetic about a guy who hadn’t done anything worthwhile in nearly 30 years.

  15. Well. If you haven’t seen The Big Heat, this is a good excuse to drop it into your Netflix queue.
    I hope nobody delivers a frank assessment of my life√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s work on the day I die. That’s too cruel to think about.

  16. The man had a hugely successful career and at one point movies got made if he starred in them. The very fact that he worked as long as he did and appeared in over a hundred films says it all.
    He was a craftsman, nothing more or less. If he didn’t reach the heights of a Brando (who never did either, at one point), so what?
    Wonder what someone like you would’ve written about yourself if things had gone a tragic way for you a few weeks ago.
    Maybe something like this: “Acerbic, failed screenwriter wrote a finacially stuggling blog, and spent most of his adult life cranking out press releases for second rate companies like Cannon. Later on he managed to scrape up work as a freelance journalist and was a regular at press junkets. Not exactly a fashion plate. Specialized in critically second-guessing successful careers like Martin Scorsese and Glenn Ford.”
    Hey, Jeff, that’s YOUR legacy, chum.

  17. Jeff, stop looking to your kids as signposts to What’s Important In Culture. Big fucking deal that Ford was a “50′s man” — yeah, well, that was his time. Maybe we better stop talking about Orson Welles or Howard Hawks or Kurosawa too. After all, they’re old and dead and were clearly “20th century men” with no place in the world of ipod and youtube and bloggers. Christ, Jeff. I love ya, man, but grow up. Show some respect. You don’t have to preface everything with cynical snark.
    You could analyze why a town like this waits for its legends, big and small, to die off before laddling on the praise. HIRE THEM!
    Glenn Ford RULES in “The Big Heat” one of my fave Lang films. It’s a great revenge film and Ford is cold brutal and unwavering as he seeks vengeance.
    Show some respect!

  18. I don’t think Jeff is referring to the 50′s as a time when they didn’t have Ipods and Xboxes, and saying THAT’S why Ford is out-of-date.
    He’s referring to the overall cultural mentality of suburbs, tranquil Republicans, the whole 50′s mindset, all things he hates, and things he’s associating with Glenn Ford’s vibe.

  19. Jeff, This article is a disgrace. I don’t know what you get out of it, but to dump on a beloved actor who most critics and fans—unlike yourself—consider one of the greats of the Golden Age, and to do so less than 12 hours after his death, is despicable, and you should really be ashamed. Your explanation does not begin to offer the apology that you owe.

  20. I think Jeff’s real mistake is in assuming that Ford’s “middle-type” middle-class, easygoing, average Joe vibe doesn’t “travel in today’s culture” or “consciousness”.
    I think Jeff has a hard time realizing that just because he’s personally averse to, and detests, certain kinds of people, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. People may not have that consciousness in Hollywood or New York, but the “strong, silent type” (as Tony Soprano referred to) is still very much the mindset of most of Middle America, whether he likes it or not.

  21. Goodness gracious. Such outrage!
    I’m not prone to rushing to Jeff’s defense, but I believe there’s a point he’s trying to make: The point is that Glenn Ford was an A-list star for many many years, but relative to other performers of the same stature from the same period, his profile is probably fairly low. The fact that most people would recognize him for Superman if they recognize him at all, rather than for Gilda, The Big Heat, Blackboard Jungle, 3:10 to Yuma and Ransom is telling.
    Why, exactly, Wells wants to make it sound like some failing on Ford’s part, rather than simply the nature of the business in the studio system is ambiguous.
    The simple fact is that the period which should have been Ford’s most successful coincided with the arrival of the Newmans, Brandos, Deans and the Clifts, the Method actors and that the critical community has prioritized those actors (all slightly younger) and their craft over the studio-level proficiency of people like Ford.
    Somethin’ like that…
    Daniel

  22. Good point, Daniel, but I think Jeff was getting at more than just the acting world.
    “Ford was mainly about middle-class attitudes and presumptions, soothed feelings, “there, there” and thoughtful, average-guy decency”
    Jeff has upper-class attitudes and presumptions himself, and generally paints in a very broad brush. I get the feeling he’s talking more about Ward Cleaver than anything else.

  23. Jeff was honest and you’re all shocked, how dare Wells express his honest opinion…disgraceful. Sorry, but I agree with Wells on this issue, and I go to this site for this kind of stuff. Do you prefer some puff piece, or do you prefer to really know how the reviewer feels? I’ll take honesty, even if I don’t agree.
    Look at the second Ford story posted just above this one, the reviewer says about Ford “Mr. Ford, who had the ability to project a taut resoluteness and inner strength along with affability and gentleness, was never nominated for an Academy Award”…affability and gentleness???…that’s another way to say kind of bland.
    I don’t think Fords career warranted this kind of reaction, and I was surprised to see it announced on the morning tv news today, so I applaud someone posting something similar on the site. I don’t know anything about the kind of person Ford was, but he did 100+ movies, and 95 of them were forgettable.

  24. It’s funny, but in all this talk about Ford being the “staid, bland face of the 50s,” some are forgetting what a cultural benchmark The Blackboard Jungle was. Though it has not retained its stature, at the time it was every bit the counter-culture equal of Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One. This film literally caused riots, especially in Europe. And in the film, Ford doesn’t exactly represent the status quo. He has his idealistic goggles ripped off, but refuses to fall to the level of simply giving up, as his colleagues do. It’s a good performance, with a fair amount of repressed rage. I think Jeff’s view sells Ford short.

  25. Wow, I’m just loving the hard-core Glenn Ford fanbase coming out to play.
    How many of you even realized the man was still alive before this morning?

  26. Good point, lesterg. I for one thought he’d already died and was surprised by the headline. By which I mean no disrespect. Ford has been ill for many years, out of the public eye, and an actor that wasn’t (and isn’t) going to draw the measure of tribute that a Brando or Stewart or such receive when they pass.
    I would have balanced my assessment with a little more appreciation. Ford’s performance in SUPERMAN is short and mild, but it leaves an indelible mark. When I heard that Singer was going to pay homage to Ford’s performance in SR I remember thinking, “That’s as it should be.” I just watched YUMA a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed Ford very much. When I saw his name in the credits I was happy to see him there and looked forward to spending some time with him. He was solid, reliable, and- yeah- somewhat bland. He represents a time when all an actor needed was a good frame and a handsome face to get a shot. But he was also talented. It’s always sad to see someone go.
    But Jeff isn’t out of bounds to remark on the ephemeral nature of fame and the way that time paves over past achievements. Maybe he made this point a little sharply for an obit. But it’s not like it’s a surprise that Ford and the era of work he represents have been relegated to quaintness. For me, that’s part of the charm of those films. Living in times like these, I enjoy drowning myself in those milder films from the 50s every now and then. It’s a nice vacation. But it matters not to the dominant culture. We’ve moved on. Ford’s passing will be remarked on more on this page than in the wider media. (Though I guarantee it won’t be remarked upon at all in either two days from now.)
    Anyway, Jeff is entitled to his bitterly tinged viewpoints. It’s certainly the most unique obituary I’ve read in a long time. It doesn’t affect my opinion of Ford or his era at all and it speaks some truth about where we are now. And I’m sure Glenn doesn’t care what Jeff wrote one way or the other. It was a good read.
    I think we all on some level fear that the times will erase us. That the things we do and the lives we lived will be made irrelevant or unimportant by the constant march of time. But that’s nothing new. Humans have dealt with that since who knows when. Jeff’s words tap into that fear and it stings a bit.
    We still have the films. Always will. And there are many, many films that Ford was in that are well worth your time. The only way this would do disservice to him would be to discourage anyone from checking these films out. I doubt it would on a site like this. But find his films and give them a whirl. It’s well worth your time.
    Rest in peace, Mr. Ford.

  27. Oh, there’s a whole lot of classic movie fans that knew that Ford was alive, there’s even been various attempts over the past years to get him an honorary Oscar.
    I honestly don’t think our Jeff meant this as an assault against Ford’s acting ability. Perhaps the timing was off. Perhaps a comparison of 50′s actors and sensibilities and current actors would have been more in step with Ford as a touch point.
    Myself, I liked him a great deal – 3:10 To Yuma is a great flick with Ford’s performance being sublime.

  28. Of course, the last film I ever saw Glenn Ford in was the slasher pic “Happy Birthday to Me” from 1981. That’s how Hollywood treats its beloved populace. Which to me, is the real story.
    Sure, Ford represented a certan staid 50′s type, which is why Lang used him against type in The Big Heat. But that’s no more passe than 50′s jazz, or those old forgotten Beat poets like Jack whathisname…

  29. Jeff, This article is a disgrace. I don’t know what you get out of it, but to dump on a beloved actor who most critics and fans—unlike yourself—consider one of the greats of the Golden Age, and to do so less than 12 hours after his death, is despicable, and you should really be ashamed. Your explanation does not begin to offer the apology that you owe.

  30. Goodness gracious. Such outrage!

    I’m not prone to rushing to Jeff’s defense, but I believe there’s a point he’s trying to make: The point is that Glenn Ford was an A-list star for many many years, but relative to other performers of the same stature from the same period, his profile is probably fairly low. The fact that most people would recognize him for Superman if they recognize him at all, rather than for Gilda, The Big Heat, Blackboard Jungle, 3:10 to Yuma and Ransom is telling.

    Why, exactly, Wells wants to make it sound like some failing on Ford’s part, rather than simply the nature of the business in the studio system is ambiguous.

    The simple fact is that the period which should have been Ford’s most successful coincided with the arrival of the Newmans, Brandos, Deans and the Clifts, the Method actors and that the critical community has prioritized those actors (all slightly younger) and their craft over the studio-level proficiency of people like Ford.

    Somethin’ like that…

    Daniel

  31. I watched 3:10 to Yuma a few weeks ago on TV. I’d never seen it before, so had no pre-conceptions. Glenn Ford was incredible. That bar scene with Felicia Farr was one of the sexiest, most evocative seduction scenes I’ve ever seen in a film. Ford under played the sexual context quietly, without bravado, but with a smoldering desire, making it all the more breathtaking.
    Maybe the males reading this don’t quite get it, but females the world over have gasped, fighting for breath while they watched Farr and Ford in their seductive pas de deux.
    That’s talent boys, trust me.
    Only Russell Crowe can duplicate that innate, pure sexuality these days. That’s why he is the perfect choice to play Ben Wade in a remake. Fingers crossed it happens, and a tribute to Glenn Ford that Mangold sees the value in doing it.

  32. I’ll amend an earlier rant of mine by saying that Wells might infuriate the hell out of me at times, but his opinions are never boring. :D

  33. The first time I ever saw a performance of Glenn Fords was on a late night program called the Late, late, late, late show, I still remember the theme song at the beginning. I was 13 years old and had my own black and whiteTV in my bedroom. My parents didnt know that I stayed up late on a school night to watch all the old movies that would play on that show, or maybe they did, it was after all my father’s fault for introducing me to the actors and actresses that he admired. James Dean comes to mind. Anyway, the movie was an old Black and White film called “Lust for Gold”. He was mean and cruel with whiskers on his face and to me he was so very good in the role that there and then I fell in love with him as an actor. Maybe he reminded me of my father in a way, could be, but I loved him never the less and had to see every movie that he was in and that I could get my hands on. He was as good as any method actor at the time. Watch his face sometime, the emotions he projects are on a grand scale, but then I like the quiet sort of man, they intrigue me and I much prefer them over a loud ,obnoxious individual anyday. Just recently I decided it was time to revisit Glenn Ford and rented Lust for Gold, it is still as good as it was the first time I ever viewed it and I have to say my love for the man and his acting has never waned. My hope is that all who havent seen more than Superman will take a peek at his large body of work, he is worth it.

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