Vintage Hunk: Glenn Ford
"Statistics show that there are more women in the world than anything else. Except insects."
—Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrel in Gilda
Glenn Ford was a gorgeous hunk in the 1940s and a popular leading man in the 1950s who worked steadily through the rest of his life. While not a great actor, he gave fine performances in a number of films and was definitely a big star who parlayed his good looks into an amazing career that lasted more than 50 years.
Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford was born in Canada but moved to Santa Monica, Calif., at the age of 8. Graduating from Santa Monica High School, he worked in several small theater groups before landing a contract with Columbia Pictures in 1939. His stage name came from his father's hometown of Glenford, Canada.
Ford starred in a number of innocuous films before he reported for military service. His biggest claim to fame was his 1943 marriage to MGM dancer/star Eleanor Powell. Although Powell was at the end of her musical career, she was still the star name in the Ford family. Glenn Ford's only child, Peter, was born in 1945.
Returning from the war, Ford hit it big in 1946 with two smash hits, A Stolen Life with Bette Davis and Gilda with Rita Hayworth.
Gilda was the film that made Hayworth the love goddess of the decade. This fascinating study of love, sexual betrayal, and murder was played out in all its grandeur with Hayworth at the very peak of her beauty and popularity. Glenn Ford was great as the smitten former boyfriend. What is fascinating about this film is the gay subtext—it's very apparent that Ford is being kept by Hayworth's husband (George Macready) after being picked up gambling in an alley!
In the 1950s Ford starred in a number of box office hits including the great Fritz Lang classic The Big Heat and the seminal junveile delinquent film Blackboard Jungle, which was released almost six months before Rebel Without A Cause—the other classic American film that dealt with new phenomenon of teenage unrest in the U.S.
In 1958, Glenn Ford was the year’s top box office star. He spent the next decade turning out fine performances in charming films like Pocketful of Miracles (Golden Globe Best Actor), Experiment in Terror opposite the luminous Lee Remick, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father with the young Ronnie Howard. Supporting roles followed, including that of Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve)'s adopted father in the 1978 version of Superman.
After Ford's marriage to Eleanor Powell broke up in 1959, he was linked to actresses Hope Lange and Judy Garland, among others. Three other marriages and divorces followed.
Glenn Ford was to receive a special tribute gala at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood in May of 2006. Fearing that his health would not permit his attendance, he filmed a message for the audience that included former co-stars Debbie Reynolds, Shirley Jones, and Martin Landau who came to praise him.
Three months later, on August 30, 2006, Glenn Ford passed away at the age of 90. He had appeared in more than 100 films.