Today would have been the 100th birthday of popular actor Glenn Ford. Ford, who played in many western, passed away in 2006
It’s no coincidence that the Turner Classic Movies network will be airing a couple of Glenn Ford movies on May 1.
“That would have been my dad’s 100th birthday,” noted Ford’s only child, Peter, from his home in Bigfork, Mont.
Oddly enough, the first biography on Ford was only published in 2011. Peter authored “Glenn Ford: A Life” which is an insightful Hollywood bio filled with stories of the actor’s life and career (see www.peterford.com).
“It was published by the University of Wisconsin Press and they tell me it’s been the bestselling movie book they’ve ever produced,” said Peter proudly.
Also known for many classic western features such as “The Fastest Gun Alive,” “3:10 to Yuma,” and “Cimarron,” Ford was a natural cowboy.
“He would put a holster on me and we’d practice drawing down on each other. He was also a gun collector and used the same gun in most of his movies.”
Actor Paul Petersen co-starred with Ford in the 1967 western “A Time for Killing” and remembers his horsemanship.
“What I most recall is how soft spoken he was...how observant...how professional,” recalled Petersen.
“On the first day on location we had to pick our horses, and I ended up with a goofy pinto that didn’t like cameras and lights and crewmen,” recalled Petersen. “I was riding around getting to know my movie horse when Glenn ambled over to a horse trailer nearby, and when the tail gate dropped, out backed this magnificent quarter-horse.”
Petersen says within minutes Ford had the horse saddled, and mounted with ease. “He had that horse moving around like a dancer, backing up, tracing sideways, and ever alert. Glenn Ford was no rookie.”
“As a kid, he was one of my favorite actors, just awe-inspiring,” said Donner from his Los Angeles office. “I had directed several episodes of his TV series ‘Cade’s County’ in the ‘70s and got to know him a little. When ‘Superman’ came along I thought he’d be perfect for the role of Pa Kent. I called him personally and he thought about it a minute and said ‘Sight unseen, for you I’ll do it.’ So he jumped on-board and loved it.”
So if Ford were alive and healthy today at 100, would he still be acting?
“I'm sure he would,” said son Peter. “He loved to act and he especially liked to be paid for doing it.”
But towards the end of his career, Ford “did some less than stellar films” says Peter who once asked his dad why he took roles in forgettable movies like 1989’s “Casablanca Express.” Ford explained for that role, the producers provided him and a companion with first-class airfares to Morocco for filming, with 5-star accommodations along the way.
“He worked only three days acting his part and flew home with a briefcase stuffed with $50,000 in cash,” recalls Peter. “I can see why acting was so much fun for him!”
When Peter and his wife moved from Beverly Hills to Montana in 2014, they didn’t entirely leave Hollywood behind them.
“We’re on 25 acres surrounded by trees, deer and wild turkeys and it’s wonderful,” says Peter. “Last October, I was invited to talk when they showed ‘Gilda’ at the local playhouse in Bigfork and it was packed. People still remember Glenn Ford.”
(Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 600 magazines and newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @TinseltownTalks.)