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Glenn Ford

A Life

Peter Ford

Publication Year: 2011

Glenn Ford—star of such now-classic films as Gilda, Blackboard Jungle, The Big Heat, 3:10 to Yuma, and The Rounders—had rugged good looks, a long and successful career, and a glamorous Hollywood life. Yet the man who could be accessible and charming on screen retreated to a deeply private world he created behind closed doors.
    Glenn Ford: A Life chronicles the volatile life, relationships, and career of the renowned actor, beginning with his move from Canada to California and his initial discovery of theater. It follows Ford’s career in diverse media—from film to television to radio—and shows how Ford shifted effortlessly between genres, playing major roles in dramas, noir, westerns, and romances.
    This biography by Glenn Ford’s son, Peter Ford, offers an intimate view of a star’s private and public life. Included are exclusive interviews with family, friends, and professional associates, and snippets from the Ford family collection of diaries, letters, audiotapes, unpublished interviews, and rare candid photos. This biography tells a cautionary tale of Glenn Ford’s relentless infidelities and long, slow fade-out, but it also embraces his talent-driven career. The result is an authentic Hollywood story that isn’t afraid to reveal the truth.


Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

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Foreword by Patrick McGilligan

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pp. ix-x

Books by the children of movie stars digging into the lives of their celebrity parents occupy a small but valuable niche in the field of film literature. As a biographer myself I prize the books I collect on my shelves that go behind closed doors to offer an alternative glimpse of Hollywood legends. Such books are rarely dull, and the best of the genre are revelatory, peeling ...

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1. "California, Here I Come"

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pp. 3-23

You could say that I first got to know Glenn Ford at about the same time the rest of the world did. To moviegoers in the years just after World War II—and that really meant everybody in the world in those days before television and portable entertainment—he was the new star sensation, the good-looking young actor who had burned up the screen with Rita Hayworth in Gilda and romanced not one but two (identical twin) Bette Davises in A Stolen Life. To me, a little boy in those years, he...

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2. "Somewhere over the Rainbow"

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pp. 24-42

Sol “Solly” Wurzel had worked at Twentieth Century Fox since the time it was still just plain Fox, before it had merged with Darryl Zanuck’s upstart Twentieth Century in 1935. In those seven years he had produced no fewer than eighty movies, including various musicals, mysteries, comedies, dramas, and assorted entries in the Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan series. With the possible exception of a pair of Will Rogers vehicles directed by John Ford, not one of those eighty films Wurzel made ...

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3. "Love and Marriage"

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pp. 43-59

My mother was born Eleanor Torrey Powell on November 21, 1912, to Clarence and Blanche (n

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4. "Amado Mio"

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pp. 60-91

Rita Hayworth once said, “Men went to bed with Gilda, and they woke up with me.” She was speaking of the distance between that larger-than-life erotic creature she created on film and the more human, life-sized, fragile person she was in reality. Glenn Ford would be one of the few men in Rita’s life with whom she retained a lifelong intimate friendship, a person she could trust and love without disappointment on either side. They had met as teenagers, he had befriended her when she ...

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5. "Trouble in Paradise"

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pp. 92-107

What is happening to Glenn Ford at Columbia?” asked Sheilah Graham in her Hollywood column. “After Gilda, Glenn was the hottest property in town. Since then his pictures have not been important.” It was something my father worried about in those years after he had made his breakthrough only to see himself thrown into one less than spectacular movie after another. He would complain about the quality of ...

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6. "It's Only Make-Believe"

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pp. 108-126

Glenn began the new decade of the 1950s with, by his own reckoning, one of the worst decisions of his career. Harry Cohn had paid an unprecedented $1 million to obtain the movie rights to the hit Broadway comedy Born Yesterday, the story of a bellowing junk merchant, his tough but soft-hearted tootsie, and the writer who tutors and falls in love with her. From the beginning Harry had earmarked the part of the writer for ...

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7. "Fire and Rain"

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pp. 127-146

I don’t want to leave the impression that my father was simply a disciplinarian, without kindness or humor. At times he was relaxed and full of fun. There were the Sunday mornings following services at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, strolling along the grassy parkway on the northern side of Santa Monica Boulevard. We would pass under the ...

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8. "Rock Around the Clock"

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pp. 147-163

The Violent Men wrapped up in May, and after my father attended to the matter of finishing The Americano for Jack Stillman and RKO, he was tempted by an offer from the most prestigious and luxurious of all the dream factories. Dore Schary, MGM production head, had asked my father many times to join the studio, but there was always a conflict or other commitments. Now, with just a one-film-per-year responsibility to ...

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9. "Glory Days"

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pp. 164-177

After a three-film absence, my father returned to his old “home” at Columbia Pictures to make another western. And Jubal turned out to be a fine film, a large-scale color and widescreen production shot on location in the rugged and spectacular landscape in and around Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The director and cowriter was Delmer Daves, a very talented and ...

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10. "Singin' the Blues"

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pp. 178-199

Many Hollywood movies have a long and circuitous history before they finally come to life on-screen, and Cowboy was one of them. It was based on a memoir by Frank Harris about a day-dreaming Chicago hotel clerk who decides to join up with a tough cattle driver and his outfit and learns to be a real man of the West. John Huston purchased the film rights in the late 1940s, hoping to star in the picture ...

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11. "Cat's in the Cradle"

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pp. 200-216

Two for the Seesaw was supposed to be next up on Glenn’s schedule, costarring the one and only Elizabeth Taylor, but she had become bogged down making Cleopatra in Rome for longer than planned. When Elizabeth found herself involved with a married boyfriend, Richard Burton, Seesaw was put on permanent hold. In 1962 the film would be made starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine. ...

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12. "Auld Lang Syne"

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pp. 217-233

Dear Heart, the third film Dad made in 1963, was a gentle love story about ordinary middle-aged people. It had originally been titled The Out of Towners, but the name was changed by studio head Jack L. Warner after preview audiences responded enthusiastically to the film’s theme song by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer (a follow-up to their ...

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13. "Hard to Say"

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pp. 234-251

On March 27, 1966, Glenn Ford and Kathryn Hays were married at the Westwood Community Methodist Church. I was the best man. The matron of honor was Kathy’s friend Betty Murray, Don Murray’s wife. Kathy’s six-year-old daughter, Sherri, was the flower girl. Robert Goulet sang the Lord’s Prayer. Among the guests were Edward G. ...

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14. "Devil or Angel"

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pp. 252-282

My father inevitably drifted into television. It was a drop in prestige for most movie stars, but others had preceded him: Barbara Stanwyck, James Stewart, and Oscar winner Donna Reed come to mind. But working on a major network series paid well enough, attracted a huge audience, and, just as important to my father, allowed him to remain a star and leading man; a switch to character parts at this time in his life ...

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15. "Lyin' Eyes"

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pp. 283-300

Dad spent 1977 traveling, and of course it was financially fortuitous that he was able to take Cynthia on an around-the-world honeymoon before the wedding by virtue of his employment as the host-narrator for When Havoc Struck. The couple went to London, Paris, Wales, Monte Carlo, Italy, and on a virtual tour of the United States, as well as islands in the Caribbean Sea, in the quest of documenting the different ...

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16. "Yesterday"

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pp. 301-310

I rushed to the hospital. Dad was alone in his room and looked haggard and pale. His hair was matted; his fingernails were extremely long. Purring monitors charting his vital signs were at his bedside, and intravenous tubes were stuck in both arms. It took me a moment to process what I was seeing—was this my father, or was it Howard Hughes in his last days? As I stood by his bedside and touched his arm, he opened his ...

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pp. 311-312

My father documented his life in diaries, on cassette tapes, in letters, and in notes. At every opportunity he recorded his thoughts, fears, and observations. The abundance of material I had at my disposal to construct this biography was as vast as it was daunting. Also, I had the privilege of sharing personal experiences with many luminaries of the Golden Age of Hollywood and I’ve incorporated some of these memories as ...


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pp. 313-322


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pp. 323-330


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pp. 331-345

E-ISBN-13: 9780299281533
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299281540

Page Count: 345
Publication Year: 2011