Glenn Ford remembered as great actor, flawed dad
An interview with Peter Ford, author of "Glenn Ford: A Life," and the film actor's son. Peter Ford is in the Northwest July 5 presenting screenings of "Gilda" and "3:10 to Yuma."
Seattle Times movie critic
'Gilda' and '3:10 to Yuma'"Gilda" screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Historic Lynwood Theatre on Bainbridge Island, as part of the theater's 75th anniversary celebration. Peter Ford will be present for a Q & A. 4569 Lynwood Center Road, Bainbridge Island, 206-842-3080; tickets are $10 and available at the door.
"3:10 to Yuma," also with Peter Ford present, will screen at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle, 206-267-5380; tickets are $9 ($6 NWFF members, $6.50 students/seniors) and available at the door or through www.nwfilmforum.org.
The actor Glenn Ford kept a lifelong diary and, in his later years, made hundreds of cassette tapes in which he talked about his movie career. When he died in 2006, at the age of 90, those materials were passed to his son, Peter Ford — who knew that he would be the one to write the first substantial biography of his father. "Glenn Ford: A Life" (University of Wisconsin Press) was published earlier this spring and was, Peter Ford says, cathartic for him.
"It was difficult," said the actor's son, on the phone from his California home last week. "I tried to celebrate his great skills as an actor, and yet he was not the best dad. But I didn't want [the book] to be full of pathos and anger. I didn't want it to be a 'Daddy Dearest.' " Ford said that the book, many years in the making, is intended to honor his father's legacy, though it doesn't sugarcoat Ford's infidelities (during his 16-year-marriage to Peter's mother, Eleanor Powell) and absences when his son was young.
Ford will be in town this week for two screenings of his father's films (see box), both personal favorites. "Gilda," the 1946 film noir in which Ford co-stars with Rita Hayworth ("a love of his life"), launched the actor's career. "He was in the Marines [in World War II] and came home, really casting about, hoping he could get a job," said his son. "He went over to Warner Bros. and Bette Davis saw him in the commissary and hired him to be in 'Stolen Life.' " Columbia Pictures studio head Harry Cohn, realizing that Ford would be sharing a screen with Davis — already a legend — quickly put together "Gilda" to capitalize on the rising young actor. "With 'Gilda,' coming out first, followed within a month or so by 'Stolen Life,' my father became an overnight star, though he'd been working in the business since 1939."
The black-and-white 1957 Western "3:10 to Yuma," also screening here, is representative of Ford's favorite genre. (It was remade, starring Russell Crowe, in 2007; Peter Ford prefers the "very low-key and very subtle" original.)
"[My father] made 23 Westerns, and there are few that stand up to that one," said his son. "He really liked doing them — he said they were so easy to do. He was a great horseman; he loved the outdoors. He loved to get out, not stuck in the studio on a soundstage."
Peter Ford will be signing and selling books at both screenings, and looks forward to meeting fans of his father. He's also eager to start on his next writing project: a biography of his mother, the legendary dancing star of "Born to Dance" and "Broadway Melody of 1940." (Hers is "truly a rags-to-riches story," he said.)
And he's come to terms with his memories of his father, who he says became his friend once the younger Ford grew to adulthood. "We never really shared any father/son experiences together. But I came to terms with that early on." In the book, he chose to "become [my father's] fan and celebrate what I can about him that he shared with me and everybody else in the world."
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@
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