Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Glenn Ford Is Gone

I just learned that Glenn Ford has passed away. One of the all-time great movie stars was 90 years old, and had been in ill health for many years.

Do yourself a favor. Read the obituary I linked to above and Netflix some of Ford's movies or keep an eye out for the inevitable Turner Classic Movies marathon/tribute coming up in a few days. You won't be sorry.
  • THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, which brought rock and roll to the big screen for the first time, Bill Haley & the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" blasting from the speakers for a story about punk students getting violent with their teachers.
  • RANSOM, a great suspense story that was later remade with Mel Gibson (BLACKBOARD JUNGLE was unofficially remade as CLASS OF 1984), and CRY TERROR, another good suspenser
  • EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, a Blake Edwards thriller shot moodily in San Francisco
  • JUBAL and 3:10 TO YUMA, a pair of psychologically complex westerns
  • THE BIG HEAT, an amazing noir directed by Fritz Lang
  • TERROR ON A TRAIN, a taut British-made B-pic about a bomb expert trying to prevent a cargo train from exploding
  • SUPERMAN, in which, God, Ford was so touching as Clark Kent's farmer. Ford plays his death scene so sensitively that its pall rests over the entire film, fittingly.
The TV buff within me must mention CADE'S COUNTY, a crime drama shot in New Mexico that lasted one season and starred Ford as the sheriff of a desert county. It had a cool theme by Henry Mancini, and Ford brought a lot of weight to the show's simple mystery plots. Ford made his television acting debut in 1970 as the star of THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BELL, an absorbing mystery in which the secret society that he joined as a college student turns on him in his adult life, ruining his career and his reputation. For the rest of the 1970s, Ford could often be found in televison movies and series giving solid performances. He certainly didn't consider television to be a step down from features, at least not according to the performances he gave.

And the trash fan that I am, I would be remiss if I didn't mention two of Glenn Ford's strangest films:
  • THE VISITOR, a bizarre Italian horror movie starring Lance Henriksen, Joanne Nail (SWITCHBLADE SISTERS), John Huston, Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters, Sam Peckinpah (!) and Franco Nero as Jesus Christ! Ford shows up briefly as a police detective and really busts his ass trying to sell this OMEN ripoff's ludicrous story. He has a spectacular death scene too.
  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME is one of my favorite slasher movies, due to its quick pacing, slick production values (it was directed by Hollywood vet J. Lee Thompson), outrageous plot twists, and frequent gore scenes. Ford is very good as a friendly psychiatrist of the leading lady, a confused college student played by good-girl Melissa Sue Anderson from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. Word is that Ford was not particularly pleasant on the set, not surprising when he discovered he was in a bloody slasher movie. Pro that he was, his dissatisfaction didn't affect his performance.
Glenn Ford will definitely be missed.

1 comment:

Hal said...

Sad. THE BIG HEAT is probably my favorite Ford film, he's great in it, and I always liked Gloria Grahame. Matter of fact, it's probably Grahame's best performance.

I also should mention ADVANCE TO THE REAR, which probably helped inspire F TROOP. If you ever get to see it, you'll see some resemblence.