Book review: ‘Glenn Ford: A Life,’ warts and all
He was easygoing and charming on camera, but private and reserved off. He was born in Canada but became such an iconic figure on screen that fellow actor Sidney Poitier said of him, “He is a genuine American movie star.”
Glenn Ford might not have gained the lofty status and respect of such Hollywood titans as Clark Gable, James Stewart or Henry Fonda, but in a career that featured roles in such classics as “The Blackboard Jungle,” “Gilda,” “Jubal,” “The Big Heat,” “3:10 to Yuma” and “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” he certainly ranks among cinema’s most versatile, durable and endearing leading men.
Now Ford, one of the last old-school leading men of Hollywood’s defunct studio system, gets an intimate insider’s biography, “Glenn Ford: A Life” (University of Wisconsin Press, $24.95), written by the actor’s only child, Peter Ford.
Son of Glenn Ford and dancer Eleanor Powell, Peter Ford writes an expectedly celebratory account of his father’s eventful life and career. But this biography isn’t merely a PR job, as the writer offers up an honest and clear-eyed assessment of his father’s shortcomings, as well as his impressive career.
Drawing on the Ford family collection of diaries, letters, audiotapes, unpublished reminiscences and rare candid photographs – plus interviews with family, friends and professional colleagues – Peter Ford assembles a remarkably frank and revealing portrait of his father as a driven actor, an American patriot and military veteran, a loving family man and a mercurial Hollywood man about town.
While much of the book focuses on Ford’s 60-plus years in movies, his versatile array of roles from westerns to romantic comedies to hardboiled crime pictures and dramas, and his long marriage to tap-dance star Powell, the son doesn’t blink at revealing his father’s wild side and many infidelities.
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