Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford May 1, 1916 – August 30, 2006
It’s a gorgeous name, isn’t it? Beginning with a touch of the nebulous, but nonetheless strong, trustworthy and clear.
My earliest memories of Glenn Ford probably originate from a movie that came out the year I was born, Richard Donner’s Superman. As is so often the case with many of my favorite things, I come in late and grew up watching Glenn Ford’s career backwards. Some time in my childhood, probably 6 or so years after it’s release in theaters I get to watch Superman. Too young for much more of the Superman mythos than Superfriends it’s probably a revelation to me that Superman is an alien, was young or even had parents and this is where I meet Glenn Ford for the first time, with his turn as Jonathan Kent. He’s gentle and smiling and reminds me of my Grandad who is my most favorite person in my small little world. But what does it, is the moment little Kal-El lifts the old pickup truck, (which also reminds me of my Grandad’s) as Kent is trying to change the tire, the amazement that falls across his face, and in that moment we share wonder and awe and I became instantly pals with Glenn Ford.
A few years later I catch Midway at my grandaparent’s house on a Sunday afternoon. Sunday is always for spending at the grandparents after church. Sometimes I just ride home with them and my Mom follows along with the little brothers. Grandma usually gives me a butterscotch in the car. When I get out of the church clothes and shoes Grandaddy and I watch Little Rascals, Tarzan, the Lone Ranger and Martin and Lewis movies while Grandma and Mommy makes lunch. After lunch the matinee movies, Westerns and WWII spetacles, come on and my aunt Linda, Grandaddy and I play board games- Monopoly, Mousetrap, Connect Four and Yahtzee. All sorts of games. As I get older I get into the cartoons and play the board games with my brothers, or play outside. And even older still I go back to watching the afternoon movies with my Grandad. Midway always stands out as the moment I realize they are using actual combat footage. The dogfights are real. History becomes a little more open to me and I start to see exactly how huge this event called World War II was. Rear Admiral Glenn Ford is there, Superman’s dad, wow. (So is Mister Miaygi, but I don’t make this connection until many years later)
Then I see a lot of movies. I watch movies all over the place trying to make up for lost time. Still playing catch up, you see. I get a job at a movie theater and use the money from my paycheck to see more movies, to buy movies. I go to New York at some point and geek out over the Lions at the NY Public Library, because it’s like a sign that says ‘Ray, Peter, and Egon were here!’ My friends think I’m crazy. They’re probably right. I am one of the scary ones that decides cinema is a life supplement the way ECT is mental health supplement.
So I go to college where I can watch even more movies by taking classes about them. Which leads me back to my old friend Glenn Ford again because I take particular interest in film noir, of which Gilda is well known for being. And this is Glenn unlike I’d ever seen him, he’s intense and vile, possessed with hatred and passion for Rita Hayworth. This is Eddie’s Father! The teach who faced off with vic Morrow. It’s hard to reconcile him with Jonathan Kent now. Gilda has so much going on in it, racy and dark, but always, always I see Glenn Ford’s eyes watching and speaking. And it never fails to put me in awe.
An amazing talent, and prolific man of the times, I wanted people to realize that when we lose these folks it should be something you stop and take note of. The world is so obsenely large now and full of conflict and greed and anonymity that losing an icon like Glenn Ford is more than sad, it hurts. Did not know him, but all the same. It is a condition that these people you have relationships with in dark theaters and on television screen become part of your life, prompting emotion and thought through their performances and the gold ones, the treasures, like Glenn Ford- even though you don’t know them- you know them, they are a world, a history, memories. Surprising and enchanting. So observe tribute.