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AN APPRECIATION

Glenn Ford was an anti-star to the end

No Oscars, no big bucks, just one film role after another in a career that spanned 52 years.

September 01, 2006|Bob Thomas | Associated Press

He never won an Academy Award -- in fact, he was never nominated. He never earned the big bucks that stars of his stature enjoyed. Yet for 52 years, Glenn Ford remained an in-demand actor whose name above the title could attract movie ticket buyers.

Ford might be called the anti-star. He didn't hang out with the gang in Hollywood watering holes. He never quarreled with directors or studio bosses. His name was never sullied by scandal. He did his acting job and went on to the next one.

His career contrasts with that of his (mostly) friendly rival at Columbia, William Holden. Both were put under contract by Columbia boss Harry Cohn in the pre-World War II period. Both vied for good roles; sometimes, they co-starred, as in "Texas" and "The Man From Colorado."

Ford was sedate, Holden was a roisterer, noted for his boozing and romancing. Holden once bragged to Robert Mitchum that he had bedded every one of his leading ladies.

Holden won an Oscar for "Stalag 17" and was nominated for "Sunset Blvd." and "Network." He died in 1981 during a drinking binge. He was 63.

Ford continued working until 1991, when a series of strokes overcame him. The 90-year-old actor was found dead Wednesday in his Beverly Hills home, police said. An exact cause of death was not given.

During interviews with this reporter over the years, Ford revealed some of the factors contributing to his longevity.

"I've always been of the opinion that motion pictures talk too much," he remarked in 1975. "When I see films that go on and on with dialogue, I feel like telling the actors, 'Be quiet! Let the audience do some of the work.' It's much better to let the audience use their imaginations than to tell them everything.

"Some actors count their lines as soon as they receive a script. I'm the opposite. I try to see how many lines I can whittle down. I tell producers and directors, 'Do me a favor and trim that speech to four lines.' You can say just as much in four as you can in 14."

Ford was no pushover for overbearing directors. He earned battle stars for some of his encounters. But in 1965, he commented: "I think film actors are better off when they are in the hands of a strong director. When actors are coddled and catered to, they lose their sense of reality. If you don't applaud after their close-ups, they go into their dressing rooms and pout."

In the era after WWII, stars like Kirk Douglas and John Wayne formed their own production companies. Ford tried it once, with "Pocketful of Miracles," Frank Capra's remake of his hit "Lady for a Day."

That was Ford's last venture as producer. He reasoned, "No actor is going to tell Frank Capra how to make a picture. He had forgotten more about moviemaking than most directors know."

Ford said in 1960 that he preferred to work for major studios than independent producers. His reasoning:

"I've had a lot of [independent] guys tell me I can earn a million dollars by making a picture with them. Of course, the script isn't quite right, and they won't spend much money on the picture. It doesn't take many of those before you're washed up."

That was no worry for Glenn Ford. He was a star to the end of his career.

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