Glenn Ford’s 90th Birthday Tribute in Hollywood
by Alan Rode
Hollywood legend is feted at the Egyptian Theatre with screening of noir classic, Gilda (1946)
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Hollywood turned out en masse to honor one of Tinseltown’s most enduring screen stars, Glenn Ford, on the occasion of his 90th Birthday.
Ford remains unique as an archetype actor in multiple genres, significantly film noir and westerns during a durable 54 year career.
Presented by the American Cinematheque in association with the Heartland Film Festival, TCM, Sony Pictures and Variety, the sold-out Egyptian Theatre became a facsimile of a golden age Hollywood premiere with vintage celebrity stars fording through a blizzard of photographers and rubbernecking film buffs.
It was eagerly anticipated that Glenn Ford would make his first public appearance in 15 years at the event. The ailing star, confined to his home and under constant care after a series of strokes, had to cancel at the last minute due to his tenuous health.
A poignant video message projected prior to the movie screenings showed a game, but diminished Glenn Ford thanking everyone for their birthday wishes. The great actor, clearly struggling with speech concluded, “I wish I were up and around, but I’m doing the best I can… There’s so much I have to be grateful for.”
The legendary star was well-represented by his family, including son and biographer, Peter Ford who co-hosted the event with writer and American Cinematheque trustee member, Martin Lewis.
The tributes that poured in from the present and former U.S. Presidents as well as the guest speakers who worked with the veteran star were appropriately effusive.
Debbie Reynolds praised Ford as an actor who was always prepared and did his job exceptionally well.
Actress Shirley Jones remembered, “Glenn Ford was so good, he never appeared that he was acting. She lauded the actor as “one of the cornerstones of our industry, and there aren’t many left.”
Martin Landau, who was cast with Ford in The Gazebo, recalled that after watching Ford work, “…the bar for me to be a successful film actor was set very, very high. He was a giant and I am still trying to be as good as Glenn Ford.”
Jamie Farr had it pretty much right, forcefully seconding Ron Howard’s open letter this week in Daily Variety that championed the Motion Picture Academy to honor Glenn Ford with a lifetime Oscar. Farr cut his remarks short, stating that he wanted to watch Gilda because ‘Corporal Klinger’ wanted to check out the dress Rita Hayworth wore while singing, “Put the Blame on Mame”!
The evening screenings began with Ford’s first film appearance, a Paramount short, Night in Manhattan (1937). The youthful 21 year old played a nightclub emcee (and, according to Peter Ford, had to wear Marlene Dietrich’s 1930 tuxedo from Morocco!) A restored 35mm print of the unforgettable film noir Gilda (1946), starring Ford and Rita Hayworth followed to the delight of the capacity crowd. Kudos must go to the UCLA Film and Television Archive and Sony Pictures for the beautiful restoration.
The post screening birthday celebration featured cake, vodka martinis and wine served in the Egyptian Theatre courtyard capped off the evening’s tribute to Glenn Ford as the stars mingled with the theatergoers in a convivial atmosphere. It was fun to watch the stars tippling and jawboning about Glenn Ford and the movies with the vintage film buffs and industry types.
Alan Rode is a film historian, writer, and board member of the Film Noir Foundation.
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