If you’re a fan of old movies, you’ll recognize what the classics “Gilda,” “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” and “The Fastest Gun Alive” all have in common: Glenn Ford. On Mondays this month, these and 28 other Ford films are being broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies network.
Oddly enough, though he appeared in around 100 feature films, the first biography on Ford was only published in 2011 when Ford’s son, Peter, authored “Glenn Ford: A Life.” It’s an insightful film bio filled with stories about one of Hollywood’s most respected actors (see www.glennfordbio.com).
Also an actor, Peter left Hollywood - literally - and moved to Bigfork, Montana, a few years ago which may seem an appropriate family destination given his father starred in so many popular westerns. But other factors also led Peter and wife Lynda to abandon the town where they spent most of their lives.
“California, with its crime, overcrowding, and all that the once great state has lost, drove us away,” Peter told me recently. “Not to mention the progressive politics and sanctuary state nonsense which made it a place that no longer spoke to our values. Montana, with its pioneer spirit, fewer people, and America and flag loving population also spoke to us - not to mention there’s no state sales tax here!”
So has Peter been watching his dad’s movies this month?
“We have seen a few of the films on TCM but, as you can imagine, I have seen them so many times I have practically memorized them!” he said. He also expressed a regret.
“I wished TCM would invite me to share some behind-the-scenes family history with the viewers,” he lamented. “But since my old friend (former TCM host) Bob Osborne passed, they probably don’t even know I exist!”
Despite being far removed from the glitzy Hollywood life - Peter’s mother was also a Hollywood legend, actress and superb tap-dancer Eleanor Powell - he’s been carrying the classic film torch locally.
“There’s a vibrant arts colony here with its world-class Bigfork Playhouse, a fine symphony orchestra up the road in Kalispell, and more,” he explained. “They have a yearly film festival and we donate Glenn Ford and Eleanor Powell items to support that effort and the local Food Bank.”
Last year the Playhouse showed the Ford film “Blackboard Jungle,” noted for its innovative soundtrack which, according to TCM, contained “the first rock song ever used in a Hollywood feature.”
“I spoke about the film and my part in getting ‘Rock Around the Clock’ into the film,” said Peter. “In fact, Lynda and I just got back from Senigallia, Italy, where we were guests of the ‘Rick & Roll Summer Jamboree.’ They showed ‘Blackboard Jungle’ in Italian and I shared stories about old Hollywood and the Golden Age days of yore.”
Relive those grand movie days in July with upcoming Glenn Ford classics on TCM including “Torpedo Run,” “The Teahouse of the August Moon,” and “Pocketful of Miracles.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 750 magazines and newspapers. See www.getnickt.org.