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Glenn Ford (1916-2006)

  1. William Holden, Texas, 1940.     First of two Westerns for Ford and Holden - the only Hollywood stars whose contracts were each shared between two companies. Ford was at Columbia and MGM, Holden at Columbia and Paramount. And that was the trouble here. Par had suspended Holden over some financial trifle, so Ford moved up from Tod Ramsey to Dan Thomas…In fact, he was merely warming Holden’s saddle for him, as he was soon released to court the rancher’s daughter, Claire Trevor.
  2. Thomas E Breen, The River/Le fleuve, France-India-USA, 1951.    Among the Hollywood names juggled by the legendary French realisateur Jean Renoir for his final film  in English. He also tried for Brando, John Dall, Van Heflin, James Mason,  Robert Walker, Sam Wannamaker before settling on  the totally useless Breen.
  3. Gene Kelly, The Devil Makes Three, 1951.    Sir Dancelot  took over Ford’s post-WWII hero in post-WWII Germany where post-WWII Nazis still exist and conspire… Kelly had a better gig that year. Singing in the Rain.
  4. John Wayne, Hondo, 1952.   Ford and director John Farrow (Mia’s dad) didn’t get on during Plunder of the Sun that year. So it was necessary for producer John Wayne to change star or helmer… for the very average Louis d’Amour tale. 3D or no 3D! Duke blamed the flop for being too close to Shane. Hondo is only really remembered as the reason Spencer Tracy’s Bad Day At Honda was changed to Bad Day At Black Rock
  5. Tony Curtis, Houdini, 1953.     Last of the bunch of both old and new stars eager  to make the Harry Houdini story.
  6. James Mason, A Star Is Born, 1953.
  7. Richard Kiley, The Phenix City Story, 1954.     Without stars (Ford, Edward G Robinson, George Raft) it had a slashed budget and higher critical acclaim for its docu-style look at what New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called “the shrewd chicanery of evil men, the callousness and baseness of their puppets and the dread and silence of local citizens” in the true tale of the little Alabama city.
  8. Paul Newman, The Rack, 1955.      In September, Ford was up for the US Army officer on trial for collaborating with the enemy while a prisoner in Korea. He would never have come close to the power of Newman’s performance.. Just what he needed to make up for his debut in The Silver Chalice which Newman has continually called "the worst motion picture filmed during the 50s." He was not wrong!
  9. Kerwin Matthews, The Garment Jungle, 1956.     Passed… “I was the hardest working unknown actor in the world, ” Matthews often boasted. However, “handsome is as handsome does” does not an actor make. He was rarely up to his roles, more acceptable in (Ray Harryhausen) fantasies than this tough trades union battleground.
  10. Van Heflin, 3.10 To Yuma, 1956.     Ford refused the hero, Dan Evans, in order to be the villain, Ben Wade. Some say, Delmer Daves’ Western is one of the best  50s' Westerns. Others, myself included, say: Pshwaw!

  11. Paul Newman, Until They Sail, 1956.    In turnaround since 1953, when director Robert Wise’s company bought and sold it to Burt Lancaster’s combine, which sold it to MGM at the end of 1955 - with Ford in mind for one of the many US soldiers fraternising with lonely New Zealand women, with husbands away at WWII, missing or dead. In ’56, MGM switched to Newman directed by… Wise!
  12. Tyrone Power, Witness For The Prosecution, 1957.      Producer Edward Small was trying to find a star to suit Agatha Christie and his following epic, Solomon and Sheba, 1959.  Ford was more Old Bailey than Old Testament. Also in the Billy Wilder mix: Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelly, Jack Lemmon, even Roger Moore…  This was Ty Power’s final movie, he died on his next project, Solomon and Sheba, in 1958.   Ford was more Old Bailey than Old Testament.
  13. Richard Widmark, Tunnel of Love, 1957.     Ostensibly due to two other gigs requiring his presence, Ford vacated the Doris Day flop -  first film directed by Gene Kelly in which he did not appear. 
  14. Robert Mitchum, Five Card Stud, 1958.      No contest! Then again, Ford was the fastest gun in westerns, drawing and firing in 0.4 seconds.
  15. Frank Sinatra, Some Came Running, 1958.     When he  couldn’t get Brando - director Vincente Minnelli’s initial substitute notion was… Ford!!
  16. Dean Martin, Rio Bravo, 1958.
  17. Jack Lemmon, It Happened To Jane, 1959.   Doris Day’s comedy started as The Jane From Maine but lacked all of the promise of its post-release title twist: Twinkle and Shine.
  18. Kirk Douglas, Strangers When We Meet, 1959.    Ford jumped ship rather than work with Novak (like Rex Harrison on Bell, Book and Candle). Or, indeed, with Novak and her fiancee, the film’s director Richard Quine! Ford knew Quine would throw everything Novak’s way. The best lighting, best close-ups, best lines, best dresses! Douglas wasn’t so worried - he was, after all, boss of the co-producing Bryna Productions. Even so, legend insists Kim told Kirk how to play his scenes. Not for long. After all, he had the Oscar, not her. “Female stars, ” Douglas once announced winning few friends, “are pathetic!”
  19. Steve McQueen, The Magnificent Seven, 1960. Hard to believe that the Western making new generation stars out of Bronson, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, etc, was originally aimed at old hats in 1959 - Clark Gable, Glenn Ford, Stewart Granger. And just two newer guys: Anthony Franciosa, Dean Jones. All to be directed by Yul Brynner, already in a bitter dispute with Anthony Quinn and producer Lou Morheim over the rights to the source material: Japanese maestro Akira Kurosawa’s Shichinin no samurai/Seven Samurai, 1953. Brynner’s title was The Magnificent Six. Like re-making Ben-Hur as Ben-Herbie.
  20. Dirk Bogarde, The Angel Wore Red, 1961.    Hollywood’s A List (from Montgomery Clift to Paul Newman) refused. Pinewood’s A List (Bogarde all alone) campily agreed.

  21. Burt Lancaster, The Swimmer, 1967.     Lancaster called it: “Death of a Salesman in swimming trunks.” He  went into serious  training to match his old nickname, The Build, for novelist John Cheever’s tragic hero, who suddenly decides to swim home via the pools of his Connecticut friends and neighbours. “It is most heartening to know that there are people like yourself in Hollywood,” producer Sam Spiegel wrote to Burt, “with perception and courage and with an intense interest in  films that go beyond the obvious and ordinary.” (Not when he had Arthur Penn sacked from The Train in 19  for being “too nouvelle vague!” Nor when refusingre-takes, blaming  their need on Spiegel spending more time on playing gin than on the film).   Finally, with Burt’s  pal Sydney Pollack (and Slavomir “Ed” Vorkapich) succeeding Frank Perry, the scenes were re-shot - with Janice Rule replacing Barbara Loden (Elia Kazan’s wife). She called the film a disaster. It was Sam’s fourth consecutive flop. Minus  David Lean Spiegel was  a zero.  (Ford, Montgomery Clift (!), William Holden, Paul Newman and George C Scott had alk been in the Ned mix). 
  22. Robert Mitchum, 5 Card Stud, 1968.    Early thought for the  preacher with a gun inside his Bible. Dean Martin tells him: “If that is a Bible, read it. If it ain't a Bible, drop it.”
  23. Robert Ryan, The Wild Bunch, 1968.
  24. Elvis Presley, The Trouble With Girls (And How To Get Into It), 1969.      First planned for Ford in 1959 (with Elvis as a sidekick) - then Dick Van Dyke in ’64 - Presley’s penultimate film gave him less songs and screen time than usual. He was fine as the boss of a 1920s  Chautauqua traveling show (part showbiz, part education). The senseless title aimed to prove that the sizzle had not fizzled. But it had. Two child stars stole everything but The King’s guitar. One more shoot (Change of Habit) and he was gone. Back on the road.
  25. Richard Basehart, Un homme qui me plait, France-Italy, 1969.    Cocktail crap... During a party at Jean-Pierre Aumont’s Hollywood home, Glenn Ford told Claude Lelouch’s assistant director (and future auteur), Claude Pinoteau, that he’d work for free for Lelouch. Yet when offered a small role of an American actor, Ford was no longer such a great Klelouch fan... Pinoteau (a future auteur) called up his LApal from L’Ambitieuse, 1958, when Pinoteau was assisting Yves Allegret.
  26. Tony Curtis, The Persuaders, TV, 1971.     With the Bond producers showing interest, Roger Moore wasn’t keen on another TV  series after The Saint, until the size of producer Lew Grade’s cheque grew bigger than his cigars. Grade offered a choice of three US co-stars. Moore said Ford was  selfish, “not as a person but as an  actor and I didn’t think it would work over a long period of time,” Rock Hudson was almost a clone of Moore but Curtis “would be brilliant.”
  27. William Holden, Network, 1976.    The film’s Oscar-winning writer Paddy Chayefsky wanted Hackman (or Walter Matthau)  as the UBS  TV News president  Max Schumacher. “After living with you for the last six months, I'm turning into one of your scripts. Well, this is not a script, Diana. There’s some real, actual life going on here.” It came  down to Ford or Holden. The Towering Inferno success  tipped the balance and the Oscar nomination Holden’s way.
  28. Ed Asner, JFK, 1991.
  29. Harry Carey Jr, Tombstone, 1992.      Ford quit being  Marshal Fred White  due to health problems. Too old, anyway, at 76, considering  White was murdered at 31.  (Carey was 71). Another veteran cowpoke, Robert Mitchum, left another role (later cut) after falling off his horse.  He recovered enough  to narrate the film. 




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