Thursday, August 31, 2006

Glenn Ford (1916-2006)

Glenn Ford played Superman's father in the 1978 Superman movie. What an inspired choice. There was something very wholesome yet rugged, tough yet calm about Glenn Ford on screen. Nobody else of that generation could have said more with his mere presence about who Jonathan Kent was, and how he would raise a son, than Ford's did, and that was crucial since the role was extraordinarily brief, lasting just a few early scenes before the character dies of a heart attack.

Whenever an old actor dies, I think the best way to honor them is to simply watch their movies. He's in a bunch of classics: Blackboard Jungle, Gilda, and 3:10 to Yuma, but if you're only going to see one of his films, there's no contest — Fritz Lang's The Big Heat from 1953. One of the finest and bleakest cop movies ever made (and an obvious inspiration for a movie I love, L.A. Confidential), Ford is absolutely brilliant as Sgt. Dave Bannion, a good cop determined to catch bunch of bad Los Angeles gangsters, whose strength is tested after the gangsters murder his wife with a bomb meant for him (the scene in which poor Bannion's wife gets hers is amongst the most shockingly brutal in 1950s American cinema). Roger Ebert has a nice essay about the film in his Great Movies series though, in my opinion, he downplays Ford's contribution to the film.

Next year's 'In Memory' Oscar montage just got a little bit weightier.


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