Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

GLENN FORD: A LIFE

GLENN FORD: A LIFE. Peter Ford. University of Wisconsin Press; 2011.

This is an excellent bio of the late actor written by his son, who had a problematic relationship with his father, eventually deciding to think of himself  primarily as a "fan." The book provides a detailed look at Ford's life and work, with recollections from friends and other performers who worked with him. Peter Ford doesn't sugarcoat his father but neither does he excoriate him, so while we don't know Glenn's side in their conflicts the book still comes off as fair and balanced. Peter looks bluntly at Glenn's marriage to his first wife, Peter's mother, singer-dancer Eleanor Powell, and also examines from a personal perspective the other marriages that didn't last nearly as long. The book is not just a catalog of Glenn's infidelities but a solid look at his film performances and acting style. Although Peter writes about his own life and achievements -- declaring at one point that he's a "red-blooded heterosexual" [a dated expression if ever there were one] -- he never forgets whom this bio is really about. Like the best biographies of movie stars, Glenn Ford: A Life makes you want to revisit many of the actor's famous and not-so-famous movies. Like other tomes penned by famous people's offspring, this book makes it clear that it isn't easy being the child of a celebrity, but it nonetheless does bring its perks. There are some unintentionally eyebrow-raising passages in the book, such as when Peter lists guests at his father's artistic soirees and all of them are well-known gay men, making it seem as if Glenn hosted all gay-parties [until some women are mentioned in subsequent paragraphs]. Glenn Ford is another case of a presumably straight actor benefiting greatly from the early career ministrations of a devoted gay man. [Also recommended: Gary Crosby's book about his father, Going My Own Way.]

Verdict: A substantial, very entertaining, and long-overdue major bio of an important star. ***1/2.

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