Glenn Ford was a Canadian-born American actor from Hollywood’s Golden Era with a career that spanned seven decades. Despite his versatility, Ford was best known for playing ordinary men in unusual circumstances.
Born as Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford at Jeffrey Hale Hospital in Quebec City, Ford was the son of Anglo-Quebecers Hannah Wood Mitchell and Newton Ford, a railway conductor. Through his father, Glenn Ford was a great-nephew of Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald. Ford moved to Santa Monica, California with his family at the age of eight, and became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1939.
After Ford graduated from Santa Monica High School, he began working in small theatre groups. Ford later commented that his railroad executive father had no objection to his growing interest in acting, but told him, “It’s all right for you to try to act, if you learn something else first. Be able to take a car apart and put it together. Be able to build a house, every bit of it. Then you’ll always have something.” Ford heeded the advice and during the 1950s, when he was one of Hollywood’s most popular actors, he regularly worked on plumbing, wiring and air conditioning at home. At times, he worked as a roofer and installer of plate-glass windows.
He acted in West Coast stage companies, before joining Columbia Pictures in 1939. His stage name came from his father’s hometown of Glenford, Canada. His first major movie part was in the 1939 film, Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence.