Starz's Encore Westerns channel devoted a significant portion of their April 2014 programming to a perpetually underappreciated Hollywood star. "Glenn Ford: A Six Gun Salute" round-upped seven quintessential Westerns spanning a 25-year arc in Glenn Ford's distinguished career. The schedule encompassed The Desperadoes, Jubal, Cowboy, Cimarron, The Rounders, A Time for Killing, and The Last Challenge.
A Canadian-born actor unusually adept at portraying average Joes facing seemingly insurmountable circumstances, Ford possessed an effortless grace and undeniable charisma. Never nominated for an Academy Award, Ford did receive a Golden Globe for his work as a suspicious street savvy gangster in director Frank Capra's 1961 swansong, Pocketful of Miracles. The World War II veteran once mused why fans kept coming back for more: “When I'm on camera, I have to do things pretty much the way I do things in everyday life. It gives the audience someone real to identify with.”
Perhaps surprisingly, only 27, or somewhere in the neighborhood of one quarter, of the versatile actor's 102 films were Westerns, not counting the short-lived modern day Western-police procedural Cade's County [1971–1972]. Ford's 1939 inauspicious film debut fittingly came in the quickie B-Western Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence.
He made occasional Western forays during the early stages of his career, but he did not fully capitalize on his affinity for the genre until 1955 with The Violent Men, an underrated range war excursion with Edward G. Robinson and the always resilient Barbara Stanwyck. Coincidentally, The Violent Men also instigated the actor's proclivity for wearing tan. His working cowboy's ensemble consisted of a corduroy jacket, long-sleeve shirt, pants, and weathered cowboy hat with sides extensively curled and brim pulled low.
Ford's incendiary Western streak ran unabated from 1955 until 1958, producing Jubal, The Fastest Gun Alive, 3:10 to Yuma, Cowboy, and The Sheepman. Outstanding critical notices and enviable box office receipts were the name of the game. Incidentally, the title of The Fastest Gun Alive was not the result of an embellished publicity machine – the actor's sudden draw was reportedly the best in Hollywood...as long as Audie Murphy was not in the vicinity.
As the subsequent decade flowered, Ford left the open range largely behind, content to develop his hilarious deadpan comedy delivery and romantic flair [e.g. The Courtship of Eddie's Father with Ron Howard]. The established Hollywood guard was forcibly let out to pasture by 1966, and the actor's box office clout suffered a considerable blow.
Ford settled into Westerns for the remainder of his film career. Hands down, the downbeat, unusually brutal Day of the Evil Gun is his best late-period Western. Executives of the prestigious National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City rightly recognized Ford's cowboy creed in 1978, electing him to the Hall of Great Western Performers.
If you're still on the fence about taking a gander at Ford's work in the saddle, here's a look at the veritable laundry list of Hollywood stars lining the films: Charles Bronson, Randolph Scott, Jack Lemmon, Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger, Claire Trevor, Inger Stevens, Angie Dickinson, Mercedes McCambridge, Anne Baxter, George Hamilton, Russ Tamblyn, Henry Fonda, Dick York (“Darren Stephens” on Bewitched], Chad Everett [television’s Medical Center], and a wet-behind-the-ears Harrison Ford.
Vintage directorial masters such as Richard Thorpe, a dependable Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer alum in charge of the Elvis Presley vehicle Jailhouse Rock, Charles Vidor – the architect behind Gilda, the stylish black and white film noir that made stars of Rita Hayworth and Ford – Delmer Daves – who helmed Ford’s best Westerns during the late ‘50s including 3:10 to Yuma, notably not featured in the marathon – Support Your Local Sheriff’s Burt Kennedy, Anthony Mann – responsible for darkening Jimmy Stewart’s aw-shucks persona in a string of lauded ‘50s Westerns – and Phil Karlson – who ushered in the Sheriff Buford Pusser action craze of the mid-‘70s with the cult classic Walking Tall, are all represented.
If you missed the tribute, don't fret, as all of the films appear regularly on Encore Westerns. Check your local listings or DVR scheduler for further details.
“Glenn Ford: A Six Gun Salute" – The Complete April 20 Schedule (Eastern Standard Time)
- 1:00 p.m.............The Desperadoes [1943; costarring Randolph Scott and Claire Trevor]
- 2:30 p.m........A Time for Killing [1967; costarring George Hamilton, Inger Stevens, and Harrison Ford]
- 4:00 p.m.............Cimarron [1960; costarring Anne Baxter, Russ Tamblyn, and Mercedes McCambridge]
- 6:30 p.m........The Rounders [1965; costarring Henry Fonda]
- 8:00 p.m.............Cowboy [1958; costarring Jack Lemmon and Dick York]
- 9:35 p.m........The Last Challenge [1967; costarring Angie Dickinson and Chad Everett]
- 11:15 p.m......Jubal [1956; costarring Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger, and Charles Bronson]
DON'T GO ANYWHERE YET! John Wayne had no plans to retire after "The Shootist" opened to excellent reviews but slow box office receipts in August 1976. After open heart surgery in late spring 1978, the Duke was determined to begin work on "Beau John." He went to impressive lengths to secure the project, actually buying the film rights via Batjac, the first time that had happened since he unsuccessfully bidded for "True Grit" 10 years earlier. The legend also had plans to reunite with one of his recent costars. Little has been known about the unfinished film until now. To learn more about the one project that gave Wayne some much needed hope during his final days, head on over to "'Beau John': The Untold Story of John Wayne's Last Project."
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Exclusive Interview: Burly character actor Gregg Palmer appeared in an impressive six films with John Wayne. By far, "Big Jake" contains Palmer's best work with the towering legend. In it, the 6'4", 300-pound Palmer memorably plays a vicious machete-brandishing villain who threatens his grandson's life with near deadly results. In the words of fan Tom Horton, Palmer was one of the nastiest bastards to ever fight Duke. In a just released two-part interview (Part One is "The Man Who Killed John Wayne's Dog..."), the gentle giant relives his friendship with Duke and remembers his 30-year career alongside some of the greatest actors in Hollywood.
Exclusive Interview No. 2: Starring James Drury in the title role, "The Virginian" is the third-longest running and first 90-minute western in prime time television. A humble, genuine cowboy in real life with intense passions for writing and flying, the octogenarian speaks eloquently in a new feature about his unexpected encounter with the iconic John Wayne, whether he had a role model in mind for his characterization of The Virginian, the 50th anniversary of his namesake series, and why he will always appreciate his fans. Click on either installment link above to begin the enlightening ride.
Exclusive Interview No. 3: Oscar winner Lee Marvin made many a cowboy hero quiver in their dusty boots, including drinking pal John Wayne in "The Comancheros" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." In Part One of a just-released interview entitled "Battle Scars and Violent Interludes: Point Blank with Lee Marvin's Biographer", author Dwayne Epstein focuses on Marvin's World War II experiences, revealing why he believes Marvin suffered from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He also presents the chilling tale of a Silver Star recipient and future Marvin co-star who briefly wound up in a California mental hospital, and much more.
Exclusive Interview No. 4: If Lee Marvin hadn't stubbornly insisted on taking the lead role in the derided musical "Paint Your Wagon," he might have had the opportunity to star in Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" with celebrated cult actor Warren Oates. Though not a household name, Oates lit up the screen in a 25-year career cut inexplicably short by a heart attack at age 53 in April 1982. His hardscrabble Depression-era upbringing in the predominantly coal-mining community of Depoy, Ky., no doubt influenced his honest characterizations as the voyeuristic deputy of “In the Heat of the Night,” a good-natured outlaw gang member in “The Wild Bunch,” the psychotic pill-poppin’ villain in Lee Van Cleef’s “Barquero,” a tall-tale spewing car driver in “Two-Lane Blacktop,” the sympathetic title role of “Dillinger,” and Bill Murray’s constantly exasperated sergeant in the comical “Stripes.” His pre-eminent biographer, Susan Compo, speaks in a fascinating interview [i.e. "Warren Oates: A Wild Life"] about Oates’ hell-raising and humanity, best and worst movie roles, working alongside the mercurial Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, and what she might have said to Oates if their paths had crossed.
Further Reading: The strikingly stone-faced Charles Bronson appeared in an impressive 160 television and film productions, and he never really received proper credit for his understated acting and screen presence. To read a special, in-depth birthday profile detailing exactly who the "Death Wish" star was behind his tough guy persona, featuring anecdotes from costars such as James Coburn, James Garner, Tony Curtis, actress Lee Purcell, and Elvis Presley's Memphis Mafia, head on over to the following link: "A Face Like An Eroded Cliff..."
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