May 02, 2006

Ailing Glenn Ford Skips Birthday Event

LOS ANGELES - Glenn Ford was saluted on his 90th birthday with praise from his fellow actors and a screening of his 1946 film "Gilda."

Ford didn't attend Monday night's event hosted by American Cinematheque at its theater, Grauman's Egyptian. Because of his fragile health, caused by a series of strokes, he has been confined to his Beverly Hills home and uses a wheelchair.

"Thank you to everybody that is wishing me a happy birthday," Ford said in a videotaped message. "I wish I could thank every one of you personally with good wishes to all of you. ... I wish I were up and around, but I'm doing the best that I can. ... There's so much I have to be grateful for."

The event attracted a standing-room-only crowd; a mixture of film veterans and movie lovers.

A surprise feature of the evening was a 1937 musical short "Night in Manhattan," which marked Ford's first appearance on the screen. He played a nightclub host introducing singing and dancing acts.

His career soared after he co-starred with Rita Hayworth in "Gilda" and with Bette Davis in "A Stolen Life," also released in 1946.

Shirley Jones, who co-starred with Ford in the 1963 comedy "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," called him "one of the cornerstones of our industry, and there aren't many left."

Martin Landau, who appeared with Ford in 1959's "The Gazebo," said: "He was a giant. I'm still trying to be as good as Glenn Ford."

The Screen Actors Guild presented a plaque and honorary Hollywood Mayor Johnny Grant gave Ford's son, Peter, a replica of the actor's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ford was born Gwyllyn Ford in Quebec, Canada, on May 1, 1916. He moved to California when he was 8. After acting in plays at Santa Monica High School and in local theater productions, he signed a contract with Columbia.

His best-known Westerns include "The Man From Colorado," "3:10 to Yuma," "Cowboy" and "Cimarron." He won acclaim as the New York City schoolteacher who reforms a rebellious high-school student played by Sidney Poitier in the 1955 classic "Blackboard Jungle."

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