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Glenn Ford

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 31, 2006

My awareness of Glenn Ford's career was based mainly on seeing him in features on ''Saturday Night at the Movies,'' ''The Million Dollar Movie'' and various late-late shows on TV. When I read that he had died (one obit is here), it took me a little time to remember if I had ever seen one of his films in a theater; only when I looked at a list of his work did I go, oh, yeah, ''Superman.''

That Christopher Reeve movie is all you have to see to get what a Glenn Ford character was about -- thoughtful usually, especially about the way the world works, showing grace in a crisis, often carrying moral authority that made him someone who could be pushed only so far. That's central to, say, his work in ''Blackboard Jungle,'' or the original ''Ransom,'' later reconfigured for Mel Gibson. (While I said I didn't see Ford in theaters, I still saw plenty of him. A lot of my movie education was in those late-late shows.)

As Jonathan Kent,  he brought those qualities, notably when he explains to young Clark that he has come to Earth for a reason. Plenty of actors could have played the role, and done a fair job with it, but Ford worked especially well because he carried so much onscreen baggage; the audience, at least the older part of it, knew him in a certain way, respected and liked him because of it.

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