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Glenn Ford celebrates his 90th birthday

Veteran actor, slowed by a series of strokes, unable to enjoy event
/ Source: The Associated Press

Legendary actor Glenn Ford, who turned 90 on Monday, had to cut short a birthday celebration with family and friends when failing health forced him to retire to his bedroom.

The stalwart hero of Westerns, comedies and dramas from Hollywood’s golden age of the 1940s and ’50s was lucid and communicative Sunday morning, family members said, but his condition worsened in the afternoon.

“Dad has had a series of ministrokes starting 15 years ago,” said his son, Peter Ford.

He has “good days and bad days,” said Peter Ford, whose mother was tap dancer Eleanor Powell, the first of his father’s three wives.

Ford has lived largely in seclusion since retiring from films 15 years ago, but he opened his Beverly Hills estate to friends for Sunday’s party. He also agreed to take part in a celebration of his life being presented Monday by the American Cinematheque.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Ford still planned to attend the program. He had taped a statement in advance, however, and former co-stars were scheduled to speak. One of his most popular films, “Gilda,” is also being shown.

Peter Ford said his father doesn’t care much for today’s movies, preferring to watch vintage films, including his own.

“One picture that he didn’t like was ’The Loves of Carmen’ with Rita Hayworth,” Peter Ford remarked. Columbia Pictures studio boss Harry Cohn had forced Ford to make it.

The actor’s life and career were intertwined with that of Hayworth, who died in 1987. They met as young contract players at Columbia, both achieving stardom with “Gilda” and both appearing in 1965’s “The Money Trap.” In 1960, Hayworth sold Ford the property where he built his house, not far from the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The home is a virtual shrine to its owner. The entrance leads to a two-story atrium and balconies that are plastered with large posters, some in foreign languages, of Ford movies.

The lower level features a life-size wax figure of the actor as he appeared in the 1956 film “The Teahouse of the August Moon.” It was formerly in the Hollywood Wax Museum.

The adjacent room has four walls packed with photos, most of them autographed, of his fellow stars.

The actor, who moved to California at age 8, was born Gwyllyn Ford in Quebec on May 1, 1906.

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,” and he won acclaim as the New York City schoolteacher who reforms rebellious high school student Sidney Poitier in the 1955 classic “Blackboard Jungle.”