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I visit Glenn Ford on his 90th

I stopped by Glenn Ford’s memories-filled Beverly Hills home Sunday to wish him a Happy 90th birthday on the eve of Monday’s celebration at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater which was home to many of his movies.

His son Peter and his wife Lynda hosted a gathering in advance of the Cinematheque event produced by Martin Lewis and Variety‘s Steven Gaydos.

I spoke to the very frail Ford in his bedroom and he acknowledged me with a faint word of recognition. However, I seriously wondered whether he’d have the strength to make the Monday evening appearance at the Egyptian.

Producer Lewis said Ford was able to video tape (from his bedside) a message of welcome to the well-wishers at the theater a week earlier. They decided to use it to explain to the audience that Glenn’s doctor did not advise him leaving the house.

In the message, he thanks everyone, noting, “I wish I were up and around — but I’m doing the best I can … Oh gosh! So nice of you to come by and I appreciate that. There’s so much I have to be grateful for.”

I went through memory lane in the spacious house whose walls are covered with Ford memorabilia — posters in all sizes and in all languages.

Rooms were filled with autographed pictures from every star in the Hollywood heavens of the ’50s-’80s. Judy Garland autographed hers, “You have my heart. I adore you.”

Plaques, awards, from every showbiz, civic, armed forces organization — everything but an Oscar, even a Golden Globe. And a life-sized exact replica of Ford in costume from “The Teahouse of the August Moon” — from the Hollywood Wax Museum — greeted you as you descended to the pool room — eerie!

Birthday cards lined the tables. A beautiful bouquet from Angela Lansbury decorated the dining room table filled with Lynda’s culinary creations. A giant floral arrangement bore this message from its sender, Rhonda Fleming: “It was an honor to make our little western ‘The Redhead and the Cowboy’ together. With my warmest loving and heartfelt prayer for a blessed 90 years young birthday. Rhonda”

In the lavish bar, Ken Wales who got his start as an actor thanks to Glenn (he’s now producer of “Amazing Grace”) recalled he was on hand for the building of this house and even installed its super-modern sound system including speakers in the swimming pool which Glenn requested.

Among the guests Sunday were Stella Stevens, Anne Francis, Terry Moore, Jamie Farr, A.C. Lyles, Marvin Paige.

As we left Glenn Ford’s home, I looked across the fence at the neighboring house — it was once Rita Hayworth’s. I would have loved to have heard them gossiping.

UPDATE: Glenn Ford boffo again
(Addition made on Tuesday, May 2, 2006)

The Egyptian Theater was SRO — and more — for Monday night’s American Cinematheque 90th birthday tribute to Glenn Ford and the screening of the 1946 classic “Gilda” in which he stars with Rita Hayworth.

The film is magnificently restored by UCLA and it received prolonged applause at its conclusion as well as shouts of approval during Hayworth’s historic rendition of “Put the Blame on Mame, Boys”.

The film was preceded by a screening of the 1937 short film, “Night in Manhattan,” in which Glenn bowed — under his real name, “Gwyllyn Ford”.

Son Peter Ford revealed his dad wore Marlene Dietrich’s white tie and tails from “Morocco” for his film bow.

SAG’s Paul Napier and Hollywood’s Mayor Johnny Grant made presentations followed by reminiscences by Shirley Jones, Debbie Reynolds, Martin Landau, and Jamie Farr.

Also on hand from Ford films were: Paul Mazursky, Earl Holliman, Carol Lynley, Anne Jeffreys, Dean Jones,  Peter Mark Richman, Sue Ann Langdon, Johnny Crawford, Robert Pine, Ann Rutherford, Stella Stevens, Patricia Medina, Hugh O’Brian, Chad Everett, plus A.C. Lyles and Marvin Paige.

American Cinematheque’s Martin Lewis and Variety‘s Steven Gaydos produced the successful tribute.

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