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Glenn Ford: A Superb, But Exploited Actor
by Len Bourret (Copyright 2008)


In "The Gazebo" (Glenn Ford's favorite film), Elliot Nash (played by Glenn Ford) is a hard-working producer, whose wife Nell (Debbie Reynolds) is an equally hard worker performer. Nash has been receiving blackmail threats from a man he has never met. The man is demanding an impossibly large sum of money for pictures he has of Nell that might hurt her career. Nash is forced, in his bumbling way, to consider the only alternative (short of a miracle) to take care of the blackmailer: he must kill him. So on a night that Nell is away from their suburban home, Nash (following a step-by-step plan he even wrote down and put into his desk's top draw) arranges to shoot and kill the blackmailer and to bury the body. He had originally intended to simply bury it in the back yard, but Nell has accidentally helped him here - it seems (for his birthday gift) she is installing an antique gazebo in the backyard, under the watchful workmanship of John McGiver. Ford drags the dead body (in an old bath curtain) into the backyard, and puts it into the foundation of the gazebo.

The problems arise afterward. First, it turns out the police want to question him anyway regarding the blackmailer - it seems they found his body in his office, shot to death. They don't suspect Nash for this, but they are curious about why the blackmailer called him. Of course this leads to the issue - who is in the gazebo. Ford goes nuts trying to figure out who among his family and friends is missing. Secondly, it also brings up another matter. Elliot and Nell have a close friend, Harlowe (Carl Reiner), whom Elliot has always found a little annoying as Harlowe once was dating Nell. Now he's around prying into the relationship of Elliot and the dead blackmailer.

Soon some others pop up, two goons (the leader is Martin Landau) wondering what happened to Dan - whom they knew was supposed to be visiting Elliot. Can he be the man in the gazebo? Is he the key to all this?

The action of the jittery Ford is priceless, particularly in the scene where he shoots the visitor. An example: Nash has been thinking of doing some work with Alfred Hitchcock. Hitch calls (we never see or hear him) while Nash is wondering how to bury the dead man. Ford asks Hitch advise "for a plot he's working on" and Hitch helps out.

The final ten minutes, when Ford is almost ready to throw himself on the mercy of the detectives (Reiner and Bert Freed, as a Lieutenant who literally his louses up his own case), only to change strategies in a moment of clarity, are hysterical. I particularly hope you fully appreciate Freed's tag-line at the conclusion of the film.

Ford was hilarious as a blackmailing victim who decides to end his troubles with a simple murder. From the first nothing goes right, with everything under the sun conspiring against him, as he goes nuts trying to hide the body and keep it hidden. The murder scene is a total riot, as the tension mounts and the black comedy unravels, to reveal Elliot's ironic dilemma of having killed the wrong man (thus proving that there can be humor in drama and irony)!

Glenn Ford's performances in "The Gazebo" (along with the 'unsinkable' Debbie Reynolds), as well as in 1955's "Blackboard Jungle" (along with the 'lovely and talented' Anne Francis, who is included in the Warner Classics Mega Collection), "Experiment in Terror" and "3:10 to Yuma", Ford greatly demonstrates his legendary and superb comedic-and-dramatic-acting abilities. Glenn Ford is equally superb, as a psychotic villain, in "The Man from Colorado". Ford aptly carries himself (along with Rita Hayworth) in "Gilda" and "Teahouse of the August Moon", along with "The Rounders", further demonstrate Glenn Ford's comedic and dramatic genius. 

By the 1960's, motion-picture actors became the unfair targets of badly-written scripts and exploitive directors and producers, when the actors were no longer top box office. In America, money (the root of all evil) is considered to be important over all else. Like June Allyson and other actors popular in the 1930's, the 1940's and the 1950's, Glenn Ford was given star billing, but was offered roles not equal to his pre-1960 stature. It is clear that post-1950 scriptwriters, directors and producers want to financially benefit from a golden-era actor's name, but do not want to give these actors the significant, pre-1960 roles they rightfully deserve. Fortunately, those of us who cherish golden-era movies can still see them on VHS, but why are most of the golden-era movies not on DVD?  

"The Gazebo" (1959)...

"Blackboard Jungle" (1955)...

"Teahouse of the August Moon" (1956)...


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