Brian Brennan’s time capsule on Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford in 3-10 to Yuma (1957) Publicity photo
Glenn Ford in 3-10 to Yuma (1957) Publicity photo

It was the classic “hurry up and wait” situation when, as Arts columnist Brian Brennan watched, Glenn Ford filmed a brief scene for the 1978 movie, Superman. Part of the problem, Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece, was that Ford couldn’t remember his line. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column, Out of the Saddle, Playing Papa to a Super-baby: Glenn Ford:

John Ford with Rita Hayworth, in 1945. Publicity photo
Glenn Ford with Rita Hayworth, in 1945. Publicity photo

The line was, “Martha Clark Kent, are you listening to what I’m saying?” It was scripted for Glenn Ford, playing a Kansas farmer named Jonathan Kent in the 1978 movie Superman. A spaceship containing the baby Superman had just crash-landed in the Kent wheat field and the farmer’s wife – played by Phyllis Thaxter – was suggesting they keep the apparently orphaned boy as their own. After a brief exchange about the pros and cons of doing this, the farmer put his foot down.

Ford kept forgetting the words. By the time director Richard Donner got to what felt like the 10th or 11th take, those of us watching the scene from behind the cameras were mouthing the line along with the 61-year-old actor, silently cueing him: “Martha Clark Kent, are you listening to what I’m saying?”

Afterwards, Ford praised the director for his patience. A good director, he told me, is one who gives an actor “the luxury of imperfection.” Things rarely unfolded as planned when a movie was being shot. If the match failed to light the first time, you didn’t stop the scene, you lit another one. If the car failed to start, you didn’t say, “Cut!” “Cars don’t always start the first time anyhow.”

Nor, apparently, did they always stop  …. log in to read more (paywall*)


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