Glenn Ford: A Superb, But
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
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
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"