Peter Ford - Son of Glenn Ford and Eleanor Powell
Peter Ford had the good fortune of being the only child of two of Hollywood's most renowned stars, Eleanor Powell, one of MGM’s greatest musical stars, and Glenn Ford, Hollywood's number one box office star of 1958.
At the age of thirty-three, Eleanor Powell gave up her career to take on the new, and according to her, more important role of wife and mother. Giving up her career to be married to a little known actor by the name of Glenn Ford had studio moguls and fans in an uproar. It wasn't until three years after their marriage in 1946 that the public knew who Glenn Ford really was. It was that year that "Gilda" was released, starring Glenn and Rita Hayworth. Glenn Ford became a “star” overnight.
Born in Los Angeles, California on February 5th, 1945, Peter led a childhood of many privileges and opportunities. Peter recalls learning to swim, “When I was five my parents wanted me to learn to swim, so they built an Olympic sized pool in our back yard and my 'swim coach' was an old friend of Mother's, Johnny Weissmuller." For tennis lessons he went to the Beverly Hills Hotel to play with Pancho Segura. Peter honed his golf skills with under the tutelage of the legendary Ben Hogan who was also preparing Glenn to play him in the film, “Follow the Sun”.
In 1946, the family purchased a huge twenty-two room home on Cove Way in Beverly Hills. The previous owner had been Max Steiner, who composed and conducted music for countless films: King Kong, Gone with the Wind, and Casablanca among many others.
Peter recalls, "Because of my Mother’s earlier Broadway career, I met many luminaries of the stage. Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker were regular visitors, as was Al Jolson, who my Mother once briefly dated. One clear memory is of going to “Pickfair” as a child, the social 'watering hole' in those days, “and sitting on Mary Pickford's knee as she told me stories of the days of yore.”
Clark Gable, Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck would come to dinner. Neighbor James Mason was often his baby sitter and Charlie Chaplin, who lived next door, was not the “Little Tramp” but the villain of Peter’s young life when he accidentally killed Peter’s beloved dog, Bill. Pearl Bailey is Peter’s God Mother and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson is his God Father.
In a foot note to Rock and Roll history, Peter was responsible for the Bill Haley and the Comet’s song “Rock Around the Clock” used as the theme song of his father’s film, “Blackboard Jungle” in 1955. Musically precocious, young Peter’s record collection and his recommendations were the source that director Richard Brooks used for this MGM film. This song, that Dick Clark dubbed “the national anthem of rock and roll” ushered in the rock and roll revolution that was to significantly shape American culture.
Peter graduated from Chadwick High School in Palos Verdes, California in 1962. He received an Associates of Arts degree from Santa Monica College in 1966 while pursuing a career as an actor and singer. Under contract to Capitol Records Peter was mentored by the incomparable Nat “King” Cole. Later, recording for Phillips records the release of his single, “Blue Ribbons”, resulted in appearances on many teen music television shows of the era, including American Bandstand, Hullabaloo and Ninth Street West.
He eventually formed his own group, The Creations, who appeared in various local clubs, as well as the Whiskey a Go-Go in San Francisco and the El Cortez Club in Las Vegas.
It is almost a given that the only child of two people in “the business” would try his hand at the same profession. Peter did, working in nearly two dozen-film projects, as an actor and dialogue director. The first film which Father and son worked in together was “Gilda” in 1946 where director Charles Vidor used Peter’s photo to represent Johnny Farrell (Glenn’s role in the film) as a child, and later, “The Americano” in 1954. Peter’s first speaking role was in “The Gazebo” in 1959, one of Glenn's favorite comedies, co-starring Debbie Reynolds. He also appeared in “Pocketful of Miracles”, “Dear Heart”, “Advance to the Rear”, “Fate is the Hunter” and “The Rounders”.
Peter attended USC, and it was there he met his future wife, Lynda Gundersen. Both were English majors. In 1968, Peter graduated, cum laude, with a B.A degree in English. He was accepted at U.S.C. law school, but chose to continue working as an actor and singer. Lynda went on to receive a Masters in Education and became an elementary public school teacher.
Peter and Lynda were married in his Father’s home in December 1970. Their first home was a small apartment in West Hollywood. Peter soon began working at Twentieth Century Fox as a dialogue director and took acting roles on television as well. It was through this work that Peter and Lynda purchased their first home which they remodeled themselves.
Still at Fox in 1972, he was cast as a series regular as well as dialogue director of his father’s new T.V series, “Cade’s County.” Peter appeared as the forensic lab deputy, Peter Odom, in nearly every one of the twenty-four episodes.
In 1973, after Cade’s County ended, Peter joined the Photo Unit of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a Reserve Deputy. Peter rose to the rank of Lieutenant before he retired in 1996 after twenty-two years of public service.
Peter and Lynda’s first child, Aubrey Newton Ford, was born in January 1977. They sold their home and made enough profit to purchase another and remodel that one as well. Eventually it became a pattern. Peter and Lynda decided to put all their energies into buying, remodeling and selling homes. They eventually renovated seven different properties before settling down. Now a licensed contractor, Peter built many custom residential homes for clients.
Peter’s first major home building commission was for Walter and Rita Coblenz, producer of “All the President’s Men” and “The Onion Field”. He took a partner into his company and Blackoak Development Company was born. Peter went on to build and remodel homes for many well known client: producer Steve Tisch, actress Mary Kay Place, producer Jerry Belson, super agent Jeff Berg, Don Simpson, producer of “Top Gun” and “Beverly Hills Cop”, writers Chuck Shyer and Nancy Meyers who wrote “Private Benjamin”, actress Jo Beth Williams, health guru Richard Simmons, actress Sally Kellerman and Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews.
In August 1984, Ryan Welsie Ford was born and their daughter, Eleanor Powell Ford joined the family in July of 1988. In 1989 Peter took over the building company and operated it as a sole proprietorship until his retirement from building in 1996. That company, Blackoak/Ford, was a respected custom residential construction firm. His work has been published in architectural magazines throughout the world. The Schnable House, designed by noted architect Frank Gehry, was voted by the New York Times as one of the “Ten Contemporary American Homes that matter most to Architects”.
Today, Peter and Lynda support many charitable causes. Peter is a Trustee Emeritus of The Americanism Educational League. He’s a student and collector of Native American culture. He has compiled a massive family genealogy which includes many notable patriots from the colonial era. He's a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, Society of Colonial Wars and the Society of the Sons of the Revolution. He collects movie memorabilia from Hollywood's Golden Age, and maintains The Glenn Ford and Eleanor Powell Library and Archives. As a writer, he has published numerous articles. He is the author of Glenn Ford: A Life, a definitive biography of his father published by the University of Wisconsin Press.
Peter’s various interests led him to KIEV 870 AM radio, where for nearly three years he hosted a popular weekly nighttime political talk show. In the June, 2010 election Peter ran for public office was elected to the Los Angeles Republican Central Committee's 42nd Assembly District. The following December he was unanimously elected as the 2nd Vice Chair of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County.
Today, Peter and his wife Lynda, now married more than 40-years, reside in Beverly Hills, California.
Date Recorded: 01/11/2012
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