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Ford celebrates his 90th after 15 years of seclusion

Glenn Ford
Glenn Ford

Glenn Ford, stalwart hero of Westerns, comedies and urban dramas during Hollywood's Golden Age, emerged from 15 years of seclusion to celebrate his 90th birthday with friends and co-workers at his home in Beverly Hills.

However, Ford, who turned 90 on Monday, was unable to enjoy the celebration, held the previous day. He was lucid and communicative in the morning, family members said, but his condition worsened in the afternoon. A few guests made visits to his bedroom, but he was unable to respond.

"Dad has had a series of ministrokes starting 15 years ago," said his son, Peter Ford, "For 12 years, my family has lived in the house to take care of him." Peter, whose mother was Eleanor Powell, the first of Ford's three wives, added that his father "has good days and bad days."

He reported that his father doesn't like many of today's movies — DVDs of Oscar-nominated films are sent to him because he is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

But he enjoys watching vintage films, including his own. "One picture that he didn't like was 'The Loves of Carmen' with Rita Hayworth, which (Columbia boss) Harry Cohn forced him to make," Peter Ford said.

Ford's life and career were intertwined with Hayworth's. They met as young contract players at Columbia Pictures, and both achieved top stardom in the sensual "Gilda." In 1960, Hayworth sold Ford her next-door property where he built his house, a javelin's throw from the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The Ford house is a virtual shrine to its owner. The entrance leads to a two-story covered atrium with tropical foliage in the middle and balconies plastered with large posters, some in foreign languages, of Ford movies.

The lower level features a remarkably accurate life-size wax figure of Ford in "The Teahouse of the August Moon." It was formerly in the Hollywood Wax Museum. The adjacent poolroom has four walls packed with photos, most of them autographed, of his fellow stars.

Ford was scheduled to appear Monday night at a celebration of his life and work presented by the American Cinematheque. The program was to feature comments by his co-stars and a screening of "Gilda."