Sunday, 28 October 2012

THE HARRISON FORD STORY: Introduction to the Third Edition

Back in 1984, when the first edition of this book came out, the first chapter started this way:

SOMEWHERE along Hollywood Boulevard’s sidewalk of showbiz fame, where the names of the stars are imbedded in the very concrete beneath the tourists’ feet, there is an entry for Harrison Ford. Well, of course there is! Ford is one of the biggest box‐office draws of the Eighties. You’ll find him in major roles in four of the five most successful movies of all time. It would have been five out of five had his cameo role as Elliot’s headmaster in ET: The Extra-Terrestrial – written as it happens by the second Mrs Ford, Melissa Mathison – not been cut from the movie at the last minute. So if any of Film City’s army of ‘Stars’, Superstars’ and ‘Megastars’ deserves the honour of having his name immortalised in concrete, Harrison Ford’s the one, right?
The Harrison Ford of silent Hollywood

‘Except,’ chuckles Ford, ‘that’s not my star! It was put there years ago for an old time (silent) matinee idol also called Harrison Ford. No, I’d never heard of him, either. Or not until the Screen Actors’ Guild told me I’d have to change my name. That’s why I’m Harrison J. Ford in two of my earliest films. When I heard the old man had passed on, I called up the SAG about it. They couldn’t confirm his death, but I dropped the J. anyway.’

The original Harrison Ford is not one of the better-remembered silent stars. He made his film debut in 1915, in a picture called Up the Road With Sally. His career blossomed and within a few years he was co-starring with such performers as Lon Chaney, notably Shadows (1922). As the Twenties wore on he gravitated towards comedies like Up in Mabel’s Room and The Nervous Wreck. Little was written in the fan magazines at the time. The earlier Ford was just as hard to pin down in interviews as his namesake. ‘He has a neat habit,’ said one contemporary journalist, ‘of placing the blame for good work onto the innocent shoulders of others. “Mary Provost is a great little actress to work with in comedy” or “Phyllis Haver is splendid in it also” are the sort of facts he will remind you of if you compliment him on his own acting.’ The first Ford died at the age of 73 on 2nd December 1957, ten years after retiring from acting.

‘If they ever decide to put an entry there for me,’ says Ford, ‘they needn’t bother. It’s there already. And I kind of like the idea of using his.’ Sentimental perhaps, but the old man would probably have approved.

Our Harrison Ford as he appeared in Star Wars
It’s a good story and though a lot has changed since 1984 – most notably the addition of a star for our Harrison Ford on Hollywood Boulevard in May 2003 – it would have been a real shame to have left it out completely. But it also contains some inaccuracies and omits some interesting details that have come to light since 1984, so I’ve made a point of adding them in the relevant places in this revised third edition. The original first eight chapters have been re-written and expanded and further seven chapters have been added to cover the Harrison Ford movies since 1984. And the final chapter, summing up Ford’s career has also been augmented with further research. Hopefully, this will give a more complete overview of the actor’s career to date.

Alan McKenzie, October 2011
More to follow >>

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