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|
Alan McKenzie, October 2011More to follow >>