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Wallace Ford Poster

Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 12 February 1898Bolton, Lancashire, England, UK
Date of Death 11 June 1966Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameSamuel Jones Grundy
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (2)

A stocky, friendly-faced character actor, Ford was born Samuel Jones in England and his childhood rivaled the brutality that Charles Dickens ever dreamed up. He lived for a while in an orphanage after being separated from his parents. While still young, he was sent to a Toronto branch of the orphanage. There, he began a cycle that involved living in 17 foster homes - the longest being with a farm family that treated him like a slave. At age 11 he ran away and joined a vaudeville troupe called the Winnepeg Kiddies, with whom he stayed until 1914. He then joined a friend named Wallace Ford and the two 'hoboed" their way into the United States. After the friend was crushed to death by a railroad car, he took the name Wallace Ford in his memory and found work in theatrical troupes and repertory companies. On Broadway he acted in "Abraham Lincoln", "Abie's Irish Rose", and "Bad Girl". He left Broadway in 1932 to appear with Joan Crawford in Possessed (1931); he also landed the lead in MGM's notorious Freaks (1932), although his fellow actors proved more memorable. He also co-starred as Walter Huston's amoral brother in one of the studio's few full blow gangster melodramas, The Beast of the City (1932), starring Jean Harlow in arguably her most hard-bitten role. In all he appeared in over 200 films including five directed by John Ford (The Last Hurrah (1958), The Whole Town's Talking (1935), They Were Expendable (1945), The Lost Patrol (1934) and The Informer (1935)). He also appeared with Henry Fonda in the TV series, "The Deputy" that ran from 1959-60. Ford died of a heart attack soon after his last memorable role as "Old Pa" in the hit Sidney Poitier drama, A Patch of Blue (1965).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: James L. Mason

Wallace Ford's career as a character actor in over 200 films from 1932 to 1965 can be divided into two parts. In his early movies his freckled and friendly face and wavy hair lent itself to light, wise-cracking leads in a string of B pictures. By 1950 he had morphed into a stocky, grizzled old-timer in an impressive group of Westerns. What is more remarkable is that he had any career at all considering the hardships of his childhood and youth, and that he turned out, by all accounts, to be a heck of a nice guy.

Ford was born Samuel Jones Grundy on February 12, 1898, in Bolton, Lancashire, England. Somehow as an infant he was separated from his parents and ended up in an orphanage and, while still quite young, was sent to its branch in Toronto. From then until 1909 he lived in an astonishing seventeen foster homes until, still just an eleven-year-old boy, he ran away and joined a Canadian vaudeville troupe called the Winnipeg Kiddies, with whom he stayed for three years.

Tragedy had not completely left his life yet, however. Samuel Jones Grundy, still just a young adolescent, joined a friend to ride the rails in America. It was perhaps an adventure to the two young hobos, but it was dangerous as well. His friend was crushed to death by a railroad car. His friend's name was Wallace Ford, and Grundy honored him by taking his name as he embarked on his career in the United States. The newcomer's fresh face and energetic talent helped him find work, in theatrical troupes, repertory companies, and vaudeville.

Ford made it to Broadway in 1921. He appeared in such plays as "Abraham Lincoln," "Abie's Irish Rose," and "Bad Girl." More important, in 1922 he wed Martha Harworth. Their marriage would last for the rest of their lives. The couple had one child, their daughter, Patricia.

Then, in 1932, Ford signed a contract with MGM and had his film debut in "Possessed" with Joan Crawford. Also in 1932, he appeared in the movie for which many young film fans, especially horror aficionados, remember him --- "Freaks." Ford was to act in quite a few chillers, several with Bela Lugosi, but for the most part he played the lead in a number of B pictures in the thirties many of them light mysteries and "old dark house" scares. He was never the handsome, debonair lead, but rather a quick-witted, wise-cracking, average-looking guy. As was said earlier, Ford appeared in over 200 films. Thirteen of them were directed by John Ford. When John Ford liked an actor, he cast him over and over in his films. Witness John Wayne. For example, in 1934 Wallace Ford appeared in "The Lost Patrol" with Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, and the Irish immigrant actor J.M. Kerrigan, who would be a life-long friend. Interestingly, while filming "The Lost Patrol" in the Arizona desert, Wallace Ford clobbered a cook who had refused to serve a black laborer. Then in 1935, John Ford cast him (again with McLaglen and Kerrigan) in the highly-respected film "The Informer."

Another remarkable event occurred in Wallace Ford's life in the mid-1930s. He searched for his long-lost natural parents in England, a search that drew worldwide headlines and, amazingly, ended successfully.

In the 1940s Ford continued to make films steadily. By then he had settled into character parts --- no more leads, but still a featured player. He had a wonderful reputation in the film community. Everyone who knew Ford seemed to agree he was a nice guy, with a breezy personality, always quick with a joke, who kept things light and fun on the set.

By 1950 Ford had put on enough weight to be called, generously, "stocky." His face had softened, his wavy hair had turned white, and he now had a white mustache and often a white beard or at least whiskers. Most of his remaining films would be Westerns, many of them highly-regarded. Two of the best-known are "The Man from Laramie" (1955) with James Stewart and "Warlock" with Henry Fonda and Richard Widmark. In the latter he plays a hobbled townsman who, near the end of the film, irritates Fonda's character so much he kicks the crutch away from Ford, toppling him to the floor. In real life, Ford and Fonda were friends and appeared together in the 1959-1960 television series "The Deputy." One major non-Western Ford made in the 50s was "The Matchmaker" in which he again got a chance to play comedy. Imagine Ford, sixty years old now, on the street with top hat and cane, sticking his big belly out proudly so that a band of shirt shows between his vest and trousers.

The only chance for an acting award Ford ever got was when he was nominated (but did not win) a Golden Laurel as best supporting actor for "A Patch of Blue" in 1965. It is his last film, and in it he looks gaunt and haggard, no doubt due to his failing heart.

Martha, his wife of forty-four years died in 1966. A short time later, on June 11, 1966, at the Motion Picture Country House in Woodland Hills, California, Wallace Ford's heart gave out. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: James L. Mason

Spouse (1)

Martha Haworth (actress) (1922 - 9 February 1966) (her death) (1 child)

Trivia (8)

Friend and drinking buddy of Morton Cooper, author of 'The King' and many other novels.
Brother-in-law of Joe Haworth and Ted Haworth.
At the time of his death he was survived by his only daughter, Mrs. Patricia Zachery, and two grandchildren.
In 1936 he sought out his widowed natural mother. After a long search, he found her living in an automobile trailer near Manchester, England. She had become the wife of a blind match seller.
He and his future wife met when they both acted in a play together in New York. His wife, Martha Haworth, was 19 when she appeared on Broadway in "Abie's Irish Rose" as one of the bridesmaids. Wallace Ford was playing the part of Abie. They married about a year later.
His real name was Samuel Jones Grundy. He took the name "Wallace Ford" in honor of a close childhood friend who was killed trying to hop onto a train.
Joined the US Army during World War I, serving in a cavalry unit at Ft. Riley, KS.
According to Ford's Petition for US Naturalization, he became a naturalized US citizen on 23 March 1942. Within that same document, he also petitioned to legally changed his name to Wallace Ford.

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