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Glenn Ford made his feature film debut, fourth billed, but in the lead in Heaven With A Barbed Wire Fence. Another one making his debut and fifth billed is Richard Conte under his real first name of Nicholas. Both were under Jean Rogers, Raymond Walburn, and Marjorie Rambeau.
It's a B picture programmer from 20th Century Fox so no great care was taken with this. It's a simple story of a young man who quite the New York City rat race, who has spent his savings on 20 acres of Arizona real estate sight unseen and has decided to be a farmer there, because it means he's his own boss. Most of the film is Ford getting to Arizona to claim his dream and what happens along the way.
Among other things he meets Jean Rogers who is in the country illegally as a Spanish refugee from their civil war. I'm still trying to figure out how illegal she could be if in fact she does have an American mother. Ford also meets Richard Conte who I have no doubt 20th Century Fox saw as their answer to John Garfield. These three make an interesting trio of vagabonds even after they're joined by Raymond Walburn as a hobo professor. In fact Walburn was a paleontology teacher at one time and in his performance he leaves you tantalizing hints about his background before he took to the road. Walburn steals the film in every scene he's in and that's not unusual.
Ford had only made one short subject before being cast in Heaven With A Barbed Wire Fence. Peter Ford's biography of his dad says that director Ricardo Cortez treated him like garbage on the set increasing his insecurities. Ford had nothing but contempt for him and vowed he'd never treat a fellow performer as Cortez treated him if and when he reached stardom. Oddly enough Ford who essayed many roles playing shy and diffident young men probably had his very nervousness working for him. Right after this when Fox didn't sign him after this film, he got his long term contract with Columbia Pictures.
Another winning part here is that of Marjorie Rambeau as a dance hall owner who renews an acquaintance with Walburn who isn't quite sure when and how he met her the first time. They played great off each other.
Heaven With A Barbed Wire Fence is a B film and sloppily put together, but the cast is fine and Glenn Ford's future was assured.
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