Thursday, August 31, 2006

Jonathan Kent Dies at 90



Sad news today from the Los Angeles Times. Glenn Ford, the actor who played Pa Kent in Richard Donner's Superman, has died. Ford turned 90 this past May when he was saluted by the American Cinametheque for his historic film achievements. The Times obituary is a wonderful remembrance of a wonderful acting career. But by focusing on Ford's "important" films and his noir work, it leaves out the role he defined for a generation of filmgoers.

Ask any Gen X-er who they think of when they think of Superman's dad and they will most likely say, "Glenn Ford." Okay, to be honest they'll most likely say, "That old guy from the Chris Reeves Superman movie. (sic)" Yes, I know that should be Christopher Reeve, but "Reeves" is what most people will say. Glen Ford's portrayal of Jonathan Kent is the superhero parent performance that all other superhero parent performances are judged by. Though Ford's character doesn't live past the first act (he dies in a scene that re-envisions Superman's childhood radically from what had been established continuity), his presence is felt throughout the entire movie. The Donner film is the story of how two fathers, one human and one Kryptonian, provided the moral foundation for the World's Greatest Superhero.

Ford's portrayal was stern and loving and has stuck with me since that day.

So yes, Ford's roles in Gilda, The Blackboard Jungle, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father should be remembered and praised (in fact, go watch Eddie's Father now! Shirley Jones...mmmmm), it is the death of Jonathan Kent that makes my heart sink today.
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