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Glenn Ford first met Bette Davis in an interesting way.
After serving in the Marine Corps, Ford received an honorable discharge in 1944 and looked ahead at resuming his Hollywood career.
As it just so happened, his first break came thanks to a lunch. While at the Warner Brothers commissary with a friend, his meal was interrupted with “You’re Glenn Ford, aren’t you?”
Her name was Catherine Turney, a screenwriter, and she invited him to meet Bette Davis at her table in the other room.
Ford said, “I went in and said hello. Bette looked at me thoughtfully for a moment and then shook her head.”
What Ford didn’t know at the time was that Davis was sizing him up and at first thought he was too young to play her leading man. His reputation had preceded him, and Bette, who was executive producing for the first time, was looking for the co-star for A Stolen Life. The studio wanted Robert Alda, but she didn’t think he fit the part.
Despite her initial assessment, she told him to stop to come by for a screen test on Sunday wearing a rugged tweed jacket with patches and a pipe.
And with that, the lunch meet-up was over.
The studio pushed back against casting Ford since he wasn’t in their roster, but Bette had her mind set. The challenge now was could Glenn look old? After all, he was eight years younger than Davis.
As it just so happens, that a big life event helped immensely. The day before the screen test Ford’s wife, Eleanor Powell, went into labor with their first child. He went to the hospital with her where he stayed until the next day.
When he tested, he was unshaved, tired, and looked much older.
Along with getting the part, he got along with Davis, who helped him conceptualize his character. She even threw him a birthday party. The pair would work together again years later in Pocketful of Miracles.