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Helping to Write 'Blackboard' History

11 May, 2005 By: Fred Topel

Warner Home Video yesterday released Blackboard Jungle as part of its “Controversial Classics” collection, including a commentary track with co-stars Paul Mazursky and Jamie Farr, assistant director Joel Freeman and Peter Ford, son of star Glenn Ford.

Ford is used to speaking about his father's work. “I have become the de facto Glenn Ford these days,” he said. “I know more about my father than he does.”

Peter Ford is responsible for the inclusion of “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets as the film's theme song. He played the record to his father as a child and suggested Glenn use it in the film. The film has since been credited with launching the rock 'n' roll era as it sent the song to No. 1 on the charts.

Glenn Ford, 88, is healthy but doesn't speak at length about his past work.

“I love getting into all of the stuff and the intrigue,” he said. “To him now, it's just a film that he made that was a happy experience or not.”

Knowing his father couldn't participate in an audio commentary track, Peter drew upon his memories and notes to contribute to the backstory for Blackboard Jungle.

“There's probably not a person on the earth that knows more about that movie than I do today, so it was a logical thing for me to do,” he said.

When speaking with Mazursky, Farr and Freeman, Ford contributed stories that even they did not know.

“I knew about how the whole film was cast,” Ford said. “I knew that Steve McQueen was up for the Vic Morrow role.”

While many of Ford's stories come from his own experiences and memories, he also has notes from his father's records.

“Dad kept a diary from the time he was 13 years old — a journal — and I blessedly have every one of those,” he said. “If you were to stack them from the floor up, they're about six feet high. I know what he was thinking, I know what he ate for lunch every day of his life. It's like a stream of consciousness, and he talks about co-workers, actresses, actors, who he liked, who he didn't like, if he had a problem with a director. It's a cornucopia of information.”

Warner wasn't aware of Peter Ford's knowledge when putting together its Courtship of Eddie's Father DVD, but Ford hopes he can contribute to future DVDs for his father's films.

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