What are the odds that there would be two major Hollywood screen idols by the same name, completely coincidentally, and with no relation at all between them? I’m thinking pretty remote. And yet it happened. The contemporary star Harrison Ford, most famous for playing Han Solo and Indiana Jones in major movie franchises since the 1970s and ’80s, bears the same name as a leading man of the silent era. The latter day Ford insists that it’s just a coincidence. It’s nevertheless quite possible though that the name might be an homage, if an unconscious one, by his parents, who were minor actors born while the first Ford was still a star.
Harrison Ford #1 (1884-1957) was from Kansas City, Missouri. He is said to have gotten into the acting game when Robert Edeson, a major star of the day, brought his production of Soldiers of Fortune to St. Louis in 1903. Ford asked him about possible work, and landed some small roles as a result. By the following year he was appearing on Broadway with Edeson in Ranson’s Folly by Richard Harding Davis. In 1905 he was in William de Mille’s Strongheart, also with Edeson. Over the next decade he appeared on Broadway five more times, and toured the U.S. and abroad extensively. In 1909 he married socialite and stage actress Beatrice Prentice.
Ford’s first film was the independent comedy Excuse Me, released in late 1915. He starred in scores of films over the next 17 years opposite such stars as Clara Bow, Marion Davies and the Talmadge Sisters. Some notable pictures include the 1923 Goldwyn adaptation of Vanity Fair directed by Hugo Ballin with his wife Mabel Ballin as Becky Sharp, with Hobart Bowsorth and George Walsh also in the cast; Janice Meredith (1924) and That Royle Girl (1925), both notable for having W.C. Fields in the cast; and the 1926 adaptation of George M. Cohan’s The Song and Dance Man, directed by Herbert Brenon, with Tom Moore and Bessie Love. When talkies came in he appeared in a couple of comedy shorts: a Christie film called Her Husband’s Women, and a Vitaphone titled The Flattering Word, penned by George Kelly, directed by Bryan Foy. His last film was the 1932 independent comedy feature Love in High Gear, which co-starred Alberta Vaughn.
Unable to find work in talkies, he returned to the theatre, where he acted and taught for the next couple of decades. He also made U.S.O. tours during World War Two. In 1951 he was struck by a car and permanently disabled. He passed away six years later. Many more details on the public and private lives of Harrison Ford and Beatrice Beatrice can be found here at Lost to History.
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