This one goes out to pal Lauren Milberger, producer and co-host of The Fordcast: A Harrison Ford Podcast and sometime contributor to Travalanche. Like most living breathing humans, I’m also a Harrison Ford fan, although it might have been a good long while before he’d gotten any attention here — too modern! If not for one interesting fact. His forbears were in vaudeville, our more usual beat.
Harrison’s grandfather was an Irish-American vaudeville comedian named John “Fitzgerald” Ford. His grandmother Florence Von Neihaus grew up in a theatrical boarding house run by her mother Delia. The boarding house put up many vaudeville performers, including Larry Crane, The Irish Wizard, so it is reasonable to assume that was how the couple met. Fitzgerald and Florence had one child, John William “Christopher” Ford (1906-1999), Harrison’s father. Fitzgerald died of alcoholism when Christopher was still a minor; the latter spent part of his youth in orphanages. Christopher was in vaudeville as well and later became a radio actor, which is where he met his wife Dorothy Nidelman. Although he appeared in national shows like Gang Busters, Christopher Ford never became a star. He later went on to become an advertising executive.
One can’t help but wonder if Chris and Dorothy named their oldest son after the silent movie star Harrison Ford, who is no relation. By all accounts, our own Harrison wasn’t particularly encouraged to join the family business, which after all brought no fame or fortune to his parents. But in high school he began to dabble on his own initiative, and his dabble became an epic career. Blood will out!
Some useful info for this post came from this recent article.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,