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Impertinent Interview

I HAVE SEEN Glenn Ford’s magnificent portrayal, in “Blackboard Jungle,” of the school teacher plagued by vocational- school hoodlums and felt there must be a carry-over into Glenn’s personal life—that it couldn’t all be play-acting.

Glenn Ford is a very modest person. It was like pulling a tooth to get the story. But I finally wrung an admission from him that his acting of the beleaguered teacher was a heartfelt sort of thing, as I had guessed, that reached into his own private life. His admission, plus his work as writer and director of his wife’s inspirational TV show, “The Faith of Our Children,” gave me the lead I needed.

Ellie Powell and Glenn Ford, in their own quiet way, have been doing something about the juvenile delinquency problem every Sunday at 1:30 P.M., over television station KRCA in Los Angeles. Ellie, who has taught Sunday school at the Presbyterian Church in Beverly Hills for the past seven years, is also the Sunday-school teacher on the show. Glenn writes the show during the week, between his acting chores at M-G-M, and it’s rehearsed on Saturday, with Glenn directing. Then, after church every Sunday, Ellie goes on the air with “Faith of Our Children.” It has turned into such a good show, with such a high local rating that it may go out over the entire NBC-TV network this coming fall.

“We try not to make it preachy,” Glenn says, “because we’ve found that nobody—and especially a child—likes to be preached at.”

Scene of the show is a typical Sunday school, with Ellie as teacher. The cast includes children of every denomination. The Ford’s son, Peter, sits in with the other children—without any billing. The main theme is brotherly love. There is, as Glenn stresses, no preaching. This is usually accomplished by bringing in top sports figures as guest stars: Henry Armstrong, the great Negro boxer who holds crowns in three different weight divisions; Bob Richards, the pole vault champ; Los Angeles Rams football star, “Deacon Dan” Towler, the great fullback; and Jack Dempsey. Many movie stars have appeared as guests.

“We try to bring out the fact that all men are brothers and that all are in the image and likeness of God,” Glenn says. “We deplore racial discrimination, as did ‘Blackboard Jungle.’ We try to put the fact religion is not for sissies, that to be seen coming out of Sunday school is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.

“It’s inspiring to hear men like Armstrong, Richards, Towler: and the rest, tell how important religion is to them and to see how impressed some of the little boy are when their big ‘heroes’ talk to them.”

“When Bob Richards guested with us, he told how he prays during the last few inches of every. pole vault he makes. Bob said, ‘Every time I vault I pray to God to please let me make it, and my prayers are strongest during the last four inches!’

“We try to make the show appeal to adult viewers, too,” Glenn said.

That they appeal to adults is indicated by the 300 letters a week from Los Angeles viewers and that’s a lot of mail for a local show. These letters are mostly from parents. They don’t ask for anything; they just write in to thank the Fords for the show. Louis B. Mayer, Ellie’s old boss at M-G-M who hired her because he considered her the world’s greatest tap-dancing doll, is one of her regular Sunday viewers.

In addition to the TV show, Ellie and Glenn make live appearances at churches in and around Los Angeles whenever their busy schedules permit. After they get the TV show in high gear this fall, and that means on a national network, they also plan visiting the children’s hospitals and conducting their show from the bedsides.

For the ten months the show has been on the air it has been unsponsored. Glenn has been paying all the expenses out of his own pocket. And I asked Glenn Ford if he were doing anything about delinquency!



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