“Paging Mr. Ellis. Paging Mr. Ellis.”
That’s how it all began for a young Harrison Ford–two lines delivered on-screen in “Dead Heat on a Merry-go-Round”. The director, unsatisfied with Ford’s delivery, pulled him aside to tell the young actor he would never make it in this business. He played a clip of an up-and-coming Tony Curtis delivering some groceries and said, “See, you take one look at him and you know he’s a movie star.”
“Really?!”, Ford replied smugly. “I thought you were supposed to think he was a grocery delivery boy.”
That rocky start proved to be a defining moment for Harrison Ford. Such notions of fame and star power was never his aspiration. To simply make a living as a character actor was enough for Ford. Perhaps it is this mindset that has allowed Ford to achieve success on his own terms, and become one of the biggest stars in the history of cinema.
What’s in a name? Well in this case, it’s an “H” (as in “Humphrey” and “Harrison”) but that doesn’t even begin to describe the similarities of these hollywood legends.
It’s not just because they both personify the american male archetype, or because they have both played characters in search of a rare macguffin. Heck, they’ve even used the same line–“What good’s a reward if you ain’t around to use it.”
Even though Bogart died 20 years before Ford had even heard of Han Solo, there’s no doubt the connections are astounding. Here they are:
1) Both have facial injuries–Ford, a scar on the chin from a car wreck, Bogart, a lip injury from a scuffle in the navy. That’s how he developed his trademark lisp. (At least that’s the most popular belief. There are several versions. The true story has never been confirmed.)
As a side note, Ford’s scar became a plot point in “The Last Crusade” and “Working Girl”.
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2) Both achieved fame late in life. Bogart’s early days in theater did little to gain him attention as an actor. A colleague once described Bogart’s acting as “inadequate”. His breakthrough role finally came at the age of 36. Ford decided to pursue a film career after college. As a contract player with Universal, he became disillusioned with the industry, and quit acting altogether. A combination of luck and timing led to his role as Han Solo at age 35.
3) Speaking of breakthrough roles, they both were cast as rebels early on. Bogart played gangster Duke Mantee in “The Petrified Forest”. Ford played high school drag racer Bob Falfa in “American Graffiti”.
4) Bogart and Ford both portrayed the same character. In 1954, Bogart played business tycoon Linus Larrabee who falls in love with his chauffeur’s daughter in “Sabrina”. Ford would play the role over 40 years later in the film remake of the same name.
5) Both played eerily similar navy sea captains in two unrelated movies. Bogart played Lt. Cmdr. Phillip Queeg in “The Caine Mutiny”. Ford played the russian submarine captain Alexei Vostrikov in “K19: The Widowmaker”. In each film, both characters are unpopular by their crew, both crews are suspicious their commanding officers are not in full control of their faculties, and in each film both characters are placed under arrest while their crew commits mutiny. A court-martial then follows in each film.
6) In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male screen legend of all time. In 2000, the American Film Institute gave Ford the Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding body of work.