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Glenn Ford, seen here at the American Cinema Awards in 1990, continued working well into his 70s. ((Reed Saxon/ Associated Press))

Veteran actor Glenn Ford, known for his portrayal of strong,thoughtful characters in such films as The Blackboard Jungle and The Big Heat, was found dead in his Beverly Hills home Wednesday.

Police did not give a cause of death, butFord, 90,had suffered a series of strokes in the 1990s.

TheQuebec-born actorappeared in more than 80 films in a career spanning five decades. He was known mostly for his roles as the handsome tough, especially in westerns, but he also appeared in romantic and comedic roles. The Film Encyclopedia, a reference book, lists 85 films from 1939 to 1991.

"It comes to mind instantly what a remarkable actor he was," actor Sidney Poitier, who starred with Ford in The Blackboard Jungle, said Wednesday evening. "He had those magical qualities that are intangible but are quite impactful on the screen. He was a movie star."

Among his more memorable roles, Ford played a tough gambler opposite Rita Hayworth in Gilda, a police detective in The Big Heat, Clark Kent's stepfather in Superman and a nervous teacher who inspires the thugs in his class in The Blackboard Jungle.

"We did a film together, and it was for me a great experience because I had always admired his work," recalled Poitier. "When I saw him in films I had always marvelled at the subtlety of his work. He was truly gifted."

Ford saw himself as more of an everyday actor.

"Acting is just being truthful," he once said. "I have to play myself. I'm not an actor who can take on another character, like Laurence Olivier. The worst thing I could do would be to play Shakespeare."

An avid horseman and former polo player, Ford appeared in a number of westerns, including 3:10 to Yuma, Cowboy, The Rounders, Texas, The Fastest Gun Alive and the remake of Cimarron. He was also said to have the fastest draw among Hollywood's stable of actors.

On television, he appeared in Cade's County, The Family Holvak, Once an Eagle and When Havoc Struck. He starred in the feature film The Courtship of Eddie's Father, which later became a TV series featuring Bill Bixby.

Ford was a tireless actor who worked well into his 70s. In 1992 he was hospitalized for more than two months for blood clots and other ailments, and at one point was in critical condition.

"Noel Coward once told me, 'You will know you're old when you cease to be amazed.' Well, I can still be amazed," Ford said in a 1981 interview with the Associated Press.

Fordwas born Gwyllen Samuel Newton Ford on May 1, 1916 in Sainte-Christine, Quebec, the son of a railroad executive. He moved to southern California at eight and fell in love with show business, taking his first professional job as a searchlight operator.

After Columbia pictures head Harry Cohn convinced him to change his name, Ford chose the first name Glenn in honour of his father's birthplace in Glenford. He made his first Hollywood film opposite Jean Rogers in the romance Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence in 1939 and appeared in five films in 1940.

He then left Hollywood to serve in the Marines in World War II before returning to film in 1946 with his role in Gilda opposite Rita Hayworth, with whomhe shared the screen on four other occasions.

Although Ford was never nominated for an Academy Award, he did win a 1962 Golden Globe for best actor in a musical/comedy for his portrayal of Dave "The Dude" Conway opposite Bette Davis in Pocketful of Miracles.

He was also well respected by his peers, who twice gave him the Golden Apple Award as the most co-operative actor.

Ford was married four times, most notably to actress Eleanor Powell from 1943 to 1959. They had a son, Peter.

Failing health forced him to skip a 90th-birthday tribute on May 1 at Hollywood's historic Grauman's Egyptian Theatre, but he did send greetings via videotape "I wish I were up and around but I'm doing the best that I can," he said. "There's so much I have to be grateful for."