Hollywood stars come in two varieties: Those who are propelled by their acting talent, and those who connect with audiences due to their larger-than-life personas. Some people combine the two (Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, e.g.). Harrison Ford can act, but it’s his strong, solid, accessible persona that has made him a Great American Thing.
After a half dozen years of making the rounds doing parts in TV shows and small movies, Ford got his big break in 1977 with the part of Han Solo in the original Star Wars (now fatuously titled Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope) (Great American Things, January 18, 2010). That opportunity came because director George Lucas remembered Ford’s small part in his mini-masterpiece, American Graffiti.
Following the first two films in the Star Wars trilogy, Ford made a huge statement about his status as what Hollywood used to call a “leading man” in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). He was entirely believable as Indiana Jones, and if there had been any question about his durability on the “A list,” that role completely dispelled it.
In addition to these movies, some of the other hits Ford has starred in include Witness (1985), Working Girl (1988), Presumed Innocent (1990), Patriot Games (1992), The Fugitive (1993), and Air Force One (1997).
Although he’s received only one Academy Award nomination (for Witness), Ford received the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 2000. Oh, and his jacket and fedora from the Indiana Jones movies is in the Smithsonian…