Paul Ford
Paul Ford at age 63 as Sam Bailey in The Baileys of Balboa, (1964)
Paul Ford Weaver

(1901-11-02)November 2, 1901
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.
DiedApril 12, 1976(1976-04-12) (aged 74)
Mineola, Long Island, New York, U.S.A.
Years active1945–1972
SpouseNell Weaver
Children4 (2 sons, 2 daughters)

Paul Ford Weaver (November 2, 1901 – April 12, 1976) was an American character actor and comedic actor who came to specialize in portraying authority figures whose ineptitude and pompous demeanor plus a distinctive voice were played for comic effect, notably as "Mayor George Shinn' of River City, Iowa in the 1957 Broadway musical comedy play, followed five years later by repeating in the feature film version musical comedy The Music Man (1962), (starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones), and on television as U.S. Army "Colonel John T. Hall" commanding officer on several seasons of the military comedic The Phil Silvers Show.(1955–1959) on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS-TV network) program, which starred longtime comedic film and stage star Phil Silvers as "Sergeant Bilko".

Early years

Ford was born Paul Ford Weaver in Baltimore, Maryland.[1] His father was described as "a well-to-do businessman" who lost his fortune when his investment in a soft-drink company failed.[2]

At an early age, he showed an adept talent for performance, but was discouraged when directors thought he was tone-deaf.[citation needed]

After attending Dartmouth College for one year,[3] Ford was a salesman before he became an entertainer.[4]

He took his middle birth name, which was his mother's maiden name, as his stage last name.[5] The change occurred after he failed an audition as Paul Weaver, but was successful when he auditioned again as Paul Ford.[3]


In later years, Ford made his distinctive voice one of the most recognized on films and television of his era. His later success however was long in the making, and he did little acting in his early adult years but instead raised his family during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

32nd President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs to combat the Great Depression of the 1930s, especially the Public Works Administration (PWA) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs, provided young Ford, then in his early 30s, with meaningful work and experience plus his first contact with acting and entertainment. Because of this positive influential contact, to the day he died, Ford was a devoted political / social Liberal and Progressive, becoming a staunch "FDR' Democrat" for the rest of his life.[citation needed]

He first ventured into entertainment, however, in a puppet theater project sponsored by the New Deal program in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to combat the Great Depression providing employment in the Federal Theatre Project for authors, academics, actors and musicians during Roosevelt's administration.[6] Years later in 1958 after he became nationally known on TV, he said of that opportunity: "I got on the puppet project of the W.P.A. and helped write and put on shows for the Federal Theater. We did puppet shows at the New York World's Fair in 1939 to 1940, and I served as narrator, a kind of 'Hoosier' cornball in beard."[3]

Following his experience with puppets, Ford briefly worked as an attendant at a gas station before turning to acting for a better career.[7] His first professional acting job was in an Off-Broadway production in New York City in 1939.[4]

In 1955, Ford played the bank president in the National Broadcasting Company ( NBC) television comedy series Norby.[8] He became an "overnight" success a year later at age 54 when he played "Colonel John T. Hall", U.S. Army incompetent commanding officer opposite comedian Phil Silvers on Silvers' military comedic The Phil Silvers Show TV show (often known as "Sergeant Bilko" or just "Bilko" for its main character and longtime film and now TV star).[8]: 830 

"Sgt. Bilko" (Phil Silvers) standing at left with "Col. John T. Hall" (Paul Ford, at age 54) at desk on 'The Phil Silvers Show' on CBS-TV network, 1955–1959.

His signature role may well be the part of "Mayor George Shinn" of River City, Iowa (a fictional small rural town in the 1910s era), as a befuddled politico in the 1962 film musical comedy adaptation of the earlier 1957 Broadway / New York City stage show The Music Man. Ford played the role straight but still comedic and received glowing reviews. The other role he is most identified with is that of "Horace Vandergelder" opposite Shirley Booth in the 1958 screen version of The Matchmaker, plus as "Kendall Hawkins", in the "Cold War" era comedy 'The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!' (1966), as an old Army officer with delusions of grandeur (who still carries around his sword) to lead his New England Gloucester island rural town militia and a mob of panicked villagers against a possible Russian invasion when a Soviet Red Navy submarine accidentally runs aground offshore. It also starred Brian Keith, Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Jonathan Winters, Alan Arkin, and Theodore Bikel

Ford had an active career on stage, then films and television, until his retirement in the early 1970s.

Despite being a respected earlier Broadway theatre stage character actor in the 1940s and early 1950s. Ford was notorious for being unable to remember his lines. This would cause occasional difficulty forcing him and those around him to improvise, often with hilarious effects. This became especially notable on The Phil Silvers Show TV program in the late 1950s..

He appeared in the 1962–1963 season in the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) television anthology The Lloyd Bridges Show. A year later, he also starred in The Baileys of Balboa also on CBS-TV network which lasted only one season (1964–1965).

His earlier stage credits include Another Part of the Forest (1946), Command Decision (1947), The Teahouse of the August Moon (1953), Whoop-Up (1958), replacing David Burns as Mayor George Shinn of River City, Iowa in The Music Man (1957) and repeated the role five years later in the 1962 musical film, A Thurber Carnival (1960), Never Too Late (1962), 3 Bags Full (1966), and What Did We Do Wrong? (1967).

Most actors who worked with Ford claimed he was a kindly and very funny man. He was known for his descriptive quotes about life in the Great Depression in later years, including, "My kids used to think everyone lived on peanut butter sandwiches!!"

His final role was three and half years prior to his death as a Washington, D.C. doctor in the film Richard in 1972.


On April 12, 1976, Ford died of a heart attack at Nassau Hospital in Mineola, on Long Island, New York. He was age 74.[9] He was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Los Angeles, California.[1] He was survived by his wife Nell Weaver, and four children – two daughters, and two sons.[3]


Ford was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards: Best Supporting Performance by an Actor (1957), Best Continuing Supporting Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic or Comedy Series (1958) and Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor (1963). The first two were for his work on The Phil Silvers Show; the third was for a role on the Hallmark Hall of Fame.[10]

Ford was nominated in 1963 for a "Tony" Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for Never Too Late.

Ford's April 1976's detailed obituary in The New York Times noted: "In 1967 Mr. Ford was cited by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures as the best supporting actor for his role in The Comedians."[3]

Partial filmography


  1. ^ a b Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. (2 volume set). McFarland. ISBN 9780786479924. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  2. ^ Ryan, Jack (May 5, 1963). "Paul Ford—He Found It's Never Too Late". Eureka Humboldt Standard Family Weekly. p. 32. Retrieved June 27, 2017 – via
  3. ^ a b c d e Fraser, C. Gerald (April 14, 1976). "Paul Ford, Actor, Dead; Colonel in 'Bilko'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 28, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Hischak, Thomas S. (2003). Enter the Players: New York Stage Actors in the Twentieth Century. Scarecrow Press. pp. 112–113. ISBN 978-0-8108-4761-3. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  5. ^ Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins (5th ed.). McFarland. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7864-5763-2. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  6. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 248. ISBN 978-1-5578-3551-2. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  7. ^ "Bilko's Colonel Gave Up Job In Gas Station To Be Actor". Waco Tribune-Herald. SPL. December 14, 1958. p. 44. Retrieved June 26, 2017 – via
  8. ^ a b Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 771. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  9. ^ "Paul Ford dies; was 'Bilko' star". The Day. New London, Connecticut. Associated Press. April 13, 1976. p. 21. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  10. ^ "("Paul Ford" search results)". Emmys. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2017 – via Wayback Machine.