Gena Rowlands won an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Betty Ford in the Made-for-TV movie, The Betty Ford Story (1987). The real Betty Ford was an interesting woman. As the First Lady during the presidency of Gerald Ford, a Republican, Mrs. Ford occasionally irked some conservatives in the party for her more liberal views on social issues. The First Lady was pro-choice, supported some feminist causes such as equal pay for women, was for gun control and supported the Equal Rights Amendment to name a few issues at odds with some fellow Republicans. Mrs. Ford also raised awareness of breast cancer, when in 1974 she underwent a mastectomy. But out of all the causes the real Mrs. Ford supported, it is probably the awareness she brought to battling addiction that she is best remembered for. During the 1970s Betty Ford battled alcoholism and when she herself recovered from addiction, she co-founded the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, a non-profit recovery hospital to help others with addiction problems. The film The Betty Ford Story focuses on the period during the 1970s when Ford's addiction started and then snowballed into a major problem. Rowlands delivers an excellent performance as the former First Lady, illustrating the struggles she dealt with due to physical pain, the stress of her husband's ambitions, and the effects alcohol had on her.
In the film Betty Ford goes on the campaign stump for her husband's run for president. One of the stops is supposed to take place in the state of New Hampshire. However, the location used for this campaign stop was actually on a completely different coast. The location was really what is today the Warner Bros. Ranch at 411 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, California.
A campaign stop in New Hampshire. Really the Warner Bros. Ranch.
The same facades on the Warner Ranch as they appear today.
Gena Rowlands as Betty Ford on the Warner Ranch.
The film also stars Josef Sommer as President Gerald Ford and Rowlands fellow Wisconsinite, a pre-West Wing Bradley Whitford, as her son Jack Ford. The Betty Ford Story is available as an MOD DVD through the Warner Archive Collection. The film is also currently available for streaming on the Warner Archive Instant site.
All images (c) Warner Bros. Entertainment