John Ireland (actor)

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John Ireland
Ireland in 1960
John Benjamin Ireland

(1914-01-30)January 30, 1914
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
DiedMarch 21, 1992(1992-03-21) (aged 78)
Resting placeSanta Barbara Cemetery, Santa Barbara, California, U.S.
OccupationActor & Film director
Years active1932–1992
Elaine Sheldon Rosen
(m. 1940;div. 1948)

(m. 1949;div. 1957)

Daphine Myrick Cameron
(m. 1962;died 1992)

John Benjamin Ireland (January 30, 1914 – March 21, 1992) was a Canadian-American actor and film director. [1] He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in All the King's Men (1949), making him the first Vancouver-born actor to receive an Oscar nomination. [2]


Ireland was a supporting actor in several Western films such as My Darling Clementine (1946), Red River (1948), Vengeance Valley (1951), and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). His other film roles include 55 Days at Peking (1963), The Adventurers (1970), and Farewell, My Lovely (1975).

Ireland also appeared in many television series, notably The Cheaters (1960–62). He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to the television industry.

Early life

Ireland was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on January 30, 1914. [3] [4] He lived in New York City from a very early age. Ireland's formal education ended at the 7th grade, and he worked to help his family make ends meet.

He never knew his natural father; his mother, a Scottish piano teacher Gracie Ferguson, remarried to Michael Noone, an Irish vaudevillian, and had three other children, a daughter Kathryn, a son named Tommy (the future actor-comedian Tommy Noonan), and another son, Michael. Their last name was Noone; Ireland never knew for sure where his last name came from. One of his jobs was in a water carnival where he wrestled a dead octopus.

He was a swimmer, once competing with Johnny Weissmuller. He performed underwater stunts at a carnival and worked as a barker.



One day he was passing the Davenport Free Theater in Manhattan. He entered, thinking it offered a free show and instead received free training. He slept in a dressing room and was paid a dollar a day to work backstage while rehearsing lines.

In 1941 he made his Broadway debut in a production of Macbeth with Maurice Evans and Judith Anderson. Other Broadway plays followed. [5]

20th Century Studios

Ireland signed with 20th Century Studios and made his screen-debut as Private Windy, the thoughtful letter-writing GI, in the 1945 war film A Walk in the Sun , directed by Lewis Milestone.

This was followed by Wake Up and Dream (1946); Behind Green Lights (1946) with Carole Landis; and It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog (1946), again with Landis. He played Billy Clanton in John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946).

Freelance actor and Red River

Ireland had his first lead role in Railroaded! (1947), directed by Anthony Mann for Eagle-Lion. He went back to support parts for The Gangster (1947) for the King Brothers and I Love Trouble (1948) for Columbia.

Ireland played the lead in Open Secret (1948) for Eagle-Lion, then had a support role in Mann's classic noir, Raw Deal (1948).

Ireland had a vital support part in Howard Hawks' 1948 film Red River as the gunslinger Cherry Valance. However, Ireland's part was reduced when Hawks became annoyed with the actor. Ireland was an army captain in the Ingrid Bergman spectacular, Joan of Arc (1948).

All the King's Men

In April 1948 Ireland signed a contract with Columbia Pictures at $500 a week going up to $1500 a week. Ireland was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his forceful performance as Jack Burden, the hard-boiled newspaper reporter who evolves from devotee to cynical denouncer of demagogue Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) in All the King's Men (1949), making him the first Vancouver-born actor to receive an Academy Award nomination.

Ireland was featured as Bob Ford in the low budget I Shot Jesse James (1949) the first movie directed by Sam Fuller. He was a villain in the Western Roughshod (1949) and a love rival for Paulette Goddard in Anna Lucasta (1949).

In December 1949 Columbia suspended him after walking out after filming one scene on One Way Out (released as Convicted ). [6] He sued the studio. [7]

Lippert Pictures gave him the lead in The Return of Jesse James (1950) and he appeared opposite his then-wife Joanne Dru in support parts in Vengeance Valley (1951)

During McCarthyism in the early 50s, he successfully sued two television producers for breach of contract and slander, claiming that they reneged on roles promised to him due to his perceived political undesirability, including the lead in a TV series The Adventures of Ellery McQueen. He received an undisclosed but "substantial" cash settlement. [5] [8] [9]

Ireland had the leads in some low-budget films: The Basketball Fix (1951); The Scarf (1951); Little Big Horn (1951); The Bushwackers (1952); and Hannah Lee (1953) with his wife. He directed the latter. That film resulted in a lawsuit against the producers. [10] [11]

He went to England to make The Good Die Young (1954) and supported his wife in Southwest Passage (1954) and Joan Crawford in Queen Bee (1955).


John Ireland turned director with The Fast and the Furious (1955), an early production from Roger Corman; Ireland also starred. He had the lead in the British thriller The Glass Cage (1955) and the war film Hell's Horizon (1955). He made another for Corman, this time only as an actor – Gunslinger (1956).

In July 1955 he signed a contract with Revue to act and direct films for television. [12]

In January 1956 he signed to play the lead in the TV series Port of Call. [13]

Ireland had a support role in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), playing Johnny Ringo and in MGM's Party Girl (1958). He had the lead in No Place to Land (1958), and Stormy Crossing (1958).

In 1959, Ireland appeared as Chris Slade, with Karl Swenson as Ansel Torgin, in the episode "The Fight Back" of the NBC western series, Riverboat . In the storyline, Tom Fowler (Tom Laughlin), the boss of the corrupt river town of Hampton near Vicksburg, Mississippi, blocks farmers from shipping their crops to market. In a dispute over a wedding held on the Enterprise, a lynch-mob led by Fowler comes after series lead-character Grey Holden (Darren McGavin). Karl Swenson also was cast in this episode. [14]


In 1959, John guest-appeared on Judy Garland's album, The Letter for Capitol Records.

Ireland had a key role as the gladiator Crixus in the Stanley Kubrick 1960 spectacle Spartacus , co-starring with Kirk Douglas. That year he starred as Winch in the western series Rawhide episode "Incident of the Garden of Eden" and made Faces in the Dark (1960) in England.

From 1960 to 1962, he starred in the British television series The Cheaters , playing John Hunter, a claims investigator for an insurance company who tracked down cases of fraud. He supported Elvis Presley in Wild in the Country (1961) and had the lead in the British Return of a Stranger (1961).

In 1962, he portrayed the character Frank Trask in the episode "Incident of the Portrait" on Rawhide . He had a supporting part in 55 Days at Peking (1963) with Charlton Heston and was Ballomar in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), both films shot in Spain by producer Samuel Bronston.

By the mid-1960s, he was seen as the star of B-movies, such as I Saw What You Did with Crawford. In 1965, he played role of Jed Colby, a trail scout in the final season of Rawhide .

In 1967, he appeared as Marshal Will Rimbau on Bonanza with Michael Landon in the episode "Judgment at Red Creek". A few years later, he again appeared with Landon on two episodes of Little House on the Prairie as a drunk who saves Carrie Ingalls, who had fallen down an abandoned mine shaft in season 3 episode "Little Girl Lost" and season 5 episode "The Winoka Warriors". [15]

He had some leads in the A. C. Lyles Western Fort Utah (1967), then traveled to Europe to appear in Hate for Hate (1967), and Pistol for a Hundred Coffins (1967) and supported in Villa Rides (1968), Trusting Is Good... Shooting Is Better (1969), One on Top of the Other (1969), and Carnal Circuit (1969).


In 1970, Ireland appeared as Kinroy in the TV western The Men From Shiloh (rebranded name for The Virginian ) in the episode titled "Jenny". Ireland was seen in productions like The House of Seven Corpses (1974), Salon Kitty (1976) and Satan's Cheerleaders (1977). He did, however, also appear in big-budget fare such as The Adventurers (1970), also as a police lieutenant in the Robert Mitchum private-eye story Farewell, My Lovely (1975).

Later career

In 1987, he put an ad in the newspapers stating "I'm an actor... let me act." [16] It led to a role as Jonathan Aaron Cartwright, the younger brother of Ben Cartwright, in the television movie Bonanza: The Next Generation . [17]

He was seen in the War of the Worlds episode "Eye for an Eye" in 1988.

Ireland regularly returned to the stage throughout his career and co-directed two features in the 1950s: the acclaimed Western drama Hannah Lee (1953) and the carjacking B-movie The Fast and the Furious (1955).

Personal life

Occasionally Ireland's name was mentioned in tabloids of the times, in connection with much younger starlets, including Natalie Wood, Barbara Payton, and Sue Lyon. He attracted controversy by dating 16-year-old actress Tuesday Weld when he was 45. Ireland also had an affair with co-star Joan Crawford while on the set of Queen Bee (1955). A decade later, Ireland and Crawford co-starred again in William Castle's movie I Saw What You Did .

He was married three times. His first wife, from 1940 to 1949, was Elaine Sheldon, by whom he had two sons, John and Peter.

From 1949 to 1957, he was married to actress Joanne Dru (whose younger brother, entertainer Peter Marshall, was originally best known for his comedy act with Ireland's half-brother Tommy Noonan). In July 1956, Dru was admitted to hospital with a black eye which she said was accidental but which commonly was believed to have been caused by Ireland. [18] Ireland later was admitted to hospital for taking an overdose of barbiturates. [19]

When the couple divorced in 1957 they had over $50,000 in debts. [20]

From 1962 until his death, Ireland was married to Daphne Myrick Cameron, with whom he had a daughter named Daphne and a son named Cameron. He has four grandchildren: Pete, Melissa, Jack and Helios. [5]

In his later years, he owned the restaurant Ireland's in Santa Barbara, California. An accomplished chef, he regularly worked in the kitchen and concocted Ireland Stew, combining whatever ingredients were available on a given night. He was also a regular at the restaurant's bar, greeting patrons and buying drinks for friends.[ citation needed ]

The restaurant failed. In May 1977, Ireland declared bankruptcy. [21]

On March 21, 1992, Ireland died in Santa Barbara, California of leukemia at the age of 78. [5] He is buried at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

For his contribution to the television industry, he was commemorated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1610 Vine Street. [22]


1945 A Walk in the Sun Pfc. Windy Craven
1946 Behind Green Lights Det. Engelhofer
1946 Somewhere in the Night Minor RoleVoice, Uncredited
1946 It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog Benny Smith
1946 My Darling Clementine Billy Clanton
1946 Wake Up and Dream Howard Williams
1947 Repeat Performance NarratorVoice, Uncredited
1947 Railroaded! Duke Martin
1947 The Gangster Frank Karty
1948 I Love Trouble Reno
1948 Open Secret Paul Lester
1948 Raw Deal Fantail
1948 A Southern Yankee Capt. Jed Calbern
1948 Red River Cherry Valance
1948 Joan of Arc Jean de la Boussac, St. Severe
1949 I Shot Jesse James Bob Ford
1949 The Walking Hills Frazee
1949 The Undercover Man NarratorVoice, Uncredited
1949 Roughshod Lednov
1949 The Doolins of Oklahoma Bitter Creek
1949 Anna Lucasta Danny Johnson
1949 Mr. Soft Touch Henry "Early" Byrd
1949 All the King's Men Jack Burden Academy Award nomination for Ireland, the film won the Oscar for Best Picture
1950 Cargo to Capetown Steve Conway
1950 The Return of Jesse James Johnny Callum
1951 Vengeance Valley Hub Fasken
1951 The Scarf John Howard Barrington
1951 Little Big Horn Lt. John Haywood
1951 The Basketball Fix Pete Ferreday
1951 Red Mountain Gen. William Quantrill
1951 The Bushwackers Jefferson Waring
1952 Hurricane Smith Hurricane Smith
1953 The 49th Man Investigator John Williams
1953 Hannah Lee Marshal Sam RochelleAlso co-director. Released in color and 3-D, re-released "flat" in B&W; a.k.a. Outlaw Territory
1953 Combat Squad Sgt. Ken 'Fletch' Fletcher
1954 The Good Die Young Eddie Blaine
1954 Southwest Passage Clint McDonald
1954 Security Risk Ralph Payne
1954 The Steel Cage Al, a Ringleader(segment "The Hostages")
1955 The Glass Cage Pel Pelham
1955 The Fast and the Furious Frank WebsterAlso co-director.
1955 Queen Bee Judd Prentiss
1955 Hell's Horizon Capt. John Merrill
1956 Gunslinger Cane Miro
1957 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Johnny Ringo
1958 Stormy Crossing Griff Parker
1958 No Place to Land Jonas Bailey
1958 Party Girl Louis Canetto
1959 Med mord i bagaget Johnny Greco
1960 Spartacus Crixus
1960 Faces in the Dark Max Hammond
1961 Wild in the Country Phil Macy
1961 Return of a Stranger Ray Reed
1962 Brushfire Jeff Saygure
1963 55 Days at Peking Sgt. Harry
1963 The Ceremony Prison Warden
1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire Ballomar
1965 I Saw What You Did Steve Marek
1965Day of the NightmareDetective Sgt. Dave Harmon
1967 Hate for Hate James Arthur Cooper
1967 Fort Utah Tom Horn
1967 Dirty Heroes Capt. O'Connor
1967CaxambuVince Neff
1968Go for BrokeThe Owl
1968 Arizona Bushwhackers Deputy Dan Shelby
1968 Villa Rides Client in barber shopUncredited
1968 Trusting Is Good... Shooting Is Better The Colonel
1968 Pistol for a Hundred Coffins Douglas
1968 Run, Man, Run Santillana
1968A Taste of DeathDan El
1968Revenge for RevengeMaj. Bower
1968 Gatling Gun Tarpas
1969El 'Che' GuevaraStuart
1969 Carnal Circuit Richard Salinger
1969 One on Top of the Other Inspector Wald
1969 Zenabel Don Alonso Imolne
1969I diavoli della guerraAmerican GeneralUncredited
1970Men From Shiloh (rebranded name of The Virginian )Kinroy
1970 La sfida dei MacKenna Jones
1970 The Adventurers Mr. James Hadley
1972 Escape to the Sun Jacob Kagan
1972 Northeast of Seoul Flanagan
1973Huyendo del halcónShot in 1966
1974 The House of Seven Corpses Eric Hartman
1974 The Phantom of Hollywood Lieutenant GiffordTV movie
1974 Welcome to Arrow Beach Sheriff Duke Bingham
1974Dieci bianchi uccisi da un piccolo indianoAbel Webster
1975 Farewell, My Lovely Det. Lt. Nulty
1975 We Are No Angels Mr. Shark
1976 Salon Kitty Cliff
1976 Sex Diary Milton
1976 The Swiss Conspiracy Dwight McGowan
1977 Assault in Paradise Chief Haliburtona.k.a. The Ransom and Maniac!
1977Mission to Glory: A True StoryBenny
1977 Satan's Cheerleaders The Sheriff
1977Love and the Midnight Auto SupplyTony Santore
1977Quel pomeriggio maledettoBenny
1977The Moon and a Mumur
1978 Tomorrow Never Comes Captain
1979 H. G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come Senator Smedley
1979 Crossbar Miles KornyloTV movie
1979 Guyana: Cult of the Damned Dave Cole
1979Delta FoxLucas Johnson
1979 On the Air Live with Captain Midnight Agent Pierson
1981 Bordello Judge
1982 The Incubus Hank Walden
1985 Martin's Day Brewer
1985Treasure of the AmazonPriest
1985Miami GolemAnderson
1986 Thunder Run George Adams
1987 Terror Night Lance Hayward
1988 Bonanza: The Next Generation Capt. Aaron CartwrightTV movie
1988 Messenger of Death Zenas Beecham
1989 Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat Ethan Jefferson
1990The Graveyard StoryDr. McGregor
1992 Waxwork II: Lost in Time King Arthur
1992Hammer DownLt. Bates(final film role)

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  1. Wyndham Wise (April 3, 2011). "John Ireland". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  2. "Actor John Ireland dies at 78". Las Vegas Review–Journal. Associated Press. 22 Mar 1992. p. 2.f.
  3. "John Ireland". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  4. "John Ireland". NNDB . Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "John Ireland, 78, Longtime Actor With Role in 'All the King's Men'" Bruce Lambert, THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 22, 1992
  6. "Actor John Ireland Suspended by Studio". Los Angeles Times. December 22, 1949. p. A8.
  7. "Actor Petitions Court to Break Film Contract". Los Angeles Times. December 15, 1949. p. 26.
  8. "Actor John Ireland Files $1,756,000 Slander Suit: Charges He Was Dismissed From Television Series by False Claim of Communist Leanings". Los Angeles Times. Mar 3, 1954. p. 10.
  9. "JOHN IRELAND AGREES TO SETTLING OF SUIT". The New York Times. May 22, 1954. p. 8.
  10. "Joanne Dru and Ireland Countersued on Movie: Producer Asks for $200,000 Damages Against Their Action for Accounting". Los Angeles Times. Nov 27, 1953. p. 22.
  11. Scheuer, Philip K. (21 June 1953). "In Debut, John Ireland Directs 2D, 3D, Color and Wide Screen Western: Wide, Colorful Debut". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  12. Ames, Walter (13 July 1955). "VIDEO-RADIO BRIEFS: John Ireland Joins Directing Actors". Los Angeles Times. p. 26.
  13. "JOHN IRELAND SET FOR 39 TV SHOWS: Actor Will Portray Captain in 'Port of Call,' Warner Brothers' Film Series". The New York Times. Jan 12, 1956. p. 55.
  14. ""The Fight Back", Riverboat, October 18, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 23, 2013.
  15. Little House on the Prairie episode profile
  16. "Actor John Ireland dies". The Ottawa Citizen (Final\ ed.). Mar 23, 1992. p. C10.
  17. "John Ireland; Played Tough Guys in Movies, TV Shows". Los Angeles Times (Home ed.). Mar 22, 1992. p. 38.
  18. "JOANNE DRU HOSPITALIZED BY BLACKED EYES, PUFFED NOSE". Los Angeles Times. July 7, 1956. p. 3.
  19. Aline Mosby (7 July 1956). "Ireland, Joanne Land in Hospital After Row". The Washington Post and Times Herald. p. 3.
  20. "VERY LITTLE ELSE TO DIVIDE: Joanne Dru Gets Divorce, Must Help Pay Off $53,388.66 in Bills". Los Angeles Times. May 17, 1957. p. B1.
  21. "LATE NEWS: John Ireland Bankrupt". Los Angeles Times. May 5, 1977. p. a1.
  22. "John Ireland – Hollywood Star Walk –". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-08-09.