John Ireland (actor)

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]

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 active1938–1992
Elaine Sheldon Rosen
(m. 1940; div. 1948)

Joanne Dru
(m. 1949; div. 1957)

Daphine Myrick Cameron
(m. 1962; died 1992)

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 barter.


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 Fox

Ireland signed with 20th Century Fox 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.[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 law suit 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 acting and direct films for television.[12]

In January 1956 he signed to play the lead ina 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]


Ireland had a key role as the gladiator Crixus in the Stanley Kubrick 1960 spectacle Spartacus, co-starring with Kirk Douglas. That yearm 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 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, namely 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 they 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.[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.

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]


Year Title Role Notes
1945A Walk in the SunPfc. Windy Craven
1946Behind Green LightsDet. Engelhofer
1946Somewhere in the NightMinor RoleVoice, Uncredited
1946It Shouldn't Happen to a DogBenny Smith
1946My Darling ClementineBilly Clanton
1946Wake Up and DreamHoward Williams
1947Repeat PerformanceNarratorVoice, Uncredited
1947Railroaded!Duke Martin
1947The GangsterFrank Karty
1948I Love TroubleReno
1948Open SecretPaul Lester
1948Raw DealFantail
1948A Southern YankeeCapt. Jed Calbern
1948Red RiverCherry Valance
1948Joan of ArcJean de la Boussac, St. Severe
1949I Shot Jesse JamesBob Ford
1949The Walking HillsFrazee
1949The Undercover ManNarratorVoice, Uncredited
1949The Doolins of OklahomaBitter Creek
1949Anna LucastaDanny Johnson
1949Mr. Soft TouchHenry "Early" Byrd
1949All the King's MenJack BurdenAcademy Award nomination for Ireland, the film won the Oscar for Best Picture
1949Cargo to CapetownSteve Conway
1950The Return of Jesse JamesJohnny Callum
1951Vengeance ValleyHub Fasken
1951The ScarfJohn Howard Barrington
1951Little Big HornLt. John Haywood
1951The Basketball FixPete Ferreday
1951Red MountainGen. William Quantrill
1951The BushwackersJefferson Waring
1952Hurricane SmithHurricane Smith
1953The 49th ManInvestigator John Williams
1953Hannah LeeMarshal Sam RochelleAlso co-director. Released in color and 3-D, re-released "flat" in B&W; a.k.a. Outlaw Territory
1953Combat SquadSgt. Ken 'Fletch' Fletcher
1954The Good Die YoungEddie Blaine
1954Southwest PassageClint McDonald
1954Security RiskRalph Payne
1954The Steel CageAl, a Ringleader(segment "The Hostages")
1955The Glass CagePel Pelham
1955The Fast and the FuriousFrank WebsterAlso co-director.
1955Queen BeeJudd Prentiss
1955Hell's HorizonCapt. John Merrill
1956GunslingerCane Miro
1957Gunfight at the O.K. CorralJohnny Ringo
1958Stormy CrossingGriff Parker
1958No Place to LandJonas Bailey
1958Party GirlLouis Canetto
1959Med mord i bagagetJohnny Greco
1960Faces in the DarkMax Hammond
1961Wild in the CountryPhil Macy
1961Return of a StrangerRay Reed
1962BrushfireJeff Saygure
196355 Days at PekingSgt. Harry
1963The CeremonyPrison Warden
1964The Fall of the Roman EmpireBallomar
1965I Saw What You DidSteve Marek
1965Day of the NightmareDetective Sgt. Dave Harmon
1967Hate for HateJames Arthur Cooper
1967Fort UtahTom Horn
1967Dirty HeroesCapt. O'Connor
1967CaxambuVince Neff
1968Go for BrokeThe Owl
1968Arizona BushwhackersDeputy Dan Shelby
1968Villa RidesClient in barber shopUncredited
1968Trusting Is Good... Shooting Is BetterThe Colonel
1968Pistol for a Hundred CoffinsDouglas
1968Run, Man, RunSantillana
1968A Taste of DeathDan El
1968Revenge for RevengeMaj. Bower
1968Gatling GunTarpas
1969El 'Che' GuevaraStuart
1969Carnal CircuitRichard Salinger
1969One on Top of the OtherInspector Wald
1969ZenabelDon Alonso Imolne
1969I diavoli della guerraAmerican GeneralUncredited
1970Men From Shiloh (rebranded name of The VirginianKinroy
1970La sfida dei MacKennaJones
1970The AdventurersMr. James Hadley
1972Escape to the SunJacob Kagan
1972Northeast of SeoulFlanagan
1973Huyendo del halcónShot in 1966
1974The House of Seven CorpsesEric Hartman
1974The Phantom of HollywoodLieutenant GiffordTV movie
1974Welcome to Arrow BeachSheriff Duke Bingham
1974Dieci bianchi uccisi da un piccolo indianoAbel Webster
1975Farewell, My LovelyDet. Lt. Nulty
1975We Are No AngelsMr. Shark
1976Salon KittyCliff
1976Sex DiaryMilton
1976The Swiss ConspiracyDwight McGowan
1977Assault in ParadiseChief Haliburtona.k.a. The Ransom and Maniac!
1977Mission to Glory: A True StoryBenny
1977Satan's CheerleadersThe Sheriff
1977Love and the Midnight Auto SupplyTony Santore
1977Quel pomeriggio maledettoBenny
1977The Moon and a Mumur
1978Tomorrow Never ComesCaptain
1979H. G. Wells' The Shape of Things to ComeSenator Smedley
1979CrossbarMiles KornyloTV movie
1979Guyana: Cult of the DamnedDave Cole
1979Delta FoxLucas Johnson
1979On the Air Live with Captain MidnightAgent Pierson
1982The IncubusHank Walden
1985Martin's DayBrewer
1985Treasure of the AmazonPriest
1985Miami GolemAnderson
1986Thunder RunGeorge Adams
1987Terror NightLance Hayward
1988Bonanza: The Next GenerationCapt. Aaron CartwrightTV movie
1988Messenger of DeathZenas Beecham
1989Sundown: The Vampire in RetreatEthan Jefferson
1990The Graveyard StoryDr. McGregor
1992Waxwork II: Lost in TimeKing Arthur
1992Hammer DownLt. Bates(final film role)


  1. Wyndham Wise (April 3, 2011). "John Ireland". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  2. Actor John Ireland dies at 78 Associated Press. Las Vegas Review - Journal; Las Vegas, Nev. [Las Vegas, Nev]22 Mar 1992: 2.f.
  3. "John Ireland". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  4. "John Ireland". NNDB. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  5. "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 22 Dec 1949: A8.
  7. Actor Petitions Court to Break Film Contract Los Angeles Times 15 Dec 1949: 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 3 Mar 1954: 10.
  9. JOHN IRELAND AGREES TO SETTLING OF SUIT Special to The New York Times. 22 May 1954: 8.
  10. Joanne Dru and Ireland Countersued on Movie: Producer Asks for $200,000 Damages Against Their Action for Accounting Los Angeles Times 27 Nov 1953: 22.
  11. In Debut, John Ireland Directs 2D, 3D, Color and Wide Screen Western: Wide, Colorful Debut Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 21 June 1953: D1.
  12. VIDEO-RADIO BRIEFS: John Ireland Joins Directing Actors Ames, Walter. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]13 July 1955: 26.
  13. JOHN IRELAND SET FOR 39 TV SHOWS: Actor Will Portray Captain in 'Port of Call,' Warner Brothers' Film Series Special to The New York Times.12 Jan 1956: 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: [Final Edition] The Ottawa Citizen; Ottawa, Ont. [Ottawa, Ont]23 Mar 1992: C10.
  17. John Ireland; Played Tough Guys in Movies, TV Shows: [Home Edition] Los Angeles Times 22 Mar 1992: 38.
  19. Ireland, Joanne Land in Hospital After Row by Aline Mosby, The Washington Post and Times Herald, 7 July 1956: 3.
  20. VERY LITTLE ELSE TO DIVIDE: Joanne Dru Gets Divorce, Must Help Pay Off $53,388.66 in Bills, Los Angeles Times, 17 May 1957: B1.
  21. LATE NEWS: John Ireland Bankrupt, Los Angeles Times, 5 May 1977: a1.
  22. "John Ireland - Hollywood Star Walk - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2017-08-09.
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