John Benjamin Ireland (January 30, 1914 – March 21, 1992) was a Canadian-American actor and film director. 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 Academy Award nomination.
Ireland was a supporting actor in several famous Western films such as My Darling Clementine (1946), Red River (1948), Vengeance Valley (1951), and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). His other notable film roles were in 55 Days at Peking (1963), The Adventurers (1970), and Farewell, My Lovely (1975).
Ireland also appeared in many television series, notably The Cheaters (1960–1962). He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to the television industry.
Year Title Role Notes
1945 A Walk in the Sun Pfc. Windy Craven
1946 Behind Green Lights Det. Engelhofer
1946 It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog Benny Smith
1946 Clementina, kedvesem – My Darling Clementine Billy Clanton
1946 Wake Up and Dream Howard Williams
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 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 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 The Bushwackers Jefferson Waring
1951 Red Mountain Gen. William Quantrill
1952 Hurricane Smith Hurricane Smith
1953 The 49th Man Investigator John Williams
1953 Hannah Lee Marshal Sam Rochelle Also co-director. Released in color and 3-D, re-released “flat” in B&W; a.k.a. Outlaw Territory
1954 The Good Die Young Eddie Blaine
1954 Southwest Passage Clint
1955 The Glass Cage Pel Pelham
1955 The Fast and the Furious Frank Webster Also 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 (sv) Johnny Greco
1960 Spartacus Crixus
1960 Faces in the Dark Max Hammond
1961 Return of a Stranger Ray Reed
1961 Wild in the Country Phil Macy
1963 55 Days at Peking Sgt. Harry
1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire Ballomar
1965 I Saw What You Did Steve Marek
1967 Fort Utah Tom Horn
1967 Hate for Hate James Arthur Cooper
1968 Villa Rides Client in barber shop Uncredited
1968 Trusting Is Good… Shooting Is Better The Colonel
1968 Pistol for a Hundred Coffins Douglas
1968 Cost of Dying Dan El
1969 Carnal Circuit Walter Salinger
1969 One on Top of the Other Inspector Wald
1970 The Adventurers Mr. James Hadley
1972 Escape to the Sun Jacob Kagan
1972 Northeast of Seoul Flanagan
1974 The House of Seven Corpses Eric Hartman
1974 The Phantom of Hollywood Lieutenant Gifford TV movie
1974 Welcome to Arrow Beach Sheriff Duke Bingham
1975 Farewell, My Lovely Det. Lt. Nulty
1975 We Are No Angels Mr. Shark
1976 The Swiss Conspiracy Dwight McGowan
1976 Salon Kitty Cliff
1976 Sex Diary Milton
1977 Assault in Paradise Chief Haliburton a.k.a. The Ransom and Maniac!
1977 Satan’s Cheerleaders The Sheriff
1978 Tomorrow Never Comes Captain
1979 H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come Senator Smedley
1979 Crossbar Miles Kornylo TV movie
1979 Guyana: Cult of the Damned Dave Cole
1979 On the Air Live with Captain Midnight Agent Pierson
1981 Bordello Judge
1982 The Incubus Hank Walden
1985 Martin’s Day Brewer
1985 Treasure of the Amazon Priest
1986 Thunder Run George Adama
1987 Terror Night Lance Hayward
1988 Bonanza: The Next Generation Capt. Aaron Cartwright TV movie
1988 Messenger of Death Zenas Beecham
1989 Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat Ethan Jefferson
1990 The Graveyard Story Dr. McGregor
1992 Waxwork II: Lost in Time King Arthur
1992 Hammer Down Lt. Bates
Ireland was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on January 30, 1914. 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 father. His mother remarried 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.
His discovery of acting was by accident, but he fell in love with it and studied Shakespeare as his “formal” education.
Tall and lean, he appeared on Broadway and toured in Shakespeare in the late 1930s and early 1940s before entering film in the mid-1940s.[
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
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 had a good role of 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). 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. He received an undisclosed but “substantial” cash settlement.
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 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).
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.
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 CBS western series, Rawhide episode “Incident of the Garden of Eden” and made Faces in the Dark (1960) in England.
From 1960–1962, 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 CBS’s Rawhide. He had a large supporting part in 55 Days at Peking (1963) under Charlton Heston and was Ballomar in another spectacle, The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).
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 Rawhide on American television. This was the last season for Rawhide.
In 1967, he appeared on Bonanza with Michael Landon in the episode “Judgement 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”.
He had some leads in Fort Utah (1967), 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).
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). 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).
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 would co-star again in William Castle’s horror flick 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). Finally, 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.
In his later years, he owned a 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.
On March 21, 1992, Ireland died in Santa Barbara, California of leukemia at the age of 78. 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.