John Benjamin Ireland (January 30, 1914 – March 21, 1992) was a Canadian actor and film director.
Ireland was born John Benjamin Ireland 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, like many children at that time, 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 (became Tommy Noonan who co-starred in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"), 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.
Ireland made his screen-debut as Private Windy, the thoughtful letter-writing GI, in the 1945 war film A Walk in the Sun. This was followed by Wake Up and Dream in 1946. A supporting actor in several notable Westerns including John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946) and Howard Hawks' 1948 film Red River.
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.
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.
A prolific performer in films and early television, Ireland had made the transition to supporting roles by the mid-1950s, playing cynical villains in films like Vengeance Valley (1951), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). He had a large supporting part in 55 Days at Peking (1963) under Charlton Heston. He also starred as an innocent man-on-the-run in the 1955 original The Fast and the Furious and had a key role as the gladiator Crixus in the Stanley Kubrick 1960 spectacle Spartacus, co-starring with Kirk Douglas.
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.
In 1960, Ireland starred as Winch in the CBS western series, Rawhide episode "Incident of the Garden of Eden." In 1962, he portrayed the character Frank Trask in the episode "Incident of the Portrait" on CBS's Rawhide.
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. By the mid-1960s, he was seen as the star of B-movies such as I Saw What You Did, 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 Little House on the Prairie as a drunk who saves Carrie Ingalls, who had fallen down an abandoned mine shaft.
Ireland was seen in Italian productions like The House of the 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; first from 1940–1949, to Elaine Sheldon, by whom he had two sons named John and Peter. Then, from 1949-1957, to Joanne Dru. Finally, from 1962 until his death, 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.
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.
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 My Darling Clementine Billy Clanton
1947 Railroaded! Duke Martin
1947 The Gangster Frank Karty
1948 I Love Trouble Reno
1948 Open Secret Paul Lester
1948 Raw Deal Fantail
1948 Red River Cherry Valance
1948 Joan of Arc Jean de la Boussac, St. Severe
1949 All the King's Men Jack Burden Academy Award nomination for Ireland, the film won the Oscar for Best Picture
1949 I Shot Jesse James Bob Ford
1949 Anna Lucasta Danny Johnson
1950 The Return of Jesse James Johnny Callum
1951 Vengeance Valley Hub Fasken
1951 The Basketball Fix Pete Ferreday
1951 The Scarf John Howard Barrington
1951 Little Big Horn Lt. John Haywood
1952 The Bushwackers Jefferson Waring
1953 Hannah Lee: An American Primitive Marshal Sam Rochelle Also co-director. Released in color and 3-D, re-released "flat" in B and W. Also known as Outlaw Territory
1954 The Good Die Young Eddie Blaine
1954 Southwest Passage Clint
1955 Queen Bee Judd Prentiss
1955 The Fast and the Furious Frank Webster Also co-director.
1955 The Glass Cage Pel Pelham
1955 Hell's Horizon Capt. John Merrill
1957 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Johnny Ringo
1958 Party Girl Louis Canetto
1958 No Place to Land Jonas Bailey
1960 Spartacus Crixus
1960 Faces in the Dark Max Hammond
1961 Wild in the Country Phil Macy
1961 Return of a Stranger Ray Reed
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
1968 Trusting Is Good... Shooting Is Better The Colonel
1969 Una sull'altra Inspector Wald
1969 Carnal Circuit Walter Salinger
1970 The Adventurers Mr. James Hadley
1972 Escape to the Sun Jacob Kagan
1972 Northeast of Seoul Flanagan
1974 The Phantom of Hollywood Lieutenant Gifford
1974 Welcome to Arrow Beach Sheriff Duke Bingham
1974 The House of Seven Corpses Eric Hartman
1975 Farewell, My Lovely Det. Lt. Nulty
1976 The Swiss Conspiracy Dwight McGowan
1976 Salon Kitty Cliff
1976 Sex Diary Milton
1977 Satan's Cheerleaders The Sheriff
1977 Ransom (aka Assault on Paradise) Chief Haliburton
1978 Tomorrow Never Comes Captain
1979 On the Air Live with Captain Midnight Agent Pierson
1979 Guyana: Cult of the Damned Dave Cole
1979 H. G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come Senator Smedley
1981 The Incubus Hank Walden
1981 Bordello Judge
1985 Martin's Day Brewer
1985 Treasure of the Amazon Priest
1986 Thunder Run George Adama
1987 Terror Night Lance Hayward
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
1. "John Ireland". LA Times.
2. "John Ireland". NNDB.
3. "John Ireland, 78, Longtime Actor With Role in 'All the King's Men'" Bruce Lambert, THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 22, 1992
4. ""The Fight Back", Riverboat, October 18, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base.
5. Little House on the Prairie episode profile