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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.

Career

Theatre

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 (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 (1

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.

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.

Career

Theatre

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); 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 Fox

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

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 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).

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 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).

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 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.[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 Spa

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