Friday, January 30, 2009

Remembering John Ireland

John Ireland always appeared as a rough, gruff and tough guy. Seldom a leading man he was always a reliable supporting actor. Born John Benjamin Ireland on January 30, 1914 in Vancouver, British Columbia he was raised in New York City. He became a professional swimmer and often performed in water shows. In the late 1930s he caught the acting bug and plied his trade on Broadway in Shakespearean plays before turning to film in the ‘40s. His first film role was in 1945’s “A Walk in the Sun” as Private Windy. He followed this up by appearing in John Ford’s classic 1946 western “My Darling Clementine” as Billy Clanton. He then appeared in another classic western, Howard Hawks 1948 film “Red River” as Cherry Valance. In 1949 he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as the tough newspaper reporter Jack Burden in 1949’s “All the King’s Men”. He developed a reputation in Hollywood as a womanizer during the 1950s and his career began to decline. He was relegated to TV roles and in films playing villains. Still he appeared in classics such as “Vengeance Valley” (1951) with Burt Lancaster “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” (1956) again with Lancaster and Kirk Douglas and as a gladiator in the 1960 spectacle “Spartacus”. Still he could not break into leading man roles and took lesser roles and then ventured to Europe to try and capitalize on his name. It was here he would make his impact in Spaghetti Westerns appearing in more than a dozen and starring in “Hate for Hate” and “Run, Man, Run” (1967), “Gatling Gun”, “Go for Broke” and “A Pistol for 100 Coffins” (1968). His final Spaghetti role being in a Spanish, Mexican co-production called “Garden of Venus” (1979). He returned to the US and back to stage plays and dinner theater. He even ran an ad in Variety asking for work. He eventually retired and moved to Santa Barbara, California where he died of leukemia on March 21, 1992. Always the tough guy but always reliable and the equal to most of the white hats he butted heads with in America and Europe. Today we remember John Ireland on what would have been his 95th birthday.

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