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John Ireland; Played Tough Guys in Movies, TV Shows

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Veteran actor and director John Ireland, who appeared in more than 200 movies and was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in “All the King’s Men,” died Saturday at age 77 at a Santa Barbara hospital, officials said.

Ireland died of leukemia, said Cottage Hospital nursing supervisor Denise McDonald.

The Canadian-born actor began his show business career as a professional swimmer in a water carnival, but quickly moved to legitimate theater, appearing both on and off Broadway in a number of Shakespeare’s plays.

Ireland was a leading man in several movies in the 1940s, but by the 1950s, Ireland was becoming familiar to audiences for supporting roles, usually as a cynical tough guy in a Western or adventure film.

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“In these things I feel like I’m not acting at all, just wander around in clothes I like to wear, feeling comfortable,” Ireland said of his action roles.

He received an Oscar nomination for a supporting role in the 1949 film “All the King’s Men.”

He made his directing debut in 1953 with the movie “Hannah Lee.”

In 1954, he filed a slander suit against a television production company, accusing company officials of falsely identifying him as a Communist sympathizer. The suit was settled out of court.

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Ireland’s career declined during the 1960s and ‘70s, and in 1987 he posted a $2,000 ad in a movie industry newspaper, reading: “I’m an actor, PLEASE . . . let me Act. John Ireland.”

It led to a role as Jonathan Aaron Cartwright, the younger brother of Ben Cartwright, in the television movie “Bonanza: The Next Generation.”

Earlier television work included a role in the series “Rawhide.”

In his movie roles, he starred opposite Henry Fonda in “My Darling Clementine,” Ingrid Bergman in “Joan of Arc,” Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier in “Spartacus,” and Joan Collins in “The Good Die Young.”

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Other screen credits include “I Shot Jesse James,” “The Return of Jesse James,” “Gunslinger,” “Fort Utah,” “Arizona Bushwhackers,” “A Walk in the Sun” and “Farewell My Lovely.”

Ireland is survived by sons John Jr. and Peter.


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