John Benjamin Ireland was an actor and film director.
Born in Kilrush, County Clare, Ireland, he was raised in New York City from the age of 18. He started out in minor stage roles on Broadway. A tall, lean former Irish professional swimmer who once performed in a water carnival, he appeared on Broadway and toured in Shakespeare in the late 1930s and early 40s before entering film in the mid-40s.
He made his screen debut as Pvt. 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 and Howard Hawks’ 1948 film Red River (the scene between Ireland and Montgomery Clift, where they compare guns and take each other’s measure by “walking” a can across the ground with their pistol shots, is a film classic. And a lead in small noirs like Railroaded, 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 in All the King’s Men, making him the first Vancouver-born actor to receive an Academy Award nomination.
Occasionally his 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.