John Ireland: From a Water Carnival to A Walk in the Sun

There are one or two points of interest that induce us to write about actor John Ireland (1914-1992). He was the stepson of Irish vaudevillian Michael Noonan, and half-brother of Tommy Noonan. A strong swimmer, he began his performing career in a water carnival where he worked as an outside talker and performed stunts.

Theatre training and experience in New York finally resulted in his first movie role, in Lewis Milestone’s all-star WWII classic A Walk in the Sun (1945), a film I hold to be a pretty clear model for Saving Private Ryan. Some of the early classics he appeared in are John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946), A Southern Yankee (1948, with Red Skelton), Howard Hawks’ Red River (1948), Joan of Arc (1948), I Shot Jesse James (1949), The Doolins of Oklahoma (1949), and All the Kings’ Men (1949). In 1949 he married Joanne Dru, with whom he’d worked on Red River and the latter film. The pair subsequently teamed up in Vengeance Valley (1951), Hannah Lee (1953, which Ireland co-directed), and Southwest Passage (1954). Dru’s brother Peter Marshall paired up with Ireland’s half brother Tommy Noonan in a comedy team as a result of the family connection. In 1955 Ireland co-directed and starred in the Roger Corman production The Fast and the Furious. That same year he worked with Joan Crawford on The Queen Bee. The pair reportedly had an affair during the shoot. Apparently, the fact that Ireland was “Fast” made Dru “Furious”. She divorced him 1957.

Some of Ireland’s additional 200 credits include Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957), Spartacus (1960), Wild in the Country (1961), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), William Castle’s I Saw What You Did (1965, again with Crawford), and Arizona Bushwhackers (1968). He was a regular on the British TV series The Cheaters from 1960 through 1962, and had a recurring role on Rawhide from 1960 through 1965. He co-starred with Angie Dickinson in the short-lived series Cassie & Co. (1982). A lot of his lst work was in the schlock and horror vein, things like Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977), Guyana: Cult of the Damned (1979), The Incubus (1981), Miami Golem (1985), Terror Night (1987), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989), The Graveyard Story (1991), and Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992).

Ireland’s appearance in Marilyn: The Untold Story (1980), calls to mind the many affairs he reportedly had with underage and/ or ill-fated starlets back in his viable days: Tuesday Weld (when she was 16), Sue Lyon, Barbara Payton, and Natalie Wood.