John Ireland


  1. John Ridgely, The Big Sleep, 1944.       Ireland had  played some minor Broadway roles, but no movies when first seen for gangsters Eddie Mars or Canino. Ireland never forgot testing for the great Howard Hawks. Nor did the The Silver Fox…. 
  2. Bob Steele, The Big Sleep, 1944.      … He cast the big guy  as Cherry Valance (first tailored for Cary Grant) in Red River, 1946. And regretted it. Ireland was an unprofessional, alcoholic lecher – nailing Joanne Dru (his second wife, 1949-1957),  Shelley Winters –  and  Montgomery Clift. The famous scene of them comparing the size of their guns was supposedly inspired by Ireland’s prodigious penis (“Can I see it?… And you’d like to see mine!” “Nice! Awful nice…”).  Hawks cut his part to shreds. Ireland apologised, hoping for a second chance.  No way. (So he lost Rio Bravo, too!) 
  3. Louis Hayward, And Then There Were None, 1944.      Change of the dashing explorer Lombard.  And of the title when Agatha Christie refused use of the name of her book and play, Ten Little Indians, for French realisateur Rene Clair’s final Hollywood film.
  4. Lee J Cobb, Boomerang! 1946.        Johns Ireland and Hodiak were talked of for the brooding police chief the fictionalised version of the 1924 Connecticut murder of a Catholic priest. Because of Cobb’s performance, his director Elia Kazan chose him for Willy Loman in his next Broadway assignent, Death of a Salesman.
  5. Frank Faylen, It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946.  

  6. Victor Mature, Samson and Delilah, 1948.    
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMIlle first planned the epic in 1935 for Henry Wilcoxon and Miriam Hopkins.   Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious. So did James Mason – suggesting $250,000. (DeMille showed him the door). He toyed with Roberts Mitchum, Ryan and Taylor; ruled out Lex Barker (he became a five-time Tarzan) and Burt Lancaster – too  inexperienced, a bad back and  “bad” politics. Other also-rans went from longtime CB acolyte John Bromfield, Rory Calhoun, Jim Davis (future father of JR in Dallas),  Errol Flynn, William Hopper (Hedda’s son!), John Ireland, Glen Langan, Willard Parker… to the youngest new evangelist in town, Dr Billy Graham!. Then, CB was telling 22-year-old Steve Reeves, to tone down his muscularity – while packing Mature off to the gym to beef his up!  Here’s a review by Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  7. Glenn Ford, Convicted, 1949.  When he refused to re-tread Howard Hawks’ 1931 The Criminal, Columbia suspended Ireland. Unlike others before him, he  struck back. He not only sued the stiudio, he won the case and the right to buy out his contract. Free at last!  Free at last! This would have been his 16th film. Without Columbia telling him what to do, he amassed a further 190 screen credits. He did ’em his way. From Spartacus to 55 Days At Peking, TV and spaghetti Westerns to dross like Bordello and Sex Diary. He was the first Tom Horn a dozen years before Steve McQueen and he played John Huston, of all people, in Marilyn: The Untold Story, TV, 1980 – and himself in the soap, Santa Barbara – which is where he lived, close to his pal Robert Mitchum. 
  8. John Litel, Two Dollar Bettor, 1950.    Ireland and Mary Hatcher became Litel and Marie Windsor in the tragic tale of a bank’s worst possible employee. A gambler.
  9. James Dean, Giant, 1955.
  10. Richard Denning, Naked Paradise, 1957.    Roger Corman signed Ireland for two movies but obviously didn’t appreciate  his work in  the first, –  the Western Gunslinger, 1956 –   as he dumped him from the second. The legend goes that it took longer to design Corman posters than shoot Corman movies.

  11. Dean Martin, Rio Bravo1958.
  12. James Coburn, The Magnificent Seven, 1960.       For the last of the seven, director John  Sturges needed the strong, silent, Gary Cooper-type. Said the already signed Robert Vaughn:  “Hey, I know just the guy!”  Ireland, incidentally, was reputed to have one of the biggest guns in town.
  13. Richard Burton, The Assassination of Trotsky, 1972.       As a partner in the plan of Laurence Harvey Productions, Ireland would have been the victim of Harvey’s ice-pick.  They had been pals  since their 1953 UK film, The Good Die Young.  Harvey directed two films. Ireland was in both: The Ceremony and Harvey’s final film, Welcome To Arrow Beach, If Ireland was still around, Tarantino would be using him. John’s 1968 Western, Quel caldo maledetto giorno di fuoco (US: Gatling Gun), made the 20th slot on Tarantino’s top 20 Westerns list.  (Helluva achievement as it was made by auteur Paolo Bianchini,  not Sergios Corbucci or Leone).
  14. Pat Hingle, The Grifters, 1989.   Ireland auditioned as the sadistic bookmaker Bobo Justus who works for The Mob and employs Anjelica Huston’s veteran con-artist.  Ireland missed a biggie.  Jim Thompson’s novel, scripted by Donald E Westlake, directed by Stephen Frears, produced  by Martin Scorsese. How better could it get.


 Birth year: 1914Death year: 1992Other name: Casting Calls:  14