Jill Ireland

Active - 1955 - 2014  |   Born - Apr 24, 1936 in London, England  |   Died - May 18, 1990   |   Genres - Comedy, Crime, Western, Thriller, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

A dancer from age 12, British performer Jill Ireland became an audience favorite in her teens thanks to her many engagements at the London Palladium. Signed to a Rank Organization contract in 1955, Ireland made her first screen appearance as a ballerina in Oh, Rosalind. In 1957, Ireland married actor David McCallum, with whom she would later appear in several Man From UNCLE TV episodes. Her second husband was action star Charles Bronson, whom she married in 1967. From 1970 onward, Ireland seldom appeared onscreen without her husband; their best collaborative efforts include Hard Times (1975) and From Noon Til Three. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984, Ireland underwent a mastectomy, gaining the respect of friends and fans alike for her courage in the face of death: she wrote a book on her recovery, Life Wish, in 1987, and served as chairperson of the National Cancer Society. Ireland then devoted herself to rehabilitating her adopted son Jason McCallum, who had become a drug addict. She penned another book called Life Lines, this one devoted to her struggle to bring her son back to health. His death from an overdose in 1989 weakened Ireland's already precarious physical state. Refusing to surrender to despair, Ireland was busy at work on her third book of reminiscences, Life Times, when she died in 1990. One year later, a TV biopic, Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story was telecast, with Jill Clayburgh as Ireland and Lance Henriksen as Charles Bronson (though not so named, as Bronson was dead-set against the film and refused to allow his name to be mentioned onscreen).

Movie Highlights

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  • Signed to a major film studio contract at the age of 16.
  • Published two books about her struggle with breast cancer: Life Wish (1984) and Life Lines (1989).
  • Received the ACS Courage Award from President Reagan in 1988.
  • Was named a crusade chairperson for the American Cancer Society.
  • Adopted her friend's teenage daughter after her friend's death.