|Jack Lord?Sep. 1978.|
Courtesy of AP Images.
Lord, Jack?(30 Dec. 1920-21 Jan. 1998), actor, was born John Joseph Patrick Ryan in Brooklyn, New York, the second of five children of William L. Ryan, a New York City policeman, and Ellen Ryan (n?e O'Brien). John grew up mostly in Richmond Hill, Queens, attending Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, a Roman Catholic primary school, and then John Adams High School, a public school. Achieving better-than-average grades, he distinguished himself in extracurricular activities as a varsity football player, a graphics editor for the newspaper, and president of the Key of Courtesy Club, which debated the fine points of protocol and hosted school visitors. With the help of his older brother William, a merchant seaman, John spent his teenage summers working as a cabin boy on freighters bound for the Mediterranean and China. A talented artist, he created a portfolio of sketches and paintings of coastal landscapes on these trips, hoping to study fine arts in college. Painting remained a lifelong pursuit.
Accounts of Lord's activities during the 1940s vary due to the later efforts of press agents to portray him as younger and to enhance his achievements. What can be confirmed is that he graduated from John Adams High School in 1938 and, with the benefit of a football scholarship, enrolled in New York University (NYU). He left college before graduating to join the merchant marines, and his wartime travels led him to Persia (modern-day Iran), where he spent a year as a civilian construction worker with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1944 Lord married Ann Cicely Willard and the couple had a son, Lord's only child. They were divorced in 1947 and the child, whom Lord hardly knew, died in 1955. Lord married Marie de Narde, a New York fashion designer, in 1952.
Upon returning from the Middle East, Lord took a job as a salesman at a Manhattan Cadillac dealership whose clientele included members of the city's arts and entertainment elite. Discovering he could convincingly play a variety of roles to make a sale--flirtatious romeo, automotive expert, or urbane dandy, as required--he gave up on his plan to return to his art studies and began training as an actor at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre with the acting coach Sanford Meisner, a highly respected exponent of "method acting."
Lord landed his first professional acting job, and took his first billing as "Jack Lord," in the film?Project X?(1949), an hour-long Cold War propaganda drama, produced in New York, about communist infiltration of a college faculty. At twenty-nine years of age, he had made a late start for an actor, but standing more than six feet tall with an athletic frame and large, boyish features, he was able to play the role of a college student. As he continued to learn his craft from Meisner, Lord used the connections he had made selling cars with broadcasting executives to get auditions for television dramas, which were at a high point of production in the city during the early 1950s. Lord appeared in episodes of such network programs as?Man Against Crime,?Suspense,?Danger, and?Armstrong Circle Theatre. He made his Broadway debut in 1954 opposite Kim Stanley in?Traveling Lady, winning positive notices from critics and a Theater World Award, despite the play's short run. A major break came the following year when Meisner recommended Lord to the director Elia Kazan as a replacement for Ben Gazzara in the lead role of the original Broadway production of Tennesse Williams's?Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Lord was ten years older than Gazzara, but no one seemed to notice, and Lord's press material now listed his birth date as 1930 rather than 1920. Other biographical "enhancements," many of which stuck to his r?sum? and outlived him, include the fiction of his father as a "steamship company executive" rather than a policeman, his graduation from NYU, and the acquisition of his paintings by renowned museums.
Now in his mid-thirties, Lord attempted to use the momentum of his success in?Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?to establish himself as a leading man in feature films. His haste was understandable; Hollywood wisdom dictated forty as the cutoff for aspiring romantic leads. Moving to Los Angeles in 1957, he impressed several respected directors in screen tests, but could do no better than earn secondary roles in such pictures as?The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell?(1955), directed by Otto Preminger;?The Vagabond King?(1956), directed by Michael Curtiz; and?God's Little Acre?(1958), an adaptation of a steamy Erskine Caldwell novel directed by Anthony Mann. Lord had three major breaks in the 1960s, but failed to capitalize on any of them. He got his first leading role on screen in?Walk Like a Dragon?(1960), an "adult western" written, directed, and produced by James Clavell. Lord played Linc Bartlett, a cowboy who encounters an indentured Chinese prostitute at a bordello and impulsively "buys" her, not sure whether he is moved by pity or love. Taking her home, he learns that his frontier town is not ready to accept their relationship. Paramount Pictures, distributor of the independently made film, was wary of the film's interracial theme and withheld adequate promotion, leaving the movie--and Lord--unnoticed. In 1962 Lord appeared in?Dr. No, the first James Bond spy thriller starring Sean Connery. Playing the secondary role of Bond's American CIA liaison, Felix Leiter--a recurring character in Ian Fleming's 007 novels--Lord had the opportunity to sign a multipicture deal that would have placed him in one of the most successful and long-lasting film series in cinema history. Instead, he demanded that his character be put on an equal footing with Bond in future pictures and, as costar, he should be compensated appropriately. This miscalculation effectively ended Lord's career in the movies. He would appear in only one more theatrical release,?Ride to Hangman's Tree?(1967), a poorly received remake of the 1948 classic western,?Black Bart?(1948).
As Lord searched for success in the movies, television work continued to be his bread and butter. He was constantly in demand for every kind of drama, appearing in the last wave of anthology showcases (Playhouse 90,?The Loretta Young Show,?Alcoa Presents), police and detective series (Naked City,?The Lineup,?The Untouchables), and westerns (Gunsmoke,?Rawhide,?Bonanza). Resigned to a future as a television actor, Lord agreed to star in his own TV series,?Stoney Burke, which premiered on the ABC network in September 1962. Lord played a contemporary cowboy competing on the professional rodeo circuit. The show was rated third (out of three) in its time period week after week and was not renewed for a second season.
For the next five years, as he searched for a starring vehicle, Lord made guest appearances, usually playing a villain, on episodes of some of the most popular weekly dramas on television, including?The Virginian,?The Fugitive,?Ironside,?The F.B.I., and?The Man from U.N.C.L.E.?In 1965 Lord was Gene Roddenberry's first choice for the lead role in the original?Star Trek?series, but in another miscalculation of his market value, Lord demanded a 50 percent share of profits and was passed by in favor of William Shatner. In April 1968 he was approached by the producer Leonard Freeman about taking the lead role in a new crime series for CBS to be set in Hawaii and shot on location. Negotiations with?Gregory Peck, whom Freeman wanted for the role of Detective Steve McGarrett, had broken down, and the series was scheduled to premiere in just five months. Now forty-eight years old (and claiming to be thirty-eight), Lord jumped at the chance, making none of the demands that had soured previous opportunities.?Hawaii Five-0transformed his career. The show became a national institution, producing 282 episodes during twelve seasons in prime time, the longest run ever made by a cops-and-robbers series, and it eventually aired in some eighty countries.
Hawaii Five-0?("Five-0" for the fiftieth state) is about a fictional state police unit assigned only the most difficult cases involving brutal murder and, occasionally, international espionage as practiced by Wo Fat, a "Red Chinese" spy. Five-0, led by McGarrett, is accountable only to the governor through the state attorney general. Premiering during the peak of Vietnam War protests and urban unrest,?Hawaii Five-0's "law-and-order" stance was manifest in every close-up of Lord's stone-faced disgust for the criminals he pursued, and it was reiterated at the climax of each episode when he turned to his colleague, Detective Danny Williams (James MacArthur), to utter the signature line, "Book 'em, Danno." Produced during the most profitable period of network broadcasting, the series made heavy use of outdoor shooting in the Hawaiian Islands, offering refreshing visual relief from the familiar Los Angeles and New York backdrops for car chases, gun battles, explosions, and other outdoor shooting extravaganzas expected by viewers of weekly cop shows before the genre was downsized in the cable era.
The problems that had plagued Lord throughout his career were noticeably absent. When the show got off to a poor start in an 8 p.m. time slot, CBS moved it to a 10 p.m. slot after three months, freeing the series to pursue more adult plot elements and allowing for more sensationalistic portrayals of violence. This was in sharp contrast to the indifference ABC had shown when?Stoney Burke?suffered in a time slot opposite two top-rated sitcoms. Control of production, which Lord had not even asked for in?Hawaii Five-0, nonetheless came to him when Freeman, the creator-producer, was forced to curtail his role in 1970 due to heart disease; he died in 1973. At first, Jack and Marie Lord commuted between their Beverly Hills home and the Honolulu studio, but in less than two years they sold their California home and moved to Kahala Beach. Living in a secluded beachfront condominium development, Lord became somewhat of a social recluse, although he seems to have acquired a sense of community, even boosterism, for his new home, insisting that all aspects of production, and not just location shooting, be carried out in Hawaii. According to a?New York Timesestimate, about $100 million was spent annually in the state to produce the series; moreover, the technical facilities built there became the nucleus of a Hawaiian film and television industry that has thrived ever since. In a 1977 survey of first-time tourists, the Hawaiian Visitors' Bureau found that 25 percent had been influenced to vacation there by watching?Hawaii Five-0. The show's cancellation in 1980 effectively marked the end of Lord's acting career, but by then he had become an iconic celebrity in Hawaii. He was the first choice for grand marshal of parades in cities throughout the state, and he spoke at civic gatherings of every kind, relishing the role. "Living in Hawaii was decided for my wife Marie and me by God and by CBS," Lord told the American Society of Travel Agents. "I have always believed in the metaphysical premise that 'the place you seek is seeking you--the place you need needs you.'?"
Lord died in 1998. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific at Kahala Beach. Upon the death of Marie Lord in 2005, an estate valued at $40 million was left to be divided among twelve Hawaiian educational, cultural, and medical institutions. A journeyman actor who spent much of his career desperately struggling to stay young for the camera, Jack Lord paradoxically found his most comfortable and satisfying role as a "grand old man."
There is no biography or autobiography about Lord. An obituary by Lawrie Mifflin is in the?New York Times, 23 Jan.1998. An article, "From Jack and Marie Lord, a Parting Gift of $40 Million" by Rick Daysog, offering details of the estate and its beneficiaries appeared in the?Honolulu Advertiser, 26 Jan. 2005. Information, fan magazine articles, and pictures, including high school yearbook photos, are available at www.thejacklordconnection.com.
FURTHER MILESTONES (in short)
- Also Credited As:Jack Ryan, John Joseph Patrick Ryan
- Born:December 30, 1920 in New York, New York
- Died:January 21, 1998.
- Job Titles:Actor, Producer, Painter, Director, ?Screenwriter
- New York University, New York, New York, fine arts, BS, 1954
- Neighborhood Playhouse, New York, New York
- 1949 Made film debut in "The Red Menace" under birth name
- 1953 Toured USA in stage production "Flame Out"
- 1954 Made New York stage debut, "The Illegitimist"
- 1955 First feature billed as Jack Lord, "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell"
- 1955 Succeeded Ben Gazzara as Brick in the Broadway production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
- 1962 Starred in the ABC drama series "Stoney Burke"
- 1964 Co-starred in "Dr. No"
- 1966 Made first TV-movie, "The Doomsday Flight" (NBC)
- 1968 Established Lord and Lady Enterprises
- 1968 Wrote original screenplay "Melissa"
- Made TV debut in episode of "Man Against Crime"
- Retired from acting
- Served in the Merchant Marines before becoming an actor
- Starred in and produced the long-running CBS police drama "Hawaii Five-O"
- for a full filmography, check out our link "FILMOGRAPHY" under "About Jack Lord"
?(this addition has been taken from Yahoo Movies)