Jill Ireland

Jill Ireland
Larry Armstrong / Los Angeles Times


Jill Ireland
Film: North side of the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Jill Dorothy Ireland on April 24, 1936 in London, United Kingdom
Died May 18, 1990 of cancer in Malibu, CA

British-born actress Jill Ireland bore her private agonies — cancer and the drug-related death of her son Jason McCallum — publicly in order to help others.

Ireland began performing in British films and television as a teenager, making her film debut in 1955 in "Oh, Rosalinda" with Sir Michael Redgrave.

In 1957, Ireland married David McCallum, with whom she had appeared in several British productions, and the couple moved to Hollywood in 1962. She soon became a popular guest star on U.S. television series including "Ben Casey," "Mannix," "Star Trek," and McCallum's "Man from U.N.C.L.E."

Her marriage to McCallum ended in 1967, and a year later, she married actor Charles Bronson, becoming his permanent leading lady in a string of action films beginning with "Villa Rides."

In the late 1970s, looking for new challenges, Ireland co-produced some of their movies. She also recorded an album, "Hello and Goodbye," in 1977.

Off-screen, Ireland devoted her time to positive speeches encouraging fellow cancer patients and their families to live fully. She referred to herself as a "survivor" of cancer, never a "victim."

"Think of yourself and be happy. Make the most of your life and put yourself first," Ireland had urged women who had undergone mastectomies. "A breast does not make me who I am."

She also sought to help families fight drug addiction, openly discussing son Jason's travails. Ireland had not determined until after the adoption that the infant had been born addicted to drugs.

She regarded former First Lady Betty Ford as a role model because of her public discussion of her own mastectomy and treatment for drug problems.

"I greatly love and admire Betty Ford," she said in 1989. "She was very inspirational to me with her honesty about her breast cancer and then again with her candor about her drug abuse. If anything, if I can help other people feel less alone with the problem, that would be nice."

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