Jack Lord


Actor, Producer

About

Also Known As
Jack Ryan, John Joseph Patrick Ryan
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
December 30, 1920
Died
January 21, 1998
Cause of Death
Congestive Heart Failure

Biography

Best known as the steely-eyed, perfectly quaffed police detective Lt. Steve McGarrett on the long-running CBS series "Hawaii Five-O" (1968-80), actor Jack Lord portrayed one of the most iconic leading roles in television history. Coming from the seemingly incongruent backgrounds of his vocation as visual artist and his occupation as a seaman, Lord found himself drawn to acting relatively...

Family & Companions

Marie de Narde
Wife
Fashion designer. Married in 1952; survived him.

Notes

Lord claims to have turned down the leading roles in two TV series: "Wagon Train" and "Ben Casey." He told TV GUIDE in 1962 that "Westerns are getting tired" and as for a medical show: "I can't stand an atmosphere of human misery."

Biography

Best known as the steely-eyed, perfectly quaffed police detective Lt. Steve McGarrett on the long-running CBS series "Hawaii Five-O" (1968-80), actor Jack Lord portrayed one of the most iconic leading roles in television history. Coming from the seemingly incongruent backgrounds of his vocation as visual artist and his occupation as a seaman, Lord found himself drawn to acting relatively late in life. He garnered acclaim on Broadway before moving on to television work on programs like "Studio One" (CBS, 1948-1958) and in such films as "The True Story of Lynn Stuart" (1958). He made the most of a small role as CIA operative Felix Leiter in "Dr. No" (1962) then took on the title character for the short-lived television series "Stoney Burke" (ABC, 1962-63). It was, of course, his next leading TV role that earned him lasting fame on the crime-drama "Hawaii Five-O," for which he became forever associated with the oft-repeated quip, "Book 'em, Danno." A man described as both unwaveringly professional and intensely private, Lord virtually disappeared from the public eye in the years following the cancellation of "Hawaii Five-O." It was most likely Lord's intention that fans worldwide would forever remember him primarily as McGarrett, the no-nonsense crime-fighter bringing justice to the idyllic shores of Honolulu.

Born John Joseph Patrick Ryan in Brooklyn, NY on Dec. 30, 1920, "Jack" was the son of Ellen and William Ryan, a steamship company executive. Educated at New York-area schools like St. Benedict Joseph Labre School and John Adams High, Jack set his sights on a career as an artist and painter early on. In his teens, he worked for his father - whose business had suffered greatly due to the Great Depression - as a freighter crewman during summer breaks from school. Inspired by the shores of the Mediterranean and Africa, the aspiring artist honed his skills with sketches and paintings of these exotic locales. By now completely enamored with a life on the sea, Lord enrolled in maritime studies at the Fort Trumbull U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New London, CT. There he earned the rank of ensign before entering into service during World War II, first building bridges in Persia with the U.S. Corps of Engineer, and later, onboard European transport vessels with the Merchant Marines. After the war, he remained with the Merchant Marines and returned to Fort Trumbull, where he assisted in the production of training films. It was then that Lord first considered acting as an interesting, potentially viable occupation. After pursuing a degree in Fine Arts at New York University and teaching art with his brother Bill, Lord became more determined to succeed as an actor.

Recently married to fashion designer Marie L. De Narde - a woman several years his senior - Lord began training with legendary acting coach Sanford Meisner at the revered Neighborhood Playhouse, even as he earned a living selling cars to pay the bills. Still using his given surname of "Ryan," he made his film debut with a small part in the anti-communist espionage drama "The Red Menace" (1949). Other bit parts in B-movies like "Cry Murder" (1950) and "The Tattooed Stranger" (1950) soon followed. In 1954, the newly-christened Lord, who felt compelled to adopt a stage name after discovering the existence of another actor named Jack Ryan, made his Broadway debut in a production of "The Traveling Lady," for which he won a Theatre World Award. The following year, he replaced actor Ben Gazzara in the role of Brick for the Broadway mounting of Tennessee Williams' Southern Gothic potboiler "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." At the same time, Lord began making multiple appearances on such popular television anthology series as "Armstrong Circle Theatre" (NBC/CBS, 1950-1963) and "Studio One" (CBS, 1948-1958).

On film, Lord was cast as Elizabeth Montgomery's doomed husband in "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell" (1955), a movie that placed him alongside Western screen idol Gary Cooper for the first time. He later appeared as Robert Taylor's financially-strapped war buddy in "Tip on a Dead Jockey" (1957) then worked with Cooper once more as the vicious, unhinged outlaw Coaley in "Man of the West" (1958). That same year, Lord joined Vic Morrow as one of Robert Ryan's treasure-seeking sons in the highly controversial (for its time) adaptation of novelist Erskine Caldwell's "God's Little Acre" (1958). Rapidly gaining visibility, he also picked up a substantial role in "The True Story of Lynn Stuart" (1958), playing a drug smuggler targeted by Betsy Palmer's titular undercover narcotics agent. After dozens of quest turns on popular shows like "The Untouchables" (ABC, 1959-1963), "Bonanza" (NBC, 1959-1973) and "Rawhide" (CBS, 1959-1966), Lord became the first actor to play CIA operative Felix Leiter opposite Sean Connery's Agent 007 in "Dr. No" (1962). Originally intended to reprise the role for 1964's "Goldfinger," Lord's reputed insistence on more screen time and greater compensation led to the part being recast.

Lord's first regular series starring role was as the champion rodeo rider "Stoney Burke" (ABC, 1962-63), a stoic characterization he based on the performances of Gary Cooper. Though a well written and acted show, "Stoney Burke" lasted only a season, a victim of the country's growing disenchantment with the Western genre. Briefly considered for the role of Capt. Kirk on the classic sci-fi series "Star Trek" (NBC, 1966-69), the character was ultimately offered to William Shatner after Lord and series creator Gene Roddenberry failed to come to terms. He moved away from cowpoke roles to more law enforcement types with his turns in the crime dramas "The Doomsday Flight" (NBC, 1966) and "The Counterfeit Killer" (1968). When offered the headlining role on another series, Lord jumped at the chance and signed on as the star of "Hawaii Five-O" (CBS, 1968-1980) playing the lantern-jawed Lt. Steve McGarrett. A by-the-book crime drama about a fictional state police force working directly for the governor of Hawaii, the series - the first to be filmed entirely on the island state - became a solid hit for the network. With its breathtaking locations, wildly popular drum-pounding theme-song, and McGarrett's trademark phrase of "Book 'em, Danno," the show achieved pop-culture status long before the end of its exceptional 12-year run.

Having directed several episodes of "Hawaii Five-O," Lord executive produced, directed and starred in "M Station: Hawaii" (CBS, 1980), a naval adventure about U.S. efforts to recover information and materials from a sunken Russian submarine off the island's coast. Originally planned as a pilot for a post-"Five-O" series, the effort was not picked up by the network. After his famed series ran its course, Lord retired completely from acting - repeated attempts to bring him on as a guest star on another popular Hawaiian-based series, "Magnum P.I." (CBS, 1980-88) met with a resounding silence. Instead, Lord chose to concentrate on his and his wife's various philanthropic efforts, in addition to his renewed passion for painting. A talented and prolific artist, his paintings appeared in more than 40 museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Paris' Biblioteque Nationale, and the Library of Congress. Maintaining a reclusive lifestyle at his home in Honolulu, Lord was rarely seen in public during his later years. On Jan. 21, 1998, he died of complications due to congestive heart failure. Actor-artist Jack Lord was 77 years old.

By Bryce Coleman

Life Events

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"

Videos

Movie Clip

True Story Of Lynn Stuart, The - Drug Traffic Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, father of the current governor Jerry, is Attorney General, early in the year he would become governor of California, introducing the true-crime shocker The True Story Of Lynn Stuart, 1958, starring Betsy Palmer and Jack Lord.
God's Little Acre - Why In The Pluperfect Hell? It's not made clear why Ty-Ty (Robert Ryan) has sons Buck (Jack Lord) and Shaw (Vic Morrow) digging holes on their Georgia dirt farm, visited by Griselda (Tina Louise), early in Anthony Mann's God's Little Acre, 1958.
Man of the West - My Right Arm Link (Gary Cooper) plays dumb under questioning from Coaley (Jack Lord) until a notably un-surprised Dock (Lee J. Cobb) appears, lamenting their bad old days, in Anthony Mann's Man of the West, 1958.
Man of the West - Opening Credits Hard to say whether the mountains or Gary Cooper seem more immovable in the opening credit sequence from Anthony Mann's Man of the West, 1958, co-starring Lee J. Cobb, Julie London and Arthur O'Connell.
Man of the West - Do You Talk? The Tobin gang bungles the robbery of a train, and ex-outlaw Link (Gary Cooper), con-man Beasley (Arthur O'Connell) and singer Billie (Julie London) are left behind, in Anthony Mann's Man of the West, 1958.
Man of the West - Do It Your Way! Just a portion of the epic and nuanced fistfight between recently-introduced cousins Coaley (Jack Lord) and Link (Gary Cooper), overseen by vicious Uncle Dock (Lee J. Cobb) in Anthony Mann's Man of the West, 1958.
True Story Of Lynn Stuart, The - Pretty Good Acting Under-cover citizen "Lynn" (Betsy Palmer) at work as a car-hop, staging a scene with cops for the benefit of their mark, drug dealer Willie (Jack Lord), in The True Story Of Lynn Stuart, 1958.
True Story Of Lynn Stuart, The - We Don't Need A Warrant Drug dealer Willie (Jack Lord) and under-cover housewife "Lynn" (Betsy Palmer) at the bowling alley, she earning her stripes with his gang, in The True Story of Lynn Stuart, 1958.

Trailer

Family

William Lawrence Ryan
Father
Steamship executive.
Ellen Josephine Ryan
Mother
Farmer.

Companions

Marie de Narde
Wife
Fashion designer. Married in 1952; survived him.

Bibliography

Notes

Lord claims to have turned down the leading roles in two TV series: "Wagon Train" and "Ben Casey." He told TV GUIDE in 1962 that "Westerns are getting tired" and as for a medical show: "I can't stand an atmosphere of human misery."