Late actress Jill Ireland had a long and fruitful acting career but a challenging personal life that included burying one of her children and caring for her stroke-disabled father.
Born in April 1936, Jill Ireland was the English actress who portrayed Leila Kalomi in “This Side of Paradise.” Her steady rise in the entertainment industry began in the 50s with small parts in “No Love for Judy,” “Oh… Rosalinda!!” and “Three Men in a Boat.”
Ireland booked roles in over 50 projects throughout her career, but she is best known for her relationships with David McCallum and Charles Bronson and her tragedy-stricken life.
Portrait of Jill Ireland in 1983 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images
JILL IRELAND’S HUSBANDS
Jill Ireland and David McCallum, an actor and musician who gained international recognition as Dr. Ducky Mallard in “NCIS,” tied the knot in May 1957 and had three sons together, Paul, Valentine, and Jason.
Their relationship got complicated in the mid-60s after his “Great Escape” co-star Charles Bronson “stole” Ireland from him. After meeting Ireland, Bronson reportedly told McCallum he would marry her.
McCallum pointed out that he has “no recognition” of that conversation. He admitted he never hated Bronson and even said he was always a good friend. McCallum added:
“I find that when problems come along, worrying about them and getting anxious and negative is quite unnecessary. You can solve them, usually amicably.”
Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland in November 1970 in Paris, France | Photo: Getty Images
While the actor has no animosity toward Bronson, he admitted the split was “extremely difficult,” primarily because of their three children. Ireland and McCallum divorced in 1967.
In October 1968, less than a year later, Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland tied the knot. Before her, Bronson, one of the most successful actors in the early 70s, was married to Harriet Tendler.
TRAGEDIES IN IRELAND’S LIFE
Jill Ireland’s life began getting tough in 1984 when a doctor found a lump under her right armpit. The actress once admitted she didn’t examine herself frequently, and lumps were nothing new to her as she dealt with mastitis for years.
That same lump had been checked with a mammogram, but it didn’t show anything out of the ordinary. Ireland began feeling “terribly ill,” but since doctors couldn’t find anything, she thought it was “laziness.”
Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland walking side by side | Photo: YouTube/Facts Verse
Eventually, she got a biopsy done, and doctors discovered it was breast cancer. Since they took so much time to diagnose it, it had already spread to the surrounding lymph nodes.
Immediately after that, she got a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy, and she got significantly better. Unfortunately, fate had more challenges prepared for her.
After being in remission for a few years, doctors discovered in April 1989 that her cancer had returned.
Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland posing next to each other | Photo: YouTube/Facts Verse
LOSING HER SON
In 1989, one of David McCallum and Jill Ireland’s children, Jason, passed away from an accidental drug overdose. It is important to point out that McCallum and Ireland adopted Jason when they were still together.
Two years before Jason’s passing, he and Ireland discovered his biological father was a drug dealer and heroin addict who also died of an overdose. In addition, his grandfather was an alcoholic.
Jason’s struggles with drugs began when he was only 15 years old. From that point on, he was hospitalized and checked in and out of rehab but could never get rid of his addiction.
Jill Ireland and Jason McCallum during a 1979 Beverly Hills, California, cocktail party | Photo: Getty Images
For Charles Bronson’s spouse, the late 80s were nothing short of stressful. Apart from caring for her addicted son, she also had to make sure her father was okay.
Ireland’s dad underwent coronary bypass surgery that saved his life, but he suffered many strokes that left him unable to talk and made him violent occasionally.
JILL IRELAND’S DEATH
On May 18, 1990, about six months after Jason’s death, Jill Ireland passed away at 54 years old. She was survived by Charles Bronson and six children, including Tony, Zuleika, and Katrina Holden Bronson.
Katrina is keeping her parent’s legacy alive as she is an actress, writer, and director best known for “Daltry Calhoun,” "Winding Roads," and “Spanish Fly.”
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