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David McCallum and Katherine Carpenter | Getty Images
David McCallum and Katherine Carpenter | Getty Images

David McCallum Wed a Model after Charles Bronson Stole His 1st Wife and They Stayed Married for 56 Years

Olawale Ogunjimi
Sep 26, 2023
12:45 P.M.

British actor David McCallum, who played Donald "Ducky" Mallard on "NCIS," has died at 90. He was a delightful character to watch, but In reality, the actor's life held a lot of thrilling details — inside his 54 years of marriage after a failed relationship.

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British actor David McCallum has died at the age of 90. The actor was said to have taken his last breath peacefully, surrounded by his family at the New York Presbyterian Hospital on Monday.

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His son Peter shared a statement on behalf of his family, praising his father for being a devoted father and grandfather to his eight grandchildren, not to mention his dedication to the strong and long-lasting marriage he shared with his wife of 56 years, Katherine Carpenter.

Peter shared that his 79-year-old mother was distraught by the loss and wished she still had the chance to grow older with her husband. McCallum's producers from "NCIS" will also remember him for the respect he had for his craft, which made him the legendary actor he was.

David McCallum on "NCIS" in 2022 | Source: Getty Images

David McCallum on "NCIS" in 2022 | Source: Getty Images

McCallum started to gain significance in the movie industry in the 1960s. One of his major roles was in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," where he starred as Illya Kuryakin. He consolidated himself as a force to reckon with following his riveting performances in several TV hits.

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David McCallum at the Pacific Design Center on August 10, 2016. | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum at the Pacific Design Center on August 10, 2016. | Photo: Getty Images

While his career held an impressive story, McCallum's personal life was also intriguing from his days as the star of "The Great Escape." He succeeded in living an exemplary life worthy of emulation, especially with his nearly six decades of marriage. Even so, he suffered from heartbreak after he lost his first wife, Jill Ireland, to Charles Bronson, a man who confidently stole her.

David McCallum on "NCIS" in 2020 | Source: Getty Images

David McCallum on "NCIS" in 2020 | Source: Getty Images

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Who Was Jill Ireland?

Ireland was a British actress who was formerly married to McCallum. She was an elegant on-screen diva, with hits like " Shane," "The Mechanic," and "Death Wish II" to her name. She died at 54, in the company of her kids and husband, Bronson, at her hillside home. Before her death, she earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Charles Bronson & Jill Ireland at the 1st Annual Talent Awards Luncheon | Photo: Getty Images

Charles Bronson & Jill Ireland at the 1st Annual Talent Awards Luncheon | Photo: Getty Images

McCallum and Ireland met on "Hell Drivers." The entertainers became romantically involved and spent ten years of their lives together. They shared three adopted sons, Paul, Jason, and Valentine, during their marriage.

When they divorced, it was excruciatingly painful; the actor lost his first wife to his friend and co-star, Bronson. The pair had worked on a film titled "Great Escape." After Bronson met McCallum's wife, reports claimed that he expressed his desire for her by telling his friend, "I'm going to marry your wife."

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Jill Ireland (1936-1990) and David McCallum together at an event in 1958 | Photo: Getty Images

Jill Ireland (1936-1990) and David McCallum together at an event in 1958 | Photo: Getty Images

Although McCallum claimed he did not remember hearing such a statement from his friend, whether it was spoken or not, Ireland married Bronson after her divorce. It was a bitter pill to swallow for McCallum, but when he eventually did, the "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." star became a happy man. He welcomed more kids with a woman he met who changed his life.

Although the McCallum and Ireland experienced a tragedy (their son, Jason, died from an accidental overdose in 1989), they each had a happy life with their spouses.

David McCallum and Jill Ireland at London Airport, April 3, 1957 | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum and Jill Ireland at London Airport, April 3, 1957 | Photo: Getty Images

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Bronson and Ireland were married until 1990 when the actress passed away after a battle with cancer. She had suffered from the disease for six years but never gave up hope; instead, she modeled courage and optimism until the end by writing books that preached positivity.

How McCallum Met His Wife of 56 Years

After his divorce from Ireland, McCallum retreated into himself. According to a close friend, he was deeply hurt, and it took him time to heal. During this time, he met 21-year-old model Katherine Carpenter.

David McCallum as Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in the American television series "NCIS" | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum as Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in the American television series "NCIS" | Photo: Getty Images

McCallum became familiar with the model, and their romance blossomed. Finally, he found his missing piece in Carpenter, and soon, it became hard for close friends and the media not to notice their strong bond.

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They exchanged vows in 1967. The couple welcomed two kids, Peter and Sophie, who have beautiful families of their own and have since stayed out of any Hollywood scandals.

The Unconventional Marriage & the Rule

McCallum and Carpenter were together for a long time. The couple had celebrated their 56th anniversary on September 16 and managed their affairs in-house, with rules they strictly followed. But to a few people, this arrangement may have seemed unconventional.

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The actor was not bothered by what people thought. For 56 years, the couple fashioned a rule to help them with their work life and romance. For years, McCallum was based mainly in Los Angeles, where he filmed the crime hit series "NCIS" while his beloved wife was based in New York. From there, she worked seamlessly with her interior design firm.

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They were mostly apart except during special holidays like Thanksgiving. Apart from that, the couple constantly kept in touch through phone calls. The actor also flew home on occasion to be with his family while he simultaneously worked on a book.

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For them, the secret to maintaining such a long-distance relationship for years was their love and understanding of each other. According to the "NCIS" star:

"When it comes to marriage, we do it instinctively, but I think the rule is you should find out what the other person wants in life and make sure they get it."

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He added that while they were concerned about helping each other reach their goals, their minds worked in similar patterns. Eventually, he and Carpenter explored ways to end their long-distance affair.

McCallum’s Incredible Life

McCallum had a few ups and downs, from a failed marriage that wrecked his heart to the loss of a child. Still, he managed to count his blessings. In 2016, the actor established that he had an incredible life amid his tragedies.

David McCallum attends a photocall for the American T.V series "Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service" during the 2009 Monte Carlo Television Festival. | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum attends a photocall for the American T.V series "Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service" during the 2009 Monte Carlo Television Festival. | Photo: Getty Images

The British native proudly mentioned that his many years on earth were filled 99.9%. Apart from his personal life, he was delighted about his thriving career.

David McCallum and his wife Katherine Carpenter in Monaco in 2009 | Source: Getty Images

David McCallum and his wife Katherine Carpenter in Monaco in 2009 | Source: Getty Images

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According to the "NCIS" star, being one of the most significant characters, Donald "Ducky" Mallard on the most talked-about hit shows in the world was an impressive achievement. He also had a best-selling book titled "Once a Crooked Man."

McCallum also had a solid relationship with his kids and eight grandkids. The actor had planned more downtime to spend with his large family.

While commenting on the nature of his relationship with his grandkids, the movie star explained that they called him "grand-daddy," and sometimes "grand-ducky," but never grandpa because it made him feel old.

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