Left: Jack's senior portrait, John Adams High School, Class of 1938 (Richmond Hill Historical Society); Center: photographer unknown. Deemed to be in the public domain as per Circular 3, Copyright Notice, US Copyright Office, Library of Congress; Right: Jack in The Silk Trap, Hawaii Five-0. Leonard Freeman Productions/CBS Television, 1978.)
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
The Early Years
Jack Lord was born John Joseph Patrick Ryan in Brooklyn, New York, on December 30, 1920, to Ellen Josephine O'Brien Ryan (1892-1994) and William Lawrence Ryan (1887-1966). Mrs. Ryan was a housewife, who bore five children: William Lawrence Ryan, Jr. (1918-1982), John Joseph Patrick Ryan (1920-1998), Josephine S. Ryan (1923-2001), Thomas Herbert Ryan (1928-2006), and Robert Gerard Ryan (1935-2003).
Mrs. Ryan's family owned a fruit orchard in the Hudson River Valley of New York state, where Jack spent the summers of his youth. There, he learned to ride horses and developed a love for them.
Copyright (c) Judith Hughes, all rights reserved. Used with her permission.
Mrs. Ryan would return to the farm following her husband's death. She took over running it and was still running it when she was in her 80s. Jack described his mother as a strong woman, an Irish matriarch, who ran a beautiful home (Miller, Roland. Jack Lord Talks About His Mother and Father... Photoplay, May 1971).
According to the 1930 US census (1930 Federal Population Census. United States Census Bureau. Mr. Ryan was a ship surveyor. In that capacity, he ensured that the company's ships and their cargo were safe. That source does not say whether he worked for a shipping company or for a government agency, such as the Federal Maritime Commission.
Most publicity articles say William Lawrence Ryan was a steamship executive; in fact, Jack said his father owned a fleet of five ship with the word "angel" in their names; e.g., "Arch Angel" (Miller, Ibid). Turner Classic Movies' (TCM's) biography of Jack goes a step further and says Jack worked as a freighter crewman on his father's ships during hiatus from school while he was a teenager. But, then, there are the census reports, as mentioned above. TCM stated that Mr. Ryan's business suffered badly during The Great Depression (Jack Lord Biography. Turner Classic Movies.
That ties in with a statement Jack made that his father had made and lost two fortunes in shipping (Raddatz, Leslie. How an Ex-Rodeo Rider Went West to Enjoy the Good Life as a Hawaiian Cop. TV Guide. January 4, 1969).
Jack spoke warmly about his father, who was at once both strong and gentle. Mr. Ryan instilled a love of reading in all of his children and paid his children a penny for each line of poetry they memorized. Jack said this later helped him to memorize lines of script (Raddatz, Ibid).
The Ryans were Irish Catholics. According to Jack, his mother's family, the O'Briens, came from Tipperary, while the Ryans came from County Cork (Black, Cobey. Lord and Lady in Honolulu Advertiser, December 22, 1977).
When Jack was born, the Ryans lived in what appears to be a late-19th century apartment house at 829 Halsey Street in Brooklyn (1920 Census). Construction is stone, and there's an inviting tree-shaded park across the street. Jack grew up in Richmond Hill, Queens, where the Ryans lived in a red-brick semi-detached house at 95-28 125th Street (About Jack Lord, Actor and Artist. Richmond Hill Historical Society.
Real estate records show that the house was built in the 1920s.
Jack attended grammar school at St. Benedict Joseph Labre School, a Catholic school, and secondary school at John Adams High School (About Jack Lord, ibid). Former teachers and students at John Adams High School described Jack as a quiet, serious young man, who wore suits, won awards for his courtesy, was chosen to host visitors to the school, and dated, but not steadily (Holton, Brett. You Never Read a Story About jack Lord That Told You This... TV Radio Mirror. December 1970).
Jack said he was expected to earn his spending money while he was growing up. He did so by delivering the Long Island Daily Press (Witherwax, Rita. Jack Lord: The Man Behind McGarrett. Aloha. September/October 1980, pp. 20-26). From the time Jack was fourteen years old, his father sent him out to sea each school holiday to work on freighters (Miller, Ibid). It was time for the boy to learn the ways of being a man. The sea was a rough-and-tumble world, and Jack grew up quickly. Those long ocean voyages took him all around the world, most notably around Africa, the Mediterranean, and China (Adamski, Mary. Five-0 Star Jack Lord Dies. Honolulu Star-Bulletin. January 22, 1998). In his free time, Jack sketched and painted scenes of places he saw along the way.
During his high school years, Jack was very active in school activities. According to his high school yearbook (John Adams High School Clipper. Ozone Park, New York. May 1, 1938), he was an athlete: a senior life saver, played on the varsity football team, and participated in intramural sports. He won a number of awards, including the bronze and silver A's and the honor, meritorious, and distinguished service certificates. He was also secretary of the Newman Club, which was a group for Catholic youth. Jack studied art, and his paintings often hung in the main hallway of the school (Holton, Ibid). He wrote an art column for the school newspaper, worked on the school yearbook, and spent much of his time in the art room. Most notably, he won the St. Gauden's Medal for Fine Art (Holton, Ibid).
Upon graduating from high school in June 1938, Jack spent another summer at sea. Then, he began studying fine arts education at New York University on the Chancellor Chase football scholarship (Gill, Alan. Big! Big! Big! TV Guide. November 17, 1962). He played as a sub-tackle. He was business manager of the school publication Trek and was associate editor of Education Violet, the School of Education's yearbook. One summer while in college, he worked as a lifeguard at Manhattan Beach. Even as he studied, Jack went in with his older brother, Bill, to open the Village Academy of Art in Greenwich Village (1941 New York University Football Press Informational). His plan was to join Bill, who was making a name for himself as an artist. It was during this time that the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired two of his works, Vermont and Fishing Shacks (Gill, Ibid).
The War Years
In 1942, Jack married Ann Cicely Willard. Jack described it as a youthful romance and said they married following a whirlwind courtship. The marriage was not a good one, for the couple were young, and Jack was working away from home.
It wasn't Jack's choice to be away from home. Five years before America entered World War II, Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act of 1936.
(https://archive.org/details/merchantmarinea00fishgoog) Its purposes were to facilitate water-borne commerce; provide the best-equipped, safest, and most suitable types of ships; provide well-trained civilian crews to operate them; and serve as a naval auxiliary in time of war or national emergency. To oversee the program, the Act established the US Maritime Commission, now known as the US Maritime Service (Merchant Marine Act, Ibid).
Six months before Jack finished college, the United States was drawn into World War II with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared war against both Japan and Germany. With that and backed by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, Congress and President Roosevelt took control of all shipping activities and drafted the civilian merchant mariners into branches of the military as they were needed.
Jack was drafted along with his fellow mariners. Like other merchant mariners, he served other branches of the military, as well as the Merchant Marine. Beginning in 1942, Jack served in Persia (now, Iran), helping to build roads and bridges for the US Army Corps of Engineers. Then, he went to sea with the U. S. Maritime Service. A ship on which he served was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the coast of Italy while en route to pick up a load of manganese ore in East Africa. The ship sank in seven minutes. Jack was afloat in one of only three lifeboats deployed for sixteen hours before he was rescued (Rainbird, Walter. Your Only Son is Drowned. Publication data unknown).
After returning to the United States, Jack attended Officer Training School at the Coast Guard training center at Fort Trumbull, Connecticut. In June 1945, he received a commission into the US Maritime Service as an ensign with a third mate's license. From there, Jack was sent by the Maritime Service to Washington, DC, where he served for the next three years as an artist for a service magazine and helped to make training films. It was there that he discovered a love for acting. He completed his obligation to the Department of Defense (formerly, the War Department) in 1948. He held the rank of lieutenant and received a presidential citation from President Harry Truman (LT John Joseph Patrick Ryan. http://www.togetherweserved.com).
Jack had found duty ashore, but it proved to be too little too late to save his marriage. His wife divorced him in 1946. Jack had seen his son, John Joseph Ryan, born December 1, 1942, only once, as an infant. He would not see him again, for on August 24, 1955, his son would die at the age of 12 following a brief battle with hepatitis (Rainbird, Ibid. John Joseph Ryan, Jr. Find A Grave. He is buried in Fairfield County, Connecticut (state file number 14006). Jack learned of his son's death when his former wife sent him a copy of his death certificate (Rainbird, Ibid). Ann Willard Ryan remarried at some point in the 1950s and passed away on December 30, 2004 (citation needed).
Don't weep for me; I'm not gone. My spirit and my love I left behind, so you
can remember me always. You see, there was someone in heaven waiting
for me. I needed him, and he needed me. The day I closed my eyes in sleep
here, I opened them in heaven to see and be with my son throughout eternity. So, don't weep for me. We're going sailing today. My son and me.
~ Delores Shearsmith
Jack Rebuilds His Life
Jack Meets Marie
In 1946, while still in service to the US Maritime Service, Jack met the woman who would become the love of his life. It all came about when he was visiting his brother, Bill, near Woodstock, New York. He came across a stone house that caught his interest. Wanting to learn more about it, he sought to locate its owner. He learned that the house belonged to Marie L. DeNarde, a fashion designer in New York's garment district (Denis, Paul. Was It Wrong to Marry Her? Jack Lord's Bitter-Sweet Love Story. TV Radio-Mirror. June 1963).
Jack obtained Marie's telephone number and began calling her. For nearly three weeks, she did not return his calls; however, at last, she took the call in an effort to dissuade the tireless Jack from bothering her. She firmly insisted that she was not interested in selling her house and asked him not to call again. Jack insisted that he was not the real-estate agent, John Ryan, who had been pressuring her to sell. He was John Ryan, who was in the Merchant Marine. He liked the house and was curious to learn something about it. Oh! Well, that was another matter. She invited him to come to her home that same evening (Denis, Ibid). She had a dinner date, but if he would come early, she would see him before she left to meet her date. She never quite made it to her dinner date (Jack Lord's Amazing Confession. Photoplay. May 1971).
According to some sources, Marie said Jack looked like an ad for Wonder Bread as he stood in her doorway (Ryan, Tim. Marie Lord: An Old-Fashioned Wife. Honiolulu Star-Bulletin. October 1996). According to others, he looked like the Greek god, Thor, as he loomed over her petite figure (Jack Lord's Amazing Confession, Ibid). Even so, she invited him in and told him about the house, which she had designed. After all, as a fashion designer, she knew something about art. He knew about art, too, and had a degree in fine art. The story says they spoke long into the night, falling head over heels with each other with each sentence (Denis, Ibid).
Marie DeNarde was born to Gennaro and Elsie Cepparulo on August 16, 1905, in St. Louis, Missouri (Douglass, Danielle. Marie Lord, Jack Lord's Wife, Dies. McNeil Wilson Communications, Inc. October 13, 2005). She learned the time-honored traditions of cooking, sewing, and household management. Upon graduation from high school, she went on to study fashion design and art in Paris before she moved to New York to work as a fashion designer on Seventh Avenue (Douglass, Ibid).
Jack proposed to Marie following dinner at El Faro, a Spanish restaurant located at 823 Greenwich Street in The Village ("The Night Jack Lord Proposed" in Movie Life. publication data needed). According to Jack and Marie's personal friend Paul Denis, they were married on January 17, 1949 (Denis, Ibid). Following both the lessons of her upbringing and the traditions of her day, Marie would give up her career for marriage (The Secret and bizarre Life of Hawaii Five-0 Star Jack Lord. Chicago TV Listings. November 4, 1978) -- but not until Jack was well established in his return to civilian life.
When Jack completed his obligations to the Maritime Service, he was nearly 28 years old. He had yet to establish a career for himself. Like many young men, Jack did not know what he was meant to do in life. He had followed his father to sea only to learn that the lifestyle could cost him his marriage and even his life! He had attempted to follow his older brother into art only to learn that one could starve, working piecemeal. Thus, it had been a blessing when he was sent to make training films. He had enjoyed acting, and knew he wanted to experience more of it. Now, he had a new goal.
An Actor is Born
The problem with many actors is that they are forced to fake world-weary experience. Lord didn’t have to play larger-than-life. He was larger-than-life. He had traveled all over the world as a teenage merchant seaman. He had played college football . . . and he had organized his own art school (Meyers, Ric. Murder on the Air: Television’s Great Mystery Series. New York: The Mysterious Press, 1989, p. 139).
Like many aspiring actors, Jack soon discovered that visiting talent agents with photographs of himself was not enough. He needed a way to set himself apart from the crowd. In short, he needed acting credentials. To obtain those, he needed to show that he had studied acting under a noted acting coach. Selling cars by day -- first, Fords and, then, Cadillacs (The Secret and Bizarre Life, Ibid) -- Jack studied acting by night. Marie encouraged him to follow his dream and not to give up, no matter how seldom the acting roles came his way (Jack Lord's Amazing Confession. Ibid).
Jack first studied under Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Meisner recalled that Jack was a very intense young man and told a story that revealed that Jack was also a very shy young man, who would prefer to act into a tape recorder than before another actor (Gill, Ibid). Most people are shy when they start a new venture; self-assurance comes with experience. Jack said . . .
Meisner opened me up. I was closed, introverted, a scared guy. He had me leave the room and return with an improvisation of a ham Shakespearean actor. I was
petrified . . . but then I remembered the sonnet that begins, "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes" and slung my overcoat around me like a cloak and burst through that door like a banshee. I had to. And once I started, once I broke through the sound barrier, a kind of relaxation set in (Gill, Ibid).
After studying at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Jack continued to hone his acting skills at the Actor's Studio. At that point, Jack Ryan became Jack Lord. He had not wanted to take on a stage name, but a "Jack Ryan" was already registered with the actor's union (Denis, Ibid). Jack is reputed to have said that the name Ryan made him sound like a police commissioner. I wonder if he was speaking tongue-in-cheek without realizing that he would one day portray a chief investigator. As for where he acquired the name "Lord," Jack said he drew from his family tree. He did not change his name legally; "Jack Lord" existed only as his professional name. Now, with his training behind him, it was time for Jack to add some experience to his resume.
Although Jack's first two films were released in 1949 (Project X) and 1950 (The Tattooed Stranger), he really got his start in such television theater programs as Alcoa Presents, the U. S. Steel Hour, and the Kraft Suspense Theatre. At this time, in American television, such programs were aired live as stage productions that could be viewed on television. Because so few were filmed, they, like their on-stage counterparts, have been lost to us. These one-hour, three-act plays provided a proving ground for new actors, many of whom were fresh out of acting school.
Jack gained enormous experience, portraying characters ranging from Civil War soldiers to police officers. His first credited television appearance, in 1952, was in "The Puzzle of Pier 90," an episode of the series The Hunter. He appeared under his own name, Jack Ryan (The Hunter." The Classic TV Archive - US Spy Series.
In a letter to family friend and entertainment writer Paul Denis, Marie wrote in 1957, "Jack will be on 'Climax' this Thursday, June 6... plays a prize fighter with a Brooklyn accent." She was referring to the episode, Mr. Runyon of Broadway, which appeared on CBS on June 6, 1957. Climax! was a highly acclaimed program that showed high-quality stories. One, Casino Royale, was a James Bond story that would be produced as a movie in 1967.
In 1953, Jack began performing on stage. He appeared in Flame Out, a road production performed entirely by military personnel. The next year, he appeared in The Little Hut, which generally is considered to have been his first theatrical production. Two other off-Broadway productions followed: The Illegitimist and The Savage, both in 1954.
Also in 1954, Jack made his first appearance on Broadway in The Traveling Lady by noted playwright Horton Foote, who would go on to write the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird. The play lasted for thirty performances, between October 27 and November 20, 1955, at the Playhouse Theatre. Jack was honored with the Theatre World Award for his performance in The Traveling Lady. According to Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times, Jack's performance had "a fervent sincerity that is overwhelming" (Gill, Ibid).
Next, Jack replaced Ben Gazzara as Brick Pollitt in Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize winning play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He performed opposite Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie in the television drama, Dallas), who portrayed Maggie, the Cat. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ran for 694 performances between March 1955 and November 1956 at the Morosco Theatre. His performance is said to have "brought down the house" (citation needed).
In The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), a biographical film, Jack portrayed US Navy Lieutenant Commander Zachary Landsdowne, a young friend of Air Corps General William "Billy" Mitchell. Although Mitchell (portrayed in the film by Gary Cooper) is revered by the Air Force today for his insistence that improvements be made to ensure the safety of airmen, in the early years of military aviation, he was faulted for questioning his superiors, reduced in rank, and ultimately drummed out of the military.
In 1956, Jack auditioned to play the role of Beauregard "Bo" Decker in the film production of Bus Stop. Bo was a naive, yet stubborn cowboy from Montana. The stubborn part might have fit Jack, but the naive part did not. He was turned down, because, according to director Joshua Logan, his "face looks lived in" (Vallance, Tom. Obituary: Jack Lord. The Independent. January 23, 1998). A stubborn cowboy from Montana . . . Hm . . . Doesn't that sound a lot like a saddle bronc rider from South Dakota?
In 1957, Jack portrayed colonial assemblyman John Fry in The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's film production of Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot. The story reflects the sentiments among colonists in Williamsburg, Virginia, in the months leading up to the Revolutionary War. The 30-minute film has been shown in the Foundation's visitor's center every day since March 30, 1957, as a part of visitors’ introduction to Colonial Williamsburg.
At this point, Jack felt his name was catching on and that it was time to move to Hollywood, where he would have a better chance to appear on television and in movies. It was a decision that proved to be not altogether wise, for in Hollywood, he had to start all over again. Hollywood didn't care about his Broadway work, after all.
In 1958, Jack again appeared with Gary Cooper, this time in Man of the West as the quite mad and murderous Coaley Tobin. Coaley turned against his cousin, Link Jones (Cooper) in a battle of egos, more specifically in defense of a woman's virtue. The scene showing the two fighting is considered a classic and can be seen on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRR1cFytGS4).
As an interesting aside, Jack met Gary "Coop" Cooper in New York when he was selling Cadillacs. Coop stopped by to see an old Duesenberg, which he once had owned and was on display in the showroom. The two men struck up a conversation, and Coop took Jack to lunch at Schrafft's, a restaurant chain in New York. When Jack moved to California and was sent to the set of The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, he saw Coop and asked whether he remembered him. Coop replied, "Yeah. You're the guy who likes Duesenbergs" (Raddatz, Ibid). Jack and Gary Cooper maintained a friendship until Cooper's death in 1961. In fact, Jack said Cooper was a role model for him: he liked Coop's laid-back style of acting and emulated it at times in his own acting (Gill. Ibid).
Other movies followed, including Walk Like a Dragon (1960), now a cult classic. In 1962, Jack portrayed Felix Leiter in the first James Bond thriller, Dr. No. Set in Jamaica, it seemed almost a portent of Jack's looming fate as a law enforcement officer on a tropical island. Sources vary about why Jack did not retain his role in future James Bond films. Some say the producers feared he would upstage Sean Connery (Jack Lord Biography - Actors and Actresses. Biography of Famous People. while others say he asked for financial interest in the next production, Goldfinger (Jack Lord Biography. Ibid). In either case, he was replaced by Cec Linder.
Beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s, episodic television series as we know them today came into being. Jack appeared as the guest star on such programs as Bonanza, Route 66, and 12 O'Clock High. He portrayed troubled and criminal characters. In "The Outcast," an episode of Bonanza, he portrayed Clay Renton, a member of a band of robbers, who took advantage of a woman ostracized by society for her father's and brother's criminal ways. She fell in love with Clay, but his ways remained criminal, until she was forced to accept that he was no better than her father and brother had been and propelled him at rifle's length straight into the hands of the law. In "The Long Ravine," an episode of the Kraft Suspense Theatre, Jack portrayed Paul Campbell, a man who would rather gamble on finding the mother lode than hold a normal job that provided for his wife. He accrued debts to the owner of a general store even as he lived rent-free in a cabin owned by the owner. In short, he was a dreamer, who did not mind imposing on others to see him through.
In 1962, Jack received an offer to have his own episodic television series. Leslie Stevens was creating his first television series and thought Jack would make a good Stoney Burke. The new series was produced by Daystar Productions and United Artists and was aired on ABC. Stoney was a saddle bronc rider on the rodeo circuit. His aim was to win the Golden Buckle denoting him as the best of the best, and he was determined not to let anything -- wine, women, or song -- get in his way. Jack liked this project, for Stoney took the high road and stood up for his beliefs. Was it possible that the criminal and insane characters finally were in his past? Sadly, Stoney Burke lasted only one season and became known as "the most successful failure on television" (Raddatz, Ibid).
Jack hit a slump after the cancellation of Stoney Burke. After all, he had been riding high, seemingly unable to miss. For the first time since 1950, when theatrical agents had failed to be impressed with the striking, yet untrained, actor-to-be, Jack had to face rejection -- at least, what felt like rejection to him. The offers that came were to portray the criminal and insane characters that Jack thought he had left behind. By his own admission, he handled it badly. He might have thrown in the towel, except that Marie reminded him that "It's not what happens in life but how one responds to what happens that counts" (Asher, Jerry. “Bitter-Sweet” in TV Star Parade. January 1965).
Jack began to pull himself together. Soon, he was again in his studio, painting. He took voice lessons, put together a musical group called The Wanderers, and toured the rodeo circuit for his Stoney Burke fans. And he wrote. In all, he wrote five scripts, which he sold to Universal. And, then, he returned to television.
Between 1965 and 1968, Jack guest starred in popular series, such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Ironside, and starred in made-for-television movies, such as The Counterfeit Killer and The Doomsday Flight. Although his characters were the antagonists and not the protagonists, they had redeeming qualities that Coaley Tobin, Clay Renton, and Paul Campbell had lacked. Looking back, we can see that, in each, he played roles that were nothing short of training sessions for the television show that would put him over the top, Hawaii Five-0.
By portraying many different personalities, Jack learned not only about acting, but also about people. And, so, when Hawaii Five-0 came his way, Jack was ready to portray a tough, yet compassionate, police officer, whose powers of deduction and understanding of human nature made him the top cop from the Mainland to Hong Kong.
For Jack, Hawaii Five-0 was a love-hate experience. He loved McGarrett, who shared his values. The role allowed him to put much of himself into his work, so much so that those who knew Jack described McGarrett as an "amped-up" version of Jack.
The pressures of co-producing a television series were both rewarding and challenging for Jack. On the one hand, he enjoyed being an unofficial ambassador of the State of Hawai'i, meeting with government and tourism leaders, appearing at public functions, and helping to entertain foreign dignitaries. He also enjoyed adding his creative talents to the scripts, which often arrived in less than polished form. He did not enjoy being seen as an egoistical tyrant. Perhaps, that would have been less of a problem if those around him had known that he was a co-owner and co-producer and not just a fellow cast member.
The pressures increased dramatically after series creator and executive producer Leonard Freeman died halfway through the series. More of the executive duties fell on his shoulders. More than ever, it was up to him to see that a 52-minute episode was completed every eight days. In addition, Jack directed one episode in six of the twelve seasons. He also liaised between Hawai'i and Hollywood. In fact, he had a direct telephone line to the West Coast. In addition, he helped to publicize not only Hawaii Five-0 but also other CBS shows that filmed in the Islands.
Jack's last project in the performing arts was the pilot for a new television series, M Station: Hawaii. The series would follow the adventures of a marine salvage company, which worked under government contract. The pilot concerned a Russian submarine that had sunk off the coast of Hawaii. Naval Intelligence, headed by Jack's character, Admiral Henderson, wanted to explore the submarine in order to see what they could learn from it. Jack gave only a cameo appearance on camera, but behind the scenes, he served as both producer and director. Although the premise was realistic and the two-hour movie was well produced, the networks did not pick it up as a series.
And, so, as Jack neared his sixtieth birthday, he chose to hang up his costumes, close his scripts, and return to private life.
Contrary to what some people believe -- since he was rarely seen in public -- he did not become a recluse. Rather, he returned to private life. He pursued his interests, his art and civic and charity work. He gave of his time to visitation of hospitalized children and veterans, the handicapped, and the disadvantaged. At the end of his life, he left his entire estate to a trust fund to benefit the people of Hawaii.
Jack and Marie traveled extensively across nearly every continent, but perhaps especially in Asia. From his years in the Merchant Marine, Jack had loved that part of the world. One year, Jack presented a Golden Bell Award for best actress; it was Taiwan's equivalent to the Oscar.
Each fall, in October, Jack and Marie flew home to New York to visit old friends, see Broadway plays, and do some shopping. They never lost track of their friends from his early days as an actor and were invited to attend awards ceremonies even when distance meant they were unable to attend.
As the sun set on his life, Jack continued to take walks along Kahala Beach. With one of his lauhala hats perched atop his head and a newly acquired walking stick in hand, he made his way along beside the pale aqua ocean waters that had been his home for thirty years. And, when he died, he had his ashes scattered in those waters.
Jack's Senior Cap and Varsity Letter
with Letter of Authenticity
Addnos via Wikimedia Commons - public domain
The winds blew fair and sent the schooner
clipping along over the ocean waves.
The sailors were homeward bound
following a journey of ten thousand miles.
At home, their families waited with anticipation,
hoping to receive trinkets from far-off lands.
Their wives patted their chignons into place
and pinched their cheeks for extra color.
Even the family dog knew something was up
and walked from one person to the next
as if to say, "Tell me! Tell me!"
Soon, the tall masts came into view
as the ship was moored at the docks.
Doors opened, and children dashed out,
scurrying happily toward the water's edge,
while the family dog ran, barking, along with them.
At home, the wife moved a vase an inch over on a table
and took her handkerchief to wipe away a smudge.
Everything needed to be perfect
for her husband's return home from the sea.
(c) 2011, Virginia Tolles
After all this . . .
Do We Really Know Jack?
Jack is reputed to have said . . .
Don’t think you know me.
You know only what I let you know.
That is the long and the short of it. We do only know what Jack has allowed us to know. Of course, a few extra bits of information have slipped through the cracks for us to pick up on, if we were paying attention. There was the photograph of Jack pouring milk from a bottle as he stood in front of an open refrigerator, letting the cold air out.
There was the statement made by Marie that Jack would become so caught up in his painting that he completely lost track of time. There was another statement made by Marie that Jack would spoil a joke she was telling by giving away the punch line.
In those tidbits, we see that Jack was a human being, like all human beings. He had his faults. It became possible to see him as a child who quite possibly tracked mud onto his mother’s freshly mopped floor. He had his own priorities, meaning Marie barely could drag him away from his easel to go to dinner.
Jack jogged in a day and age before jogging became all the rage and rode a bicycle long after men his age had given their knees a break.
In the final analysis, “Jack Lord” was just the business name of a man named John Joseph Patrick “Jack” Ryan, who just happened to be a very good actor, who hung up his costume, took up his paint brush, and retreated into private life in an unassuming apartment, driving a 12-year-old car, giving his time and money to all who needed his help, and giving his love and devotion to his wife, all while he remained devout in his faith. In the end, we realize that Jack was still the son Ellen Josephine O’Brien Ryan had reared fifty years earlier.
Photographers unknown for either picture. Both are deemed to be in the public domain as per Copyright Notice Circular 3, Revised 09/2017. US Copyright Office, Library of Congress. (
Many thanks to Park Lane and Karen S., who assisted with the research on this page.