Jill Ireland was an Anglo-American actress best-known for her appearance as “Leila Kalomi”, the only woman Mr. Spock ever loved (in the Star Trek: The Original Series (1966) episode, Star Trek: The Original Series: This Side of Paradise (1967)) and for her many supporting roles in the movies of Charles Bronson, her second husband. She is also known for her battle with breast cancer, having written two books on her fight with the disease and serving as a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society.
She was born Jill Dorothy Ireland on April 24, 1936, in London, England, to a wine merchant and his wife, Dorothy, who was fated to outlive her daughter. Young Jill started her entertainment career as a dancer and made her credited screen debut, in 1955, in Michael Powell’s Oh… Rosalinda!! (1955), after a bit part in another movie. Two years later, she married actor David McCallum, whom she met on March 28, 1957, and co-starred in the Stanley Baker action picture, Hell Drivers (1957). In the mid-1960s, they moved to the United States so McCallum could star as agent “Ilya Kuryakin” in the TV series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964). She got steady work on American TV and would co-star with her husband in five episode of the series in 1964, 1965 and 1967.
Ireland divorced McCallum, with whom she had three sons, in 1967. The following year, she married Charles Bronson, who was several years away from superstar status. They had first met when McCallum introduced them on the set of The Great Escape (1963). With Bronson, she had two children, a daughter born to the couple, and an adopted daughter.
They co-starred together in the French movie, Rider on the Rain (1970) (“Rider on the Rain”), in 1970 (she had previously appeared in one scene opposite him in Villa Rides (1968) and had also played an uncredited bit part in his movie, London Affair (1970), released that same year), a movie that made Bronson a major star in Europe. They starred in 13 more pictures in the next 17 years, a period during which Bronson rivaled Clint Eastwood as the biggest movie star in the world in the early and mid-1970s before his star waned in the 1980s. Ireland only appeared in one TV episode, one TV-movie and one theatrical picture that didn’t star Bronson in that time.
She was diagnosed with cancer in her right breast in 1984 and underwent a mastectomy. She wrote about her battle with the disease and her advocacy for the American Cancer Society led to the organization giving her its Courage Award. Ireland was presented with the award by President Ronald Reagan.
Jill Ireland died of breast cancer at her home in Malibu, California on May 18, 1990. She was 54 years old.
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