Jack Lord

Jack Lord Biography

Jack lord as Felix Leiter

John Joseph Patrick Ryan, better known by his stage name Jack Lord, was a multi-talented American actor, director, and producer.

He was born to Irish-American parents in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York, on December 30, 1920. Lord spent his childhood days on his mother’s fruit farm in the Hudson River Valley.

Jack Lord’s education started at St. Benedict Joseph Labre School and John Adams High School in Queens. He later joined the United States Merchant Marine Academy, graduating as an Ensign with a Third Mates License. He went on to attend New York University (NYU) on a football scholarship and earned a degree in Fine Arts.


As World War II broke out, Jack Lord served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, building bridges in Persia. He enrolled in the deck officer course at Fort Trumbull. While working on maritime training films, Lord discovered his love for acting and decided to pursue it as a career.

Lord honed in on his acting skills at Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and later studied at the Actors Studio. He worked as a car salesman for Horgan Ford and Cadillac to fund his studies. Lord’s Broadway debut was as Slim Murphy in Horton Foote’s The Traveling Lady. The show ran for 30 performances, and he won the Theatre World Award for his performance. Jack Lord then landed the role of Brick in a replacement for Ben Gazzara in the 1955–1956 production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Jack Lord’s first commercial film role was in the 1949 film The Red Menace a.k.a. Project X, an anti-Communist production. He went on to be an associate producer in his 1950 film Cry Murder and starred in Williamsburg: the Story of a Patriot in 1957. In 1962, Lord became the first actor cast as Felix Leiter in the James Bond film series, introduced in the first Bond film, Dr. No. However, Lord demanded co-star billing, a bigger role, and a hefty pay rise to take on the role as part of the Goldfinger cast, resulting in director Guy Hamilton casting Cec Linder in the role.

Lord made guest appearances on numerous television shows, including Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, Ironside, and The F.B.I. However, he is best known for his role in Hawaii Five-O, starring as Detective Steve McGarrett through the 12 seasons from 1968 to 1980. When the show’s creator, Leonard Freeman, passed away in 1974, Jack Lord was handed equal ownership rights along with CBS, and Freeman’s estate. After this, Lord became the executive producer with complete control over content.

Jack Lord married his first wife, Ann Willard, in 1942. They divorced in 1947. He met his second wife while house hunting in upstate New York. On January 17, 1949, Lord married fashion designer Marie de Narde.