Although James Bond’s CIA buddy Felix Leiter has been played by a number of actors, Jack Lord’s portrayal of Leiter in Dr No probably remains the most memorable. Although he was approached to reprise his role as Felix Leiter in Goldfinger, he pulled out when agreements between the financial terms of his contract and the direction of his role could not be reached; in the early films Leiter would never be played by the same actor twice. Following Dr No he went on to play Steve McGarett in the popular cop show Hawaii Five O.
Jack Lord was born John Joseph Patrick Ryan in 1920 in Brooklyn. His father, worked as a steamship company executive while his mother grew fruits at a farm located within the Hudson River Valley.
Lord started his education at St Benedict Joseph Labre School before progressing to John Adams High School which was also located in New York. Upon graduation from high school he joined the United States Merchant Marine Academy as an ensign. Upon the commencement of the Second World War began, Jack Lord served in the U.S Army corps of engineers where he provided key technical support such as the construction of buildings. It was during his return to the Merchant Marine, while supervising the making of Marine training films that he first started acting.
After his first marriage to Anne Willard (with whom he had a son) ended in a divorce, Jack Lord met and married Marie De Narde an aspiring fashion designer. She became his wardrobe designer for the better part of his career. They would remain together until his death.
Jack Lord starred in his first movie in 1949. The movie was titled The Red Menace and, not surprisingly, had the familiar undertones of anti-communism sentiments that were popular at the time. He went on to feature in at least 10 other movies in the ensuing decade a few of which includes the popular Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot, Man of the West and God’s little Acre.
During the fifties, he made his Broadway debut on the show The Travelling Lady. The show lasted for a month and earned him a Theatre world Award for his convincing performance. Buoyed by the award, Jack Lord went on to star in a number of other productions such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Savage and the Illegitimist.
In 1962, apart from shooting Dr No in Jamaica, Jack Lord starred as Stoney Burke in the coyboy series that also featured Bruce Dern and Warren Oates. The series ran for 32 episodes before its end. After staring in a number of short lived shows and reportedly turning down the role of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, he was cast as Detective Steve McGarett in the series Hawaii Five O. It went on to become his most popular role. The series ran for twelve seasons, showing 281 episodes, before its conclusion in 1980. During the period, Jack Lord became a co-owner and executive producer of the show.
Lord showed great artistic tendencies and eventual in his youth and developed a love for painting most of which involved the scenes he encountered in his visits to other continents. His appreciation for art led him to a New York University degree in the subject. While battling with Alzheimer, Jack Lord died in 1998 from congestive heart failure. He was 77 at the time.
Jack Lord was admired for being a cultured man, an outstanding actor and a respected philanthropist. After the death of his wife, his estate was shared among several different charities in Hawaii. There is a nonprofit memorial set up in his name.