SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- John Ireland, 78, who appeared in more than 200 movies and was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in the 1949 film "All the King's Men," died of leukemia March 21 at a hospital here.

The Canadian-born actor began his show business career as a professional swimmer in a water carnival, but quickly moved on to legitimate theater, appearing both on and off Broadway in a number of Shakespeare's plays.

"Shakespeare became his first love and that led to roles on Broadway," said Ireland's son, John Ireland Jr.

He was a leading man in several movies in the 1940s, but by the 1950s he was becoming familiar to audiences for supporting roles, usually as a cynical tough guy in a Western or adventure film.

He starred opposite Henry Fonda in "My Darling Clementine," Ingrid Bergman in "Joan of Arc," Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier in "Spartacus" and Joan Collins in "The Good Die Young."

Other screen credits included "I Shot Jesse James," "The Return of Jesse James," "Gunslinger," "Fort Utah," "Arizona Bushwhackers," "A Walk in the Sun" and "Farewell My Lovely."

Mr. Ireland's career went into a long decline in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1987, he paid nearly $2,000 for an advertisement in an industry newspaper. It stated: "I'm an actor, PLEASE . . . let me Act. John Ireland."

The ad led to a role as Jonathan Aaron Cartwright, the younger brother of Ben Cartwright, in the television movie "Bonanza: The Next Generation."

His marriage to Elaine Ruth Ireland ended in divorce.

In addition to his son, survivors include another son, Peter.