John Edward Ince was born on the 29th of August 1878 in New York City, the son of English actors and vaudevillians who had immigrated to America. He was the older brother of the noted actors and movie directors, Thomas Harper Ince and Ralph Ince. Thanks to their parents, all three of the Ince brothers as well as their sister, appeared on the stage as children; John was nine years old when his career began.
John Ince was big boned and heavy set. Nevertheless, he managed to land a number of leading man roles when he ventured into the movies with the Lubin company around 1912. Of his many Lubin films, The Exile, and The Price of Victory, both produced at the Betzwood studio, survive today. Like his brothers, John soon turned to directing. He also occasionally wrote and appeared in the films he was producing. After leaving Lubin for Equitable Motion Pictures Corp. in 1915—taking the talented Lubin cameraman William Black with him—he concentrated more on direction than acting, though he continued to take small roles in films.
In Hollywood in the mid 1920s, Ince formed his own production company, John Ince Productions, and turned out a small handful of films. The advent of sound in the late twenties proved a significant challenge, and as if that were not enough, his life was turned upside down by a trifecta of tragedies in 1929; his wife divorced him, his studio burned, and the stock market crash wiped him out financially.
As he restarted his career, Ince ceased directing and went back to acting, mostly in character roles. Blessed with an excellent speaking voice and having acted on the stage, he experienced none of the problems that plagued some actors making the transition to sound films. However, even though he appeared in dozens of movies throughout the 1930s and 1940s, his career steadily waned and his roles were ultimately reduced to uncredited walk-ons or one-liners. John Ince died in Hollywood on the 10th of April 1947. He was sixty-eight years old.