He was portrayed by the late Rod Steiger.
He is a former priest who lives in Skagway, Alaska and abuses dogs by breaking them in order for them to become sled dogs, including a German Shepherd named Buck.
When Jack London arrives at Skagway, he encounters Ryan torturing Buck with his whip. Jack intervenes and offers to buy him, but Ryan refuses to pay him. Jack comforts Buck and tries to take him with him, but Ryan still refuses. Ryan tries to grab his whip, but Jack stops him. Jack takes Buck and heads out to find Smith. Jack arrives at the bar and finds Smith, where he agrees to pay $500 for Buck. Jack makes the deal and gambles with the Soap Gang. Jack wins the money, but Smith refuses to pay him. Jack calls Smith a "two-faced welshing liar", but Smith retaliates by patronizing Jack. Jack lashes out at him and leaves the bar with Sloper arguing with him to not confront him again.
The following night, Jack heads out to check on Buck, but is ambushed by the Soap Gang. Jack defeats Ryan, but the gangster watching intervenes. Jack then lights the man on fire, causing him to run away.
Later, while Jack and Sloper are cutting down trees, Ryan and the Soap Gang arrive and confront them about the trees belonging to them. Jack tells the gang about their claims over the trees before the battle begins. Sloper defeats the gangsters, but Ryan begins to whip Jack. Buck intervenes and stops Ryan, giving Jack the opportunity to hold him and allowing Sloper to hold him at gunpoint. Jack forces them out and they leave, but not before Ryan swears vengeance on them.
The following winter, the Soap Gang ambush Jack and Sloper at the cabin. As they continue firing at the cabin, Jack and Sloper team up to defeat the gang. Ryan orders his men to cover him, while he stuffs the chimney. Meanwhile, John Thornton arrives and comes to their aid. While Sloper uncovers the pipe, the gangsters flee. However, Jack accidentally shoots Sloper after mistaking him for a thug, along with one of the gangsters still hiding.
Later, Swiftwater informs Jack about Smith planning to kill them. Swiftwater flees, but Jack goes out to confront Smith. Smith offers a bet on a race against Ryan, and Jack agrees. As the race starts, Belinda brings in Swiftwater and Smith offers to do a bet on their saloon. Meanwile, Ryan tries to whip Jack off his sled, but accidentally slips off. He gets back on his feets and precedes to abuse his dogs until he manages to get close to Jack and attack him. While Swiftwater wants to continue gambling, Smith wants to use his own cards. Belinda rejects the idea and Thornton confronts him. Smith tries to make it clear and order Thornton to stay out of his way, but Thornton refuses. Thornton aranges the cards, but Smith refuses to play, making it clear that he was only doing this for a sporting proposition. Swiftwater reminds him about the race and decides to do a bet against it instead.
Meanwhile, Ryan pushes Jack off the sled and they battle. As they continue to fight, they fall down, rolling on a slope. Ryan dies, but Jack survives. Belinda spots the sled and Jack and Buck win, carrying Ryan's corpse. Smith is informed about London's victory, while Belinda offers Swiftwater to not gamble again. Smith pays Jack and offers him to become his handler, while insulting Ryan's intelligence, but Jack refuses. Thornton runs Smith out of town before dark, but Smith tosses him his necklace as a reward before leaving.
- His real-life counterpart did not serve as a preacher and was shot to death at the age 37 on July 8, 1898.
- His breaking of dogs, including Buck is one of the things that inspired London's book The Call of the Wild.