OUCH! by MR.E.

OUCH! by MR.E.

Friday, February 28, 2014


Christopher Jones, an heir apparent to James Dean who quit show business at the height of his brief but dazzling career, died Friday, January 31, 2014 at Los Alamitos, California Medical Center of complications from cancer; he was 72.  Paula McKenna, who had four children with Jones, told The Hollywood Reporter he had been diagnosed in December with gallbladder cancer; they lived in Seal Beach and he worked occasionally as an artist.  Even after he quit the business, Jones was besieged with offers. "I was sent many scripts that I never even looked at or acknowledged," he said in a 1999 interview with the Toronto newspaper Globe and Mail. "I was too busy living and having fun."  Jones is survived by daughters Jennifer, Delon and Calin; sons Tauer, Seagen and Chris; brother Bobby; and several grandchildren.

William Franklin Jones, better known as Christopher Jones (born August 18, 1941), was an American stage, movie, and television actor from Jackson, Tennessee.  His father was a grocery clerk and his mother Robbie was an artist.  She was admitted to the State Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee in 1945 suffering from emotional problems; she died when he was 19.  Jones and his brother were earlier placed in Boys Town in Memphis where he became a fan of James Dean after being told he bore a resemblance to him.  Jones joined the Army at the age of 16 with the permission of his father, but went AWOL, resulting in a military prison term. 

He then moved to New York where he began his acting career.  Jones (adopting the stage name Christopher) made his Broadway debut on December 17, 1961, in Tennessee Williams's The Night of the Iguana, directed by Frank Corsaro and starring Shelley Winters.  Winters introduced Jones to actress Susan Strasberg, the daughter of Method acting progenitor Lee Strasberg. Jones later studied at Strasberg's Actors Studio.  Despite friction with Lee, Jones married Susan in 1965. The couple had a daughter, Jennifer Robin Jones, in 1966, named as a tribute to actress Jennifer Jones.  It was a stormy marriage, according to the actress' autobiography, "Bittersweet" (she died in 1999).

Moving to Hollywood, Jones' career took its first big leap when he was cast as the title character in the ABC-TV series "The Legend of Jesse James" (produced by 20th Century Fox), which ran for thirty-four episodes.  Co-starring Alan Case as Frank James, the western lasted just one season (faced steep competition on Monday nights from The Lucy Show on CBS and Dr. Kildare on NBC); aired from September 1965 to May 1966.

Premiere  episode  "The Legend of Jesse James" (9-13-65)

He got thousands of fan letters a week and later appeared on episodes of "Judd for the Defense" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

When the series ended, he accepted the role of Strasberg's lover/husband in the movie Chubasco (Warner Brothers, 1967); their marriage did not survive the filming and they divorced in 1968.  Jones then played Max Frost, the malevolent rock star who gets elected president when the voting age is lowered to 14, in American International Pictures’ Wild in the Streets (1968).

 Singing "The Shape of Things to Come"

The satire, also starred Shelley Winters and, in one of his first films, Richard Pryor, propelled him to the peak of his fame.  Jones, who seemed to have everything at 26, including sensitive good looks, adoring fans and a steady stream of film offers, said in a Los Angeles Times interview, he wasn't much devoted to acting.  "I think of acting as only a means to an end," and "Acting's just my work."

He next appeared with Yvette Mimieux in the sex comedy Three in the Attic (A.I.P., 1968) as a man who gets his comeuppance from three girls who discover he’s been three-timing them.


In Frank Pierson’s The Looking Glass War (Columbia, 1969), adapted from the spy novel by John le Carre, Jones portrays a civilian who is recruited by British intelligence to go behind the Iron Curtain on a mission.  The Frank Pierson film co-starred Sir Ralph Richardson, Anthony Hopkins, Pia Degermark and Susan George.

Jones was then cast by director David Lean in Ryan's Daughter (M.G.M., 1970). The two men had a difficult relationship. This intensified when production of the film took twelve months instead of the expected six.  Jones played Randolph Doryan, a dashing but shell-shocked British officer who has an affair with a married Irish woman (Sarah Miles) during World War I.  He and Miles have a memorable lovemaking scene in the woods.
Jones also became friends with actress Sharon Tate and her husband Roman Polanski. He later claimed that he had an affair with Tate while she was pregnant with Polanski's child and that she had a premonition of her death.  He made another film with Pia Degermark, the Italian, Una Breve Stagione aka Brief Season (Dino de Laurentis, 1969).

Tate was murdered by members of the Manson family; Jones returned from to California and stayed for a time in the caretaker's cottage behind the house where Tate had died; and abandoned his acting career.  Jones, who continued to live in Southern California, was not much interested in explaining why he left the business at his peak. "I am happy," he told the Chicago Tribune in 2000. "I did exactly as I pleased — within my world."

Jones was offered the part of Zed in Pulp Fiction (1994) by director Quentin Tarantino.  "Quentin was really sweet and very gracious to offer him the part," McKenna said.  “He had excitement.  He was a movie star,” Tarantino said in a 1999 episode of E! True Hollywood Story.  “He looked like James Dean, but Chris Jones didn’t take himself seriously like James Dean. He was a big comer- and with the right person handling and directing, he could still be as big as anybody."  Jones turned down the role of the violent character who rapes another man in the movie- a decision with which McKenna agreed. "I told him I didn't want him to do a part that would not be good for his children to see," she said.

In the August 1996 issue of Movieline, he was interviewed by Pamela Des Barres: "I was flipped out on the agony and the ecstacy.  Let me tell you, if you have two managers trying to rob you, an ex-wife driving you crazy, and everybody's after your fucking money--I went through a Howard Hughes kind of thing. . . . I guess I went a little nuts." 

He made a final screen appearance in crime comedy Mad Dog Time aka Trigger Happy (1996) directed by, son of Joey, Larry Bishop- who also appeared in Wild in the Streets.  Jones told the Globe and Mail it was "just something to do."

Jones maintained in interviews that he didn't miss that career, but he made statements that had an air of mystery. "I'm not bitter and I have no reason to be bitter," he told the Globe and Mail. "Fate is fate. That's the way it was. As for the rest, I want my epitaph to read: 'Some things are better left unsaid.' "


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