Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Dick Jones Passes On

Actor Dick Jones (billed as "Dickie Jones" when he was younger), who appeared in a number of Westerns, "Our Gang" shorts, and provided the voice of the title character in the Disney classic Pinocchio (1940), died at the age of 87 on 7 July 2014.

Richard Jones was born on 25 February 1927 in Snyder, Texas. He took to riding horses while very young and at age four was billed in Texas as “the world’s youngest trick rider and trick roper". This drew the attention of cowboy star Hoot Gibson, who featured him in a rodeo he owned and later convinced Mr. Jones's parents that the child had a future in acting. Dick Jones made his film debut in the serial Burn 'Em Up Barnes in 1934. He would appear in several serials in the Thirties, including The Call of the Savage (1935), The Adventures of Frank Merriwell (1936), and Blake of Scotland Yard (1937).  Starting with "Washee Ironee", Dick Jones would appear in roles of varying importance in several "Our Gang" shorts throughout the Thirties. As was to be expected of a child with his skills, Dick Jones appeared in several B Westerns throughout the Thirties. He also appeared in several major feature films. Throughout the decade he appeared in such films as Kid Millions (1934), Babes in Toyland (1934), Little Men (1934) , Queen of the Jungle (1935), The Pecos Kid (1935), Westward Ho (1935), Moonlight on the Prairie (1935), Daniel Boone (1936), Black Legion (1937), Stella Dallas (1937), Renfrew of the Royal Mounted (1937), The Frontiersmen (1938), Nancy Drew... Reporter (1939), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Destry Rides Again (1939), Virginia City (1940), and Brigham Young (1940). In 1940 came what may be his most famous role, the voice of Pinocchio in the animated classic of the same name.

During the Forties Dick Jones appeared in such films as Adventure in Washington (1941), The Vanishing Virginian (1942), Mountain Rhythm (1943), The Outlaw (1943), Heaven Can Wait (1943), The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), Angel on the Amazon (1948), Battleground (1949), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Sons of New Mexico (1949), Redwood Forest Trail (1950), and Rocky Mountain (1950). From 1943 to 1944 he was the voice of Henry Aldrich on the radio show The Aldrich Family. He made his television debut in 1949 in an episode of The Lone Ranger. Towards the end of World War II he served in the United States Army. He was stationed in Alaska.

In the Fifties Dick Jones played the title role on the TV show Buffalo Bill, Jr.  He also played The Range Rider's sidekick Dick West on The Range Rider. He made several guest appearances on The Gene Autry Show and Annie Oakley, as well as guest appearances on the shows Chevron Theatre, Mr. & Mr. North, Navy Log, The Gray Ghost, Flight, Pony Express, and The Blue Angels. He appeared in the films Fort Worth (1951), The Old West (1952), Wagon Team (1952), Last of the Pony Riders (1953), Attila (1954), The Bamboo Prison (1954), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), The Wild Dakotas (1956), The Cool and the Crazy (1958), and Shadow of the Boomerang (1960).

In the Sixties Dick Jones guest starred on the TV show Wagon Train and appeared in the films The Devil's Bedroom (1964) and Requiem for a Gunfighter (1965). Afterwards he retired from acting Mr. Jones worked in real estate for several years.

Although he is not often recognised as such, Dick Jones was one of the better child actors of the Thirties. While other child actors in the Thirties and Forties often tended to be either sickly sweet (and annoying) or bratty (and annoying), Dick Jones's characters were more naturalistic. His characters seemed much more like real boys, although ones who could ride and rope better than most adults. As a voice actor he was perfect for the role of Pinocchio. In fact, Disney's animators would often use young Dick Jones's actual expressions as models for the animated character. As an adult he did quite well in the juvenile Western TV shows in which he appeared. Between his skills as a horseman and roper and his earnest performances he could be quite convincing as Dick West or Buffalo Bill, Jr. Dick Jones was certainly an actor who born to act in Westerns.

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