Christopher Jones (actor)
Jones as Jesse James, 1965.
|Born||William Frank Jones
August 18, 1941
Jackson, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||January 31, 2014
Los Alamitos, California, U.S.
|Years active||1965-1970, 1996|
|Spouse(s)||Susan Strasberg (1965–1968; divorced)
Carrie Abernathy (1976–1983; divorced)
Paula McKenna (1983–2014; his death)
He was born in Jackson, Tennessee, where 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. Jones and his brother were then placed in Boys Town in Memphis, where he became a fan of James Dean after being told he bore a resemblance to him. He then joined the Army, but went AWOL and after serving a sentence in a military prison he moved to New York where he began his acting career. His mother died when he was 19.
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 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.
Moving to Hollywood, Jones was cast in the title role of an ABC television series, The Legend of Jesse James (produced by 20th Century Fox), which ran for 34 episodes in the 1965–66 season. When the series ended, he accepted the role of Strasberg’s lover/husband in the movie Chubasco. Their marriage did not survive the filming, and they divorced in 1968.
Jones’s next acting role, as rock star and presidential aspirant Max Frost in the film Wild in the Streets (1968), costarring Shelley Winters, propelled him to the peak of his fame. He appeared later in the same year with Yvette Mimieux in the sex comedy Three in the Attic. 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 (she was murdered by members of the Manson family).
After two films in Europe with Pia Degermark (The Looking Glass War and Brief Season, both 1969), Jones was cast by director David Lean in Ryan’s Daughter (1970). The two men had a difficult relationship, as did many actors who worked with David Lean. This intensified when production of the film took 12 months instead of the expected six because David Lean would wait for the right composition of clouds or the perfect storm to brew. Unknown to Christopher, he was drugged during his filming of Ryan's Daughter by Sarah Miles, according to her first autobiography A Right Royal Bastard, which caused Christopher to believe he was having a breakdown. Jones also was involved in a car crash,  not knowing he had been drugged. The director and producers never informed him of the drugging. Later, Lean would dub his voice, causing a bad reputation for Jones (Beyond the Epic: The Life and Films of David Lean). This took a personal toll on Jones, who returned from Ireland to California after filming ended (staying for a time in his manager Rudy Altobelli’s guest house, the cottage behind the house where Tate had died), and abandoned his acting career. He engaged in a few long-term relationships, did painting, art deco, and Roman classic sculpting in clay and had a family life, living quietly at the beach with his children.
Jones was offered the part of Zed in Pulp Fiction (1994) by director Quentin Tarantino, but he turned it down. He made a final screen appearance in crime comedy Mad Dog Time (1996) for his friend director/actor Larry Bishop, who appeared in Christopher’s first movie Wild in the Streets. In his later years, he had a career as an artist and sculptor. His works included an oil painting of Rudolph Valentino that was displayed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
He died on January 31, 2014, at the age of 72, due to complications arising from cancer. He is survived by seven children, Jennifer Strasberg, Christopher Jones Jr., Jeromy McKenna, Delon Jones, Tauer Jones, Calin Jones, and Seagen Jones.
- Vitello, Paul (February 8, 2014). "Christopher Jones, Actor who Quit Field, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2014.
- Christopher Jones Biography at cinetropic; retrieved February 1, 2014
- Das, Linda. "The final affair of Roman Polanski's murdered wife Sharon Tate". Daily Mail. Retrieved August 31, 2007.
- Phillips, Gene (2006). Beyond the Epic: The Life and Films of David Lean. p. 383.
- Barnes, Mike (February 1, 2014). "'Ryan's Daughter' Star Christopher Jones Dies at 72". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
- Colker, David (February 4, 2014). "Christopher Jones dies at 72; actor quit at peak of career". The Los Angeles Times.