Jack Wild

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Jack Wild
Jack Wild, 1970
Born Jack Wild
(1952-09-30)30 September 1952
Royton, Lancashire, England, UK
Died 1 March 2006(2006-03-01) (aged 53)
Tebworth, Bedfordshire, England, UK
Cause of death
Mouth cancer
Occupation Actor, singer
Years active 1964–2005
Spouse(s) Gaynor Jones (1976–1985)
Claire Harding (2005–2006 his death)

Jack Wild (30 September 1952 – 1 March 2006) was an English actor best remembered for his performances in both stage and screen productions of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver! with Ron Moody, Mark Lester, Shani Wallis and Oliver Reed. He received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor at the age of 16 for his role as The Artful Dodger in Oliver! (1968), as well as BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award nominations as Most Promising Newcomer.[1] In addition to his role in Oliver!, Wild is also known for his leading role as Jimmy in the 1969 NBC children's television series H.R. Pufnstuf, as well as the 1971 feature film adaptation Pufnstuf.

Jack Wild (right) with Oliver! co-star Mark Lester at the 41st Annual Academy Awards, 14 April 1969.

Early life[edit]

Wild was born into a working class family in Royton, Lancashire, to a labourer father and a mother who worked as a butcher.[2] Wild moved to Hounslow with his parents in 1960.[3] He was discovered whilst playing football by theatrical agent June Collins, the mother of one of Jack's team-mates, Phil Collins[2] (himself a child actor, who would go on to become a member of Genesis and a well-known solo vocal artist).

June Collins enrolled both Jack and his brother Arthur at the Barbara Speake Stage School, an independent school in Acton in West London.[4]

Entertainment career[edit]

Wild with Mayor Pufnstuf on the NBC children's series, H.R. Pufnstuf, 1969

The Wild brothers sought acting roles to supplement their parents' income, and both were cast in a West End theatre production of Lionel Bart's Oliver!, Arthur in the title role, and Jack as a member of Fagin's gang.[4] Although Jack auditioned as The Artful Dodger for several subsequent stage productions of Oliver!, he was always turned down because he was too short.[5] However, he was chosen to portray the Artful Dodger for the 1968 movie version. He received critical acclaim and several nominations:

It was at the 1968 premiere of Oliver! that Wild met brothers Sid and Marty Krofft, who thought he would make a good lead for a show they were developing called H.R. Pufnstuf. Wild starred in this American family television series that launched in 1969, and he was paid $1,000,000 to play "Jimmy", a boy washed up on "Living Island" (a magic island) with his best friend Freddy, a talking flute.[6] He was also in the movie Pufnstuf (1970).[4] Other roles followed, including the films Melody (1971) and Flight of the Doves (1971). The latter film reunited him with Ron Moody, who had played Fagin in Oliver!.

Wild also embarked on a recording career, cutting one album for Capitol Records and two for Buddah Records in the early 1970s. The three albums were called The Jack Wild Album, Everything's Coming Up Roses and Beautiful World.[7]


Wild struggled to make the transition to adult stardom. He had begun smoking at the age of 12, and by age 17 was drinking heavily.[4] At age 21 he was already an alcoholic and a diabetic. This did not help him find acting gigs, and by 1976 his film career was badly stalled. In 1981 he was supposed to star with Suzi Quatro in a series about a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde for British television, but it was cancelled at the last minute. His alcoholism ruined both his career and his marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Gaynor Jones, who left him in 1985 because of his excessive drinking.[4]

After exhausting his remaining fortune Wild lived with his retired father for a few years.[3] His alcoholism caused three cardiac arrests and resulted in several hospital stays until he stopped drinking in 1989.[3] Wild later admitted his alcoholism was so debilitating during this period that from the late 1970s until he went sober, he was incapable of doing any kind of work.[8]

Career restarts[edit]

Wild unsuccessfully attempted various alcoholism rehabilitation programmes and finally gave up drinking on 6 March 1989 after joining Alcoholics Victorious.[8] He returned to the big screen in a few minor roles, such as in the 1991 Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and as a peddler in Basil (1998).[5] For the most part, Wild spent the remainder of his career working in theatre. His last major appearance was as the male lead, "Mouse", in Tayla Goodman's rock musical Virus. The show ran for two weeks at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham. For his final film appearance, Wild had a minor role in Moussaka & Chips (2005), where he once again worked with Ron Moody.[5]


Wild died on 1 March 2006 at age 53 after a long battle with oral cancer, which he blamed on his drinking and smoking.[4][9] Diagnosed with the disease in 2000, he initially underwent chemotherapy, but later had part of his tongue and both vocal cords removed in July 2004.[4] Because of this surgery, he had lost his speech and had to communicate through his wife, Claire Harding, whom he met when they were appearing in Jack and the Beanstalk in Worthing.[4]

Wild is buried in Toddington Parish Cemetery, Bedfordshire.[10]


List of acting performances in film and television
Title Year Alternate titles Role Notes
Danny the Dragon 1967 Gavin
Oliver! 1968 The Artful Dodger First film to co-star with Mark Lester[4] and Ron Moody.
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer
H.R. Pufnstuf 1969–1970 Jimmy TV series
Pufnstuf 1971 Pufnstuf Zaps the World Jimmy
Melody 1971 S.W.A.L.K. Ornshaw Second film to co-star with Mark Lester.[4]
Flight of the Doves 1971 Finn Dove Second film to co-star with Ron Moody.
Caterpiller Taxis 1972
Pied Piper, TheThe Pied Piper 1972 Gavin
Fourteen, TheThe Fourteen 1973 Existence (USA)
The Wild Little Bunch (USA)
The World of Sid & Marty Krofft at the Hollywood Bowl 1973 Jimmy TV special
Keep It Up Downstairs 1976 Peregrine Cockshute
Alice 1981 Mock Turtle
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves 1991 Much the Miller's Son
Basil 1998 Peddler
Moussaka & Chips 2005 Durgen Fleece Third film to co-star with Ron Moody.




List of singles, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions
UK[11] US
"Some Beautiful" 1970 46 92
"Wait For Summer" 1970 115
"(Holy Moses!) Everything's Coming Up Roses" 1971 107
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jack Wild - Awards". IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Jack Wild". The Times (London: Times Newspapers). 3 March 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c "Jack Wild". The Daily Telegraph (London). 3 March 2006. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Jack Wild". independent.co.uk, Obituaries (Independent News and Media Limited). 3 March 2006. 
  5. ^ a b c "Jack Wild - Biography". IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Wild, Jack (actor); Hayes, Billie (actor); Weinrib, Lennie (actor); Gerber, Joan (actor); Edmiston, Walker (actor); Krofft, Marty (writer/creator); Krofft, Sid (writer/creator) (1969). H.R. Pufnstuf (Television production). Rhino Entertainment. UPC 603497011827, ASIN B00013F32G. 
  7. ^ "Jack Wild: Albums". CMT.com. MTV Networks. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Ian Wylie (29 December 2004). "Jack's Wild life | Manchester Evening News". menmedia.co.uk. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  9. ^ ""My lifestyle caused my mouth cancer"". BBC News, Health (BBC). 16 November 2005. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "Jack Wild (1952 - 2006)". Find A Grave. 2 March 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 601. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]