Jack Wild

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Jack Wild
Jack Wild, 1970
Born(1952-09-30)30 September 1952
Royton, Lancashire, England
Died1 March 2006(2006-03-01) (aged 53)
Tebworth, Bedfordshire, England
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1964–2006
  • Gaynor Jones
    (m. 1976; div. 1985)
  • Claire Harding
    (m. 2005)

Jack Wild (30 September 1952 – 1 March 2006) was an English actor and singer, best known for his debut role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, (1968) for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

Wild is also known for his roles as Jimmy in the NBC children's television series H.R. Pufnstuf (1969) and in the accompanying 1970 feature film as well as Much the Miller's Son in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

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. He moved to Hounslow, in Middlesex, with his parents and his older brother Arthur in 1960 at the age of eight, where he got a job helping the milkman, which paid about five shillings.

He was discovered while playing football with his brother in the park by theatrical agent June Collins, mother of Phil Collins. Collins enrolled both Jack and Arthur at the Barbara Speake Stage School, an independent school in Acton in West London.

Entertainment career[edit]

Wild with the title character in the NBC children's series H.R. Pufnstuf, 1969

The Wild brothers sought acting roles to supplement their parents' income and, in the autumn of 1964, 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, Charley Bates.[1] Although Jack auditioned as The Artful Dodger for several subsequent stage productions of Oliver!, he was always turned down because he was too short.[2] He stayed with the show until the spring of 1966, when he left to make the film serial Danny the Dragon for the Children's Film Foundation.[3]

Wild's first speaking roles on TV were an episode of Out of the Unknown, and the third part of the BBC's version of the Wesker Trilogy, I'm Talking About Jerusalem. By the time he was chosen to portray the Artful Dodger for the 1968 movie version of Oliver! he had also appeared in episodes of Z-Cars, The Newcomers and George and the Dragon. He received critical acclaim and several nominations for his appearance as the Artful Dodger:

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. Pufnstuf was also a segment in the second (and final) season of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, despite 2 episodes remaining unaired until 2018. He starred in the movie Pufnstuf (1970). Other roles followed, including the films Melody (1971) (with Oliver! co-star Mark Lester) and Flight of the Doves (1971). The latter film reunited him with Ron Moody, who had played Fagin in Oliver!. In 1972 he appeared as a stowaway in the Onedin Line episode 'A Woman Alone'.[citation needed] In 1973 he played Reg, the eldest of 14 children living in the east end of London, in the film The 14, orphaned following the death of their mother, played by June Brown. The 14 was directed by David Hemmings.

Wild also embarked on a recording career, cutting one album for Capitol Records- containing the single "Some Beautiful" that received a lot of airplay on Radio Luxembourg, but didn't chart very highly - 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.[4]

At the height of his acting career, Wild usually acted younger than he was. For H.R. Pufnstuf, he was a seventeen-year-old playing a boy who was eleven.

"When I first entered in the show business," Wild said in 1999," Of course I didn't mind playing younger roles. However it did bug me when I would be twenty-one being offered the role of a thirteen-year-old. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy playing these roles; I had barrels of fun, I just wanted more serious and dramatic roles; it's that simple."

During the early 1970s, Wild was considered "one of the world's teen heartthrobs," alongside David Cassidy and Barry Williams. With large hazel eyes, a somewhat pug nose and freckles, Jack was loved and adored by many girls across the globe. "I received roughly 2,000 fan letters a week," he stated in 1989. "I never left any one of them blank. I always answered, even if I was exhausted. I really thought it was one of the most important things."

While Jack and Arthur were at Barbara Speake stage school, Jack met Welsh-born actress Gaynor Jones when they were around twelve years old. After he left the school in 1966, he didn't see her again until Christmas of 1970, when she was hosting a Christmas party. Then, after seeing her for the first time in four years, he got her telephone number and they were soon dating. They married on Valentine's Day 1976; Wild was 23 years old and Jones was 22. Afterwards, they celebrated with a honeymoon to Paris. After they returned they bought a home a few weeks later in Richmond, London.


At age 21 he was already an alcoholic and a diabetic. 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 marriage to Gaynor Jones, who left him in 1985 because of his excessive drinking.[1]

After exhausting his remaining fortune, Wild lived with his retired father for a few years.[5] His alcoholism caused three cardiac arrests and resulted in several hospital stays until he stopped drinking in 1989.[5] He 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.[6] His mother (Vera Boardman) died in 1989 and his brother (Arthur Wild) died in 2000. Wild lost his father (Jack Wild) in 2005, a year before his own death (2006).

Career restarts[edit]

Wild unsuccessfully attempted various alcoholism rehabilitation programmes and finally let go of drinking on 6 March 1989 after joining Alcoholics Victorious.[6] 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).[2] For the most part, he 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, he had a minor role in Moussaka & Chips (2000), where he once again worked with Ron Moody.[2]


In 2000, Jack Wild was diagnosed with oral cancer, blaming the disease on his drinking and/or smoking habits.[7] He underwent chemotherapy immediately and would later have a piece of his tongue and both vocal cords removed in July 2004, leaving him unable to speak. Wild would have to communicate through his second wife, Claire Harding, for the rest of his life. The two met when he was working with her in Jack and the Beanstalk in Worthing.[1]

Wild lost his long battle with oral cancer and passed away on March 1, 2006. He was buried in Toddington Parish Cemetery, Bedfordshire.[8]


At the time of his death, Wild and his wife, Claire Harding, had been working on his autobiography.[9] It was completed by Claire, who explained: 'All the material was there when Jack died, it just needed rearranging, editing, and, in certain sections, writing out from transcripts Jack and I made as we recorded him talking about his life.'[10] The book, It's a Dodger's Life was finally published in 2016 by Fantom Films (ISBN 978-1-78196-266-4) with a foreword by Pufnstuf co-star Billie Hayes, an afterword by Clive Francis, and an epilogue by Claire Harding.[11]


List of acting performances in film and television
Title Year Alternate titles Role Notes
Poor Cow 1967 Boy Playing Football [Wearing Hat] Uncredited
Danny the Dragon 1967 Gavin
Oliver! 1968 The Artful Dodger 1st film to co-star with Mark Lester[1] 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
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour 1969 Jimmy TV series, 1 Season, 17 Episodes (Segment: H.R. Pufnstuf; 2 episodes unreleased)
H.R. Pufnstuf 1969 Jimmy TV series
Pufnstuf 1970 Pufnstuf Zaps the World Jimmy
Melody 1971 S.W.A.L.K. Ornshaw 2nd and last film to co-star with Mark Lester.[1]
Flight of the Doves 1971 Finn Dove 2nd film to co-star with Ron Moody.
The Pied Piper 1972 Gavin
The Onedin Line 1972 Peter Thompson Season 2, Episode 3. The Onedin Line 19th Century shipping BBC television drama series, 1971 to 1980.
The 14 1973 Existence (USA)
The Wild Little Bunch (USA)
Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 1973 Himself Guest Appearance
Keep It Up Downstairs 1976 Peregrine Cockshute
Alicja 1982 Mock Turtle
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves 1991 Much the Miller's Son
Basil 1998 Peddler
Moussaka & Chips 2005 Durgen Fleece 3rd and last film to co-star with Ron Moody. (final film role)



  • The Jack Wild Album (1970)[12]
A1 "Sugar and Spice"
A2 "Early in the Morning"
A3 "Fish And Chips"
A4 "Some Beautiful"
A5 "A Picture of You"
B1 "Wait For Summer"
B2 "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"
B3 "Melody"
B4 "When I'm Sixty-Four"
B5 "Lazy Sunday"
  • Everything's Coming Up Roses (1971)[13]
A1 "(Holy Moses!) Everything's Coming Up Roses"
A2 "The Pushbike Song"
A3 "Cotton Candy"
A4 "Bring Yourself Back To Me"
A5 "Hello (Jack)"
B1 "The Old Man Song (Na Na Na Na)"
B2 "Apeman"
B3 "Takin' It Easy"
B4 "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
B5 "What Have They Done to My Song Ma"
  • A Beautiful World (1972)[14]
A1 "A Beautiful World"
A2 "Punch and Judy"
A3 "Sweet Sweet Lovin'"
A4 "Bird in the Hand"
A5 "The Lord"
B1 "Beggar Boy"
B2 "Songs of Freedom"
B3 "Being With You"
B4 "E.O.I.O."
B5 "Bunny Bunny"


List of singles, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions
UK[15] US
"Some Beautiful" 1970 46 92
"Wait For Summer" 1970 115
"Everything's Coming Up Roses" 1971 107
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Jack Wild". The Independent. 3 March 2006.
  2. ^ a b c "Jack Wild - Biography". IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Official Jack Wild Website - Theatre Work". Jackwild.info.
  4. ^ "Jack Wild: Albums". CMT.com. MTV Networks. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  5. ^ a b "Jack Wild". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 March 2006. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  6. ^ a b Ian Wylie (29 December 2004). "Jack's Wild life | Manchester Evening News". menmedia.co.uk. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Jack Wild". Oralcancerfoundation.org. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Jack Wild (1952–2006)". Find A Grave. 2 March 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  9. ^ "Oliver! star Jack Wild dies at 53". BBC. 2006-03-02. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  10. ^ Wild, Jack (2016). It's a Dodger's Life. Fantom Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78196-266-4.
  11. ^ Published by Fantom Films (ISBN 978-1-78196-266-4)
  12. ^ "Jack Wild - The Jack Wild Album". Discogs. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  13. ^ "Jack Wild - Everything's Coming Up Roses". Discogs. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Jack Wild - A Beautiful World". Discogs. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  15. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 601. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.


  • Wild, Jack. Autobiography: It's A Dodger's Life, Fantom Films 2016. Hardback edition ISBN 978-1-78196-266-4
  • Holmstrom, John. The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995, Norwich, Michael Russell, 1996, p. 296.
  • Dye, David. Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1988, p. 239.

External links[edit]