Wild dressed up as his character from Oliver! in 1968
|Died||1 March 2006 (aged 53)|
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).
Wild was born into a working-class family in Royton, Lancashire. In 1960, at the age of eight, with his parents and his elder brother Arthur, he moved to Hounslow, in Middlesex, where he got a job helping the milkman, which paid about five shillings.
While playing football with his brother in the park, he was discovered 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, west London.
The Wild brothers sought acting roles to supplement their parents' income. In the autumn of 1964 the pair were cast in the West End theatre production of Lionel Bart's Oliver! – Arthur in the title role and Jack as Charley Bates, a member of Fagin's gang.
Wild was chosen to play the Artful Dodger for the 1968 movie version of Oliver!. His performance received critical acclaim and several nominations:
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor - nominated at the 41st Academy Awards
- Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer - nominated at 26th Golden Globe Awards
- BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer - nominated at 22nd British Academy Film Awards
Wild's first speaking roles on TV were in an episode of Out of the Unknown, and in the third part of the BBC's version of the 'Wesker trilogy', I'm Talking About Jerusalem. He also appeared in episodes of Z-Cars, The Newcomers and George and the Dragon.
At the 1968 premiere of Oliver!, Jack 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. H.R. Pufnstuf was also a segment in the second (and final) season of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, despite two episodes remaining unaired until 2018. Wild also starred in the film Pufnstuf (1970), filmed shortly after production on the television show had concluded.
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, Wild appeared as a stowaway in an episode of BBC TV's The Onedin Line. In 1973 he played Reg in The 14, a film directed by David Hemmings about a family of London children orphaned by the death of their mother. On television, Wild appeared in a BBC adaptation of Our Mutual Friend in 1976.
He also embarked on a recording career, releasing The Jack Wild Album for Capitol Records. This contained the single "Some Beautiful", which received considerable exposure on Radio Luxembourg but did not chart well. Wild also released the albums Everything's Coming Up Roses and Beautiful World for Buddah Records in the early 1970s.
However, by now Wild was becoming tired of being typecast in younger roles. He was 17 years old when he played the 11-year-old lead in H.R. Pufnstuf. In 1999, Wild lamented, "When I first entered in the show business, 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."
By 1973, aged 21, he was an alcoholic. After exhausting his remaining fortune, Wild lived with his retired father for a few years. His alcoholism caused three cardiac arrests and resulted in numerous hospital stays. He was diagnosed with diabetes on 14 March 1983. His alcoholism ruined both his career and marriage to Gaynor Jones, who left him in 1985 because of his excessive drinking. During the mid-1980s, he often drank three to four bottles of vodka a week; he typically drank half a bottle of vodka and two bottles of wine every day. He later admitted his alcoholism was so debilitating that he was incapable of performing any kind of work.
Wild eventually became sober on 6 March 1989, after joining the support group, Alcoholics Victorious.
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). 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, in 1999. For his final film appearance he had a minor role in Moussaka & Chips (2005), in which he once again worked with Ron Moody.
Wild first met Welsh-born actress Gaynor Jones when they were around 12 years old at the Barbara Speake stage school. After he left in 1966, he did not see her again until Christmas of 1970. They married on 14 February 1976. She left him in 1985 because of his chronic drinking. He met his second wife, Claire L. Harding, when he was working with her in Jack and the Beanstalk in Worthing. They married in Bedford in September 2005.
In 2001, Wild was diagnosed with oral cancer, blaming the disease on his drinking and smoking habits. He underwent chemotherapy immediately, and had his tongue and voicebox removed in July 2004, leaving him unable to speak. Wild had to communicate through his wife Claire for the rest of his life.
Death and legacy
At the time of his death, he and his wife, Claire, had been working on his autobiography. She said: '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.' The book, It's a Dodger's Life, was published in 2016 with a foreword by Pufnstuf co-star Billie Hayes, an afterword by Clive Francis, and an epilogue by Wild's wife.
|Poor Cow||1967||Boy Playing Football [Wearing Hat]||Uncredited|
|Danny the Dragon||1967||Gavin|
|Oliver!||1968||The Artful Dodger||First film to act alongside Mark Lester 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||Jimmy||TV series, 1 Season, 17 Episodes (Segment: H.R. Pufnstuf; 2 episodes unreleased)|
|Pufnstuf||1970||Pufnstuf Zaps the World||Jimmy|
|Melody||1971||S.W.A.L.K.||Ornshaw||Second and last film to act alongside Mark Lester|
|Flight of the Doves||1971||Finn Dove||Second film to act alongside Ron Moody|
|The Pied Piper||1972||Gavin|
|The Onedin Line||1972||Peter Thompson||Season 2, Episode 3|
|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|
|Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves||1991||Much the Miller's Son|
|Moussaka & Chips||2005||Durgen Fleece||Third film to act alongside Ron Moody; final film role|
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions|
|"Wait For Summer"||1970||—||115|
|"Everything's Coming Up Roses"||1971||—||107|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart.|
- Vallance, Tom (3 March 2006). "Jack Wild". The Independent.
- "Official Jack Wild Website - Theatre Work". Jackwild.info.
- "Jack Wild: Albums". CMT.com. MTV Networks. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- "Jack Wild". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 March 2006. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- Wild, Jack It's a Dodger's Life (2016) p. 440
- Ian Wylie (29 December 2004). "Jack's Wild life |". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
- General Register Office of England and Wales, Marriages, March quarter 1976, Surrey North, Vol 17, page 156
- General Register Office of England and Wales, Marriages, September quarter 2005, Bedford, District 309, Page 0579, entry 004
- "Jack Wild". Oralcancerfoundation.org. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- General Register Office of England and Wales, Deaths, March quarter 2006, Bedford, District 3091G, Register No G7D, entry 099
- Resting Places
- "Oliver! star Jack Wild dies at 53". BBC News. 2 March 2006. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
- Wild, Jack (2016). It's a Dodger's Life. Fantom Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78196-266-4.
- "Jack Wild - The Jack Wild Album". Discogs. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "Jack Wild - Everything's Coming Up Roses". Discogs. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- "Jack Wild - A Beautiful World". Discogs. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
- 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. ISBN 978-0859551786
- Dye, David. Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1988, p. 239. ISBN 9780899502472
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