'Ryan's Daughter' Star Christopher Jones Dies at 72
Christopher Jones, an heir apparent to James Dean who starred in such films as The Looking Glass War and Ryan’s Daughter before quitting show business at the height of his brief but dazzling career, has died. He was 72.
Jones, who also toplined the Samuel Z. Arkoff cult classic Wild in the Streets (1968) and played the title character in the ABC series The Legend of Jesse James, died Friday at Los Alamitos (Calif.) Medical Center of complications from cancer, Paula McKenna told The Hollywood Reporter. McKenna had four children with Jones.
In Ryan’s Daughter (1970), directed by famed British helmer David Lean, Jones played Randolph Doryan, a dashing but shell-shocked British officer who has an affair with a married Irish woman (Sarah Miles) during World War I. He and Miles have a memorable lovemaking scene in the woods.
In 2007, Jones told a British newspaper that during the filming of the movie he was having a real-life affair with actress Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski. When she was brutally murdered by members of Charles Manson’s gang in Los Angeles in August 1969, Jones was devastated and gave up acting, McKenna said.
Quentin Tarantino offered Jones the part of Zed in Pulp Fiction (1994) but he turned it down, and Peter Greene got the job. Jones’ next and final screen appearance would come in the comedic crime movie Mad Dog Time (1996), directed by Larry Bishop, son of comic actor Joey Bishop.
“He had excitement. He was a movie star,” Tarantino said in a 1999 episode of E! True Hollywood Story. “He looked like James Dean, but Chris Jones didn’t take himself seriously like James Dean. He was a big comer — and with the right person handling and directing, he could still be as big as anybody.”
Jones grew up an orphan in Jackson, Tenn. He tried out for the Actors Studio in New York and appeared on Broadway in The Night of the Iguana in 1961. Later, he married Susan Strasberg, the daughter of Actors Studio founder Lee Strasberg.
Jones came to Hollywood and landed a gig as the notorious outlaw in The Legend of Jesse James, but the Western, facing steep competition on Monday nights from The Lucy Show on CBS and Dr. Kildare on NBC, lasted just one season, airing from September 1965 to May 1966.
After he and Susan Strasberg appeared in Chubasco (1967), Jones played Max Frost, the malevolent rock star who becomes president, in American International Pictures’ Wild in the Streets. The satire also starred Shelley Winters and, in one of his first films, Richard Pryor.
In Frank Pierson’s The Looking Glass War (1969), adapted from the spy novel by John le Carre, Jones portrays a civilian who is recruited by British intelligence to go behind the Iron Curtain on a mission.
Jones also starred in Three in the Attic (1968) as a man who gets his comeuppance from three girls who discover he’s been three-timing them.
He most recently had a career as an artist and sculptor; his oil painting of legendary actor Rudolph Valentino was displayed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
In addition to McKenna, survivors include his children Seagen, Calin, Tauer, Delon, Jeremy, Christopher and Jennifer.