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Obituary: Christopher Jones

Ryan's Daughter

Obituary by Jack Foley

FORMER actor Christopher Jones, best known for his role in David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter, has died at the age of 72.

He passed away on Friday, January 31, 2014, in California from complications caused by cancer.

Born on August 18, 1941, Jones grew up an orphan in Jackson, Tennesseee but soon developed a passion for acting and tried out for the Actors’ Studio in New York before appearing on Broadway in The Night of the Iguana in 1961.

He then turned his attention to TV, landing the role of the notorious outlaw in The Legend of Jesse James in 1965. But the Western only survived for one season in the face of steep competition from The Lucy Show and Dr Kildaire.

A movie career soon followed, though, and after appearing with Susan Strasberg in 1967’s Chubasco, he took on the role of Max Frost, the malevolent rock star who becomes president, in cult classic satire Wild in the Streets.

Frank Pierson’s The Looking Glass War followed in 1969, which was adapted from John le Carre’s spy novel and which saw him playing a civilian who is recruited by British intelligence to go behind the Iron Curtain on a mission.

And then in 1970, he was cast in the role of Randolph Doryan, a dashing but shell-shocked British officer who had an affair with a married Irish woman (Sarah Miles) during World War I, in Lean’s classic Ryan’s Daughter. The film gained a certain notoriety for a love-making scene between Jones and Miles in the woods that was considered risque at the time.

Jones retired from acting soon after, later revealing in an interview with a British newspaper in 2007 that he had been having an affair with Sharon Tate, the actress and wife of director Roman Polanski, during the filming of Ryan’s Daughter.

When Tate was murdered by members of Charles Manson’s gang in Los Angeles in August 1969, Jones was devastated and opted to retire from the limelight.

He did make another acting appearance in the 1996 comedy crime caper Mad Dog Time but only after Quentin Tarantino had tried unsuccessfully to lure him back to the screen in the role of Zed in his classic Pulp Fiction in 1994.

The director remained a fan of Jones, describing him as “a movie star”, drawing favourable comparisons to James Dean and saying: “With the right person handling and directing, he could still be as big as anybody,” he told with the right person handling and directing, he could still be as big as anybody.”

However, Jones also established a successful career as an artist and sculptor and his oil painting of legendary actor Rudolph Valentino was displayed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Jones is survived by his wife McKenna, and his children Seagen, Calin, Tauer, Delon, Jeremy, Christopher and Jennifer.