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Jack Wild

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Jack Wild
Wild as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! (1968)
Born(1952-09-30)30 September 1952
Royton, Lancashire, England
Died1 March 2006(2006-03-01) (aged 53)
Tebworth, Bedfordshire, England
Resting placeToddington Parish Cemetery
  • Actor
  • 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. He is best known for his role as the Artful Dodger in the film Oliver! (1968), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the age of 16, becoming the fourth-youngest nominee in the category. He also received BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for the role.

Wild also starred in the television series H.R. Pufnstuf (1969) and its film adaptation Pufnstuf (1970), as well as in the films Melody (1971) and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

Early life and education[edit]

Wild was born into a working-class family in Royton, Lancashire, on 30 September 1952. 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.[1] June Collins enrolled both Jack and Arthur at the Barbara Speake Stage School, an independent school in Acton, west London.[1]

Acting career[edit]


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

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.[2] Wild was chosen to play the Artful Dodger for the 1968 movie version of Oliver! His performance received critical acclaim and several nominations:

TV work[edit]

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

In the spring of 1966, Wild left the stage show of Oliver! to make the film serial Danny the Dragon for the Children's Film Foundation.[3] 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.

After Oliver![edit]

At the 1968 premiere of Oliver!, 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 as Jimmy in Pufnstuf's only season (1969), as well as in the film Pufnstuf (1970), which was released shortly after the show was concluded.

Wild then appeared in Melody (1971, with Oliver! co-star Mark Lester) and Flight of the Doves (1971, with another Oliver! co-star, Ron Moody). 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. On television, Wild appeared in a BBC adaptation of Our Mutual Friend in 1976.[4] During the early 1970s, Wild was considered a teen heartthrob, alongside David Cassidy and Barry Williams. 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 21 being offered the role of a 13-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."

He also embarked on a recording career, releasing The Jack Wild Album for Capitol Records, which contained the single "Some Beautiful". In the early 1970s, Wild also released the albums Everything's Coming Up Roses and Beautiful World for Buddah Records.[5]

Later career[edit]

Wild 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. Wild's 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.[4]

Personal life[edit]

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 1970. They married on 14 February 1976.[6] She left him in 1985 because of his chronic drinking.[2] Wild met his second wife, Claire Harding, when he was working with her in Jack and the Beanstalk in Worthing.[2] They married in Bedford in September 2005.[7] In 2001, Wild was diagnosed with oral cancer; he blamed the disease on his drinking and smoking habits.[8] He underwent chemotherapy immediately, and had his tongue and voice box removed in July 2004, leaving him unable to speak.[2] Wild had to communicate through his wife Claire for the rest of his life.[2]


By 21, Wild was an alcoholic. After exhausting his remaining fortune, he lived with his retired father for a few years.[9] His alcoholism caused three cardiac arrests and resulted in numerous hospital stays.[9] 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 drinking.[2]

During the mid-1980s, he often drank three to four bottles of vodka a week, and typically drank half a bottle of vodka and two bottles of wine every day.[10] He later admitted his alcoholism was so debilitating that he was incapable of performing any kind of work.[11] He once attended a drying-out clinic for drug addicts and alcoholics, run by Pete Townshend, but after being "dry" for six weeks, he bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the fact he had stopped drinking. Wild eventually became sober on 6 March 1989, after joining a support group, Alcoholics Victorious.[11]

Death and legacy[edit]

Wild died on 1 March 2006 of oral cancer.[12] He is buried in Toddington Parish Cemetery, Bedfordshire.[13] He had been unable to speak for the last two years of his life following the operation in which his vocal cords and part of his tongue were removed.[14]

At the time of his death, he and his wife Claire had been working on his autobiography.[15] 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."[10] 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.[10]


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 First film to act alongside Mark Lester[2] 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[2]
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
Alice 1982 Mock Turtle
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves 1991 Much the Miller's Son
Basil 1998 Peddler
Lock, Stock... 2000 Bill Bishop Episode 4: Lock, Stock and Spaghetti Sauce[16]
Moussaka & Chips 2005 Durgen Fleece Third film to act alongside Ron Moody; final film role



  • The Jack Wild Album (1970)[17]
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)[18]
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)[19]
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"


The Jack Wild Album
List of singles, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions
UK[20] 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 "Jack Wild obituary". The Independent. Retrieved 24 November 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Vallance, Tom (3 March 2006). "Jack Wild". The Independent.
  3. ^ "Official Jack Wild Website - Theatre Work". Jackwild.info.
  4. ^ a b "Child star Jack Wild, the Artful Dodger, dies of cancer aged 53". The Guardian. 3 March 2006.
  5. ^ "Jack Wild: Albums". CMT.com. MTV Networks. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  6. ^ General Register Office of England and Wales, Marriages, March quarter 1976, Surrey North, Vol 17, page 156
  7. ^ General Register Office of England and Wales, Marriages, September quarter 2005, Bedford, District 309, Page 0579, entry 004
  8. ^ "Jack Wild". Oralcancerfoundation.org. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Jack Wild". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 March 2006. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  10. ^ a b c Wild, Jack (2016). It's a Dodger's Life. Coventry, West Midlands, England: Fantom Films Limited. p. 440. ISBN 9781781962664.
  11. ^ a b Wylie, Ian (12 January 2013). "Jack's Wild life". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 9 May 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
  12. ^ General Register Office of England and Wales, Deaths, March quarter 2006, Bedford, District 3091G, Register No G7D, entry 099
  13. ^ Wilson, Scott (19 August 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 9781476625997 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Barkham, Patrick (3 March 2006). "Child star Jack Wild, the Artful Dodger, dies of cancer aged 53". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2021. Wild admitted his heavy smoking and drinking made him a "walking time bomb" for mouth cancer. The disease was diagnosed in 2000. Although unable to speak after an operation two years ago...
  15. ^ "Oliver! star Jack Wild dies at 53". BBC News. 2 March 2006. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  16. ^ "...And Spaghetti Sauce". IMDb.
  17. ^ "Jack Wild - The Jack Wild Album". Discogs. 1970. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  18. ^ "Jack Wild - Everything's Coming Up Roses". Discogs. 1971. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Jack Wild - A Beautiful World". Discogs. 1972. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  20. ^ 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

External links[edit]