Born: 30 September 1952
Died: 1 March 2006 (cancer)
Birthplace: Manchester, England
Best known as: The Artful Dodger in the 1968 film Oliver!
Jack Wild was still a teenager when he was nominated for an Academy Award for Oliver!
, the 1968 film of the old Charles Dickens
tale. Wild played the Artful Dodger, the puckish and top-hatted urchin pickpocket who takes Oliver Twist under his wing. Jack Wild went on to star in the oddly fantastical Saturday-morning series H.R. Pufnstuf
and the spinoff movie Pufnstuf
(1970, with Mama Cass Elliot
). The PufnStuf stories became cult hits and may have brought Wild more fame in America than the Oscar nomination. He was briefly a teen heartthrob, even releasing a music album (Everything's Coming Up Roses
, 1971). Jack Wild lost years of his later career to alcoholism, but he sobered up and returned to acting in the 1990s. Wild was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth in 2001, and a result his larynx (voice box) and tongue were surgically removed in 2004; the operation left him unable to speak. He died of the disease in 2006.
Jack Wild had a small role as one of Robin Hood‘s merry men in the 1991 Kevin Costner movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves… H.R. Pufnstuf was created by Sid and Marty Krofft, who also produced the Saturday-morning shows Land of the Lost and Lidsville… In a 2005 interview with the BBC, Jack Wild said his cancer was caused by his previous habits: “What I learned very quickly was that my lifestyle had made me a walking time bomb. I was a heavy smoker and an even heavier drinker and apparently together they are a deadly mixture.”
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