In Remembrance: Jack Wild
Jack Wild, the child star who earned an Academy Award nomination at age 16 for his role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! (1968), has passed away on March 1, 2006 in London, England. He was 53.
Born on September 30, 1952 in Royton, Lancashire, England, Wild was discovered by talent agent June Collins while he was playing soccer with her son, future rock star Phil Collins. After guest appearances on several British television series and a role in the British family film Danny The Dragon (1967), Wild was cast in a London stage production of Oliver! - a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist – where he impressed audiences in the role of the Artful Dodger, the juvenile henchman to the villainous Fagin played by Ron Moody. The musical was adapted to film with Wild joining Moody in recreating their roles. Wild received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work.
Wild followed up Oliver! with the lead in the children’s fantasy television series H. R. Pufnstuf. Produced by Sid and Marty Kroft, Wild played a young boy transported to a fantastic land populated by imaginative giant puppets. The show ran for three years and even spun off a film version titled simply Pufnstuf in 1970.
However, after H. R. Pufnstuf ended, Wild found film roles few and far between. He would only appear in a handful of films, most notably the 1972 fantasy The Pied Piper with pop star Donovan, before severe alcoholism derailed his career.
In the 1990s, Wild had come to grips with his problems and returned to acting, mostly in regional theater. He appeared in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves in the supporting role of Much The Miller’s Son and the romantic drama Basil (1998). His final film appearance was in the 2005 adventure film Moussaka & Chips and saw him reunited with Oliver! co-star Moody.