Thursday, March 02, 2006


The death of Jack Wild, child actor, teen idol and The Artful Dodger in Lionel Bart's Oliver, has been announced.

Born in Royton, Lancashire in 1952, Jack's big break came at the age of eight - a stageschool scout spotted him playing soccer (we're not sure quite how badly you'd have to play football to make someone realise your true metier is showtunes.) Wild won the role of the Dodger in the stage version of Oliver, transferring when the film of the show was made. The part won him an Oscar nomination.

During the promo round for Oliver, he met with Sid and Marty Krofft. At the time, they were developing the original "kids TV? They're all on drugs" show, HR Pufnstuf; they decided Wild would be perfect for the role. He relocated to the US, where he would make seventeen episodes and a feature film of him talking to dragon puppets. The movie co-starred famous celeb death anecdote Mama Cass.

Kellogg's had given away a seven inch single version of the Pufnstuf soundtrack; following on from the success of this, Wild was made into an unlikely teen pop star - three albums, The Jack Wild Album, Everything's Coming Up Roses and Beautiful World were released in the early 1970s.

Wild's early success led to a spell off the rails - he gave his best years to alcohol; the smoking and drinking of those years was to frustrate him with ill-health after he found God and refound his feet. Even after the removal of his voicebox, he continued in pantomime with his wife Claire Harding lip-reading and speaking for him.

His agent Alex Jay said Wild "died peacefully at midnight last night after a long battle with oral cancer."