We're so sad to have to report the death of actor and singer Dean Jones. Jones was 84 and died from Parkinson's disease.
In 1970 Dean Jones originated the iconic role of Bobby, the enigmatic bachelor in Stephen Sondheim's landmark musical Company.
Shortly after opening night Jones bowed out of the role as he was apparently in the process of a messy divorce. Producer Hal Prince released Jones from his contract and he was replaced by Larry Kert who both looked and sounded like Jones.
Kert was so compelling in the role of Bobby that critics who re-reviewed the show praised him lavishly and he received a Tony nomination for his performance even though he didn't originate the role.
Still, it's the voice of Dean Jones that you hear on the original cast album of the show and it's Jones who gets to sing the big numbers in the memorable documentary of that recording session.
Dean Carroll Jones was born in Decatur, Alabama, to Andrew Guy Jones, a traveling construction worker, and Nolia Elizabeth White Jones. As a student at Decatur's Riverside High School Jones had his own local radio show, Dean Jones Sings.
Jones served in the Navy during the Korean War, and after his discharge worked at the Bird Cage Theater at Knott's Berry Farm in California.
Jones attended Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, as a member of its Class of 1953, but did not graduate. The university, however, awarded him an honorary degree in 2002, and he spoke at the ceremony for the dedication of Asbury's Andrew S. Miller Center for Communications Arts in 2011.
Jones made his film debut in the 1956 boxing film Somebody Up There Likes Me, which starred Paul Newman.
The next year he appeared in the Elvis Presley movie Jailhouse Rock.
He also starred on Broadway in such works as There Was a Little Girl, with Jane Fonda, and the hit Under the Yum-Yum Tree, also starring in the 1963 Jack Lemmon film.
But Jones probably had his greatest success as a Disney player, usually playing genial fathers or dumbfounded leading men.
His Disney debut came in That Darn Cat!, as an an FBI agent who solves a kidnapping with the help of the title character. He followed that with such films as Monkeys, Go Home! (1967), The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968) and the extremely popular The Love Bug (1969), about a Volkswagen with a mind of its own.
That film generated four sequels.
Dean Jones' personal story is inspiring.
Jones became a devout born-again Christian in 1973–1974, before his father's death in 1979. He had a history of suffering from depression. His wife Lory said, "One night he got down on his knees and prayed that God would free him from the miserable moods that he had always suffered. He told me that in an instant it was gone and he felt peace and joy flood into his heart." Jones has appeared in several Christian films.
In 1998 Jones founded the Christian Rescue Committee (CRC), an organization that helps provide a "way of escape to Jews, Christians, and others persecuted for their faith.
Jones is survived by his wife of 42 years, Lory Basham Jones, three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.