Thursday, March 02, 2006

WILD RESTS IN PEACE. Before you have another smoke and a drink, note this woeful tale: Jack Wild, who wowed audiences with his stage and screen performances as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! and also starred in the TV series H.R. Pufnstuf, has died at 53 after a long struggle against oral cancer that involved the removal of his voice box and tongue, according to Guardian Unlimited. Guardian quotes Wild as saying, "I was a heavy smoker and an even heavier drinker and apparently together they are a deadly mixture." Apparently.

Last year a friend and I reminisced about Wild's charisma as a young actor. I can't tell if the full extent of it comes across to anyone today, but back then his vitality and delivery were powerful, bringing life to the movie Oliver! He was the coolest little singing British punk, like a younger Davy Jones (who also played the Artful Dodger on stage).

H.R. Pufnstuf aired about a year later. Then came the movie Pufnstuf, which might surprise you with its chaotic proto-Peewee psychedelia and performance by "Mama" Cass Elliot alongside scenery-chewers Billie Hayes and Martha Raye.

Here's MSNBC/AP and Washington Post/AP coverage.

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