1970, the charismatic actor Christopher Jones (then starring in David Lean’s
epic Ryan’s Daughter) turned his back on movie stardom to lead a life of almost
total anonymity. Today, Jones is a working artist who specializes in paintings
with a classical antiquity theme and in portraits of Hollywood legends such as
James Dean – to whom Jones once bore a striking resemblance.
studied at the Actors Studio and perfected his craft on episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Naked City, the extraordinarily handsome,
Tennessee-born actor moved steadily up the Hollywood ladder through the late
sixties. He starred in The Legend of
Jesse James – a TV western that lasted through the 1965-66 season – and
threeB-pictures: the love
story Chubasco (in which he
appeared with then-wife Susan Strasberg); the sex romp Three in the Attic; and the cult movie satire Wild in the Streets, in which Jones
plays Max Frost, the youngest-ever President of the United States, consigning
over-30s to psychedelic concentration camps.
Jones photographed in 2008 by Greg Bryan.
then traveled to Europe to star in three ‘A’ pictures – the rarely seen romance
Brief Season; the spy thriller The Looking Glass War; and Ryan’s Daughter, in which he delivers
a haunting performance as a shell-shocked English major posted to Ireland
during the Troubles in 1915. And then, on the cusp of superstardom, Jones
disappeared from movie screens. He didn’t make another film for 26 years. In
1996, Jones turned up in a cameo as a cool gangster wearing Ray-Bans in the
black comedy Trigger Happy
(also released as Mad Dog Time).
Jones agreed to appear in the film as a
favor to his old friend and Wild in the Streets co-star, actor-director Larry
“It was no big deal, just something to do,” according to
Jones, who – although he was quite memorable in his three-minute scene as a
stylish hit man – hasn’t appeared in a film since. Not that he could
have even if he’d wanted to, while slowly recovering from a serious health
challenge. In November 1997, Jones suffered an almost fatal attack of
perforated ulcers – similar to what killed his idol Rudolph Valentino.
what is Jones, who is now 67, up to almost 40 years after his vanishing act?
is doing great,” says his business manager Sherry Dodd. “He is not going to
have an operation (elective surgery to
correct slight complications caused by the ulcer – Ed.). His vitality
is up and he's feeling fine. He spends a lot of time with his children at
his beach house. When he's in Hollywood, he stays with me in our place near the
Sunset Strip and we are the closest of friends. He reads scripts when he's here
and he says they are of interest, but he still contends he has no desire to
return to acting. Directing maybe, if the right project comes along that he
believes in. Chris is still an artist at heart, whether it's doing portraits or
the Hollywood Legends series. We will be selling on eBay again soon or if we
decide to do a new website. Chris is constantly getting requests for interviews
and now he will only do them for money.”
Jones will always remain a fascinating footnote in Hollywood history… the actor
who effortlessly achieved success in the film industry at a young age, whose
Max Frost is the emblematic counterculture hero of the sixties – and then who opted
for obscurity instead, choosing to give up showbiz and make his living as an
artist. The reasons for his avoiding the limelight are the cause of endless
speculation, much of it rather gloomy and sordid, but it could very well be
that the man simply valued his privacy over stardom. It happens.
(Chris Jones invites comments from his fans. Write to him at ChrisJonesInc@aol.com)