Freddie Jones RIP

Helen Bessemer-Clark
👍 1

Fri 12 Jul, 23:14

Very sad about Freddie.  Many Charlbury residents may remember him performing at the Charlbury Festival two years ago in the garden of Spring Cottage.  He gave, together with Jennie,  a stirring rendition of some favourite poems and scripts, all washed down with the necessary whisky, and continued on, with the audience's enthusiasm, to perform well after his scheduled time. A complete charmer, and we will all miss him.  Our thoughts are with his family.

Stephen Andrews

Fri 12 Jul, 08:03

Today's Guardian Obit quoted him as saying that "My life springs from my wife, my family and my whisky". He and Jenny hosted a large Charlbury reception in Crinan House many years ago, where Freddie had secreted small glasses of whisky in strategic, hidden locations throughout the house. He memorably asked me to 'keep cavey' for him. Great, friendly character.

Rosemary Bennett

Thu 11 Jul, 22:02

Thanks Tim for downloading the obituary. It's very sad to think of Freddie being no more, he really should have lived forever. I am sad for his lovely family.

Brigid Sturdy

Thu 11 Jul, 14:26

Thank you, Tim, for downloading the obituary.

Mandy cooper
👍 1

Thu 11 Jul, 12:53

When Iworked in the bull Freddie would come in always called me Amanda he would say Amanda would you like a drink as i was working i would say i'll have a coke please to this he would say thats not a drink ill put one behind for whne you finsh. lovely bloke. 


Nick Millea
👍 1

Thu 11 Jul, 12:02

Soon after first moving to Charlbury, we were in The Bell one lunchtime, and in came Freddie. He hurled his hat across the room towards a hatstand and missed. "That's why I'll never play Bond", he bellowed. Unforgettable!

Tim at Cotswold Frames
👍 2

Thu 11 Jul, 11:41 (last edited on Thu 11 Jul, 11:43)

In today's Telegraph was this very interesting obituary for Freddie 

Freddie Jones, who has died aged 91, left a job as an industrial chemist in his thirties and established himself with a minimum of fuss and publicity as one of Britain’s most respected actors.

He created the part of the fruity actor-manager “Sir” in Ronald Harwood’s play The Dresser and became a favourite performer of the American film director David Lynch; but his theatrical style of acting seemed paradoxically to flourish best on the small screen, and he appeared in some 150 television plays and series before finding a berth in old age in the soap opera Emmerdale.

Tall, tousle-haired, volatile, lugubrious, twitchy and tense, Jones gave the impression of being born after his time. With his rubicund complexion, rolling eyes, intimidating manner and an ambivalent sense of comedy that left audiences uncertain how seriously he was taking himself, he had a commanding if eccentric presence on stage and before the camera.

Within a decade of making his belated television debut he was named the World’s Best Television Actor of the Year at the 1969 Monte Carlo Television Festival for his portrayal of Claudius in Granada’s The Caesars, a performance preferred by many connoisseurs of television drama to Derek Jacobi’s more famous interpretation of the emperor. Before filming the series he kept a stone in his shoe for three months to help him perfect Claudius’s limp.

He harboured a nostalgic admiration for the grand manner of an earlier generation of players and was in his exuberant element as the booming, egocentric Shakespearean actor in The Dresser, which premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in 1980 before transferring to the Queen’s Theatre in the West End, and was based on Harwood’s memories of working as dresser to Sir Donald Wolfit in the 1950s.

Freddie Jones as Claudius, with Nicola Pagett as Messalina, in The Caesars

Freddie Jones as Claudius, with Nicola Pagett as Messalina, in The Caesars CREDIT: ITV/REX

Few players could have projected so forcibly and yet so sympathetically the ailing actor’s flamboyant style and theatrical philosophy without lapsing into mockery, and many of those who had seen Wolfit act judged Jones superior to Albert Finney, who took the role in the 1983 film version.

“Freddie Jones, with his orotund voice, has the dignity and the absurdity of a player who half-believes himself one of the immortals, but who can yet remark of a rival, with authentic backstage bitchiness, ‘I was pleasantly disappointed’,” wrote John Barber in The Daily Telegraph.

It was this part that caught the attention of David Lynch, who gave Jones his best film role, as Bytes, the sadistic freak-show proprietor who abducts the deformed John Merrick (John Hurt) in The Elephant Man (1980); he managed to suggest a twisted affection for Merrick beneath the malevolence.

Jones worked for Lynch again in the films Dune (1984), Wild at Heart (1990) and Hotel Room (1993) and the television series On the Air (1992).

With his raffish Bohemian charm, Jones had the aura of the old-style freebooting stage actor who did not wish to owe his soul to any particular company but responded to the thrill of the sudden phone call. He was a fascinating combination of pragmatist and romantic.

Frederick Charles Jones was born in Stoke-on-Trent on September 12 1927. His father, Charles Jones, was an electrical porcelain thrower, and his mother Ida (née Goodwin), a clerk, was well-known locally as a pub pianist: “She played piano in Longton the way most people play rugby,” Jones told the Telegraph, “as though she had a grudge against it.”

The family was poor and lived on a street of terraced houses where “you could practically chew on the smoke from the kilns”.

Freddie Jones (left) as Bytes, the sadistic freak-show proprietor who abducts John Merrick (John Hurt) in The Elephant Man

He studied hard and progressed through grammar school in Longton to become a lab assistant at the headquarters of the British Ceramic Research Association at Penkhull, specialising in working on urinals and lavatories.

Years later he would recall the misery of this period: at 25 he was a virgin and seemed stuck for life in a job that was driving him “clinically insane”. Then he met his first girlfriend, who introduced him to a local drama course where the teacher, Mrs Deeley, changed his life.

She told him she could not understand why a man of his talent was working in science and applied for a prospectus on his behalf from every drama college in the country.

He secured a scholarship to Rose Bruford College, Sidcup, where he ironed out the vowels of his Stoke accent. After a period with Lincoln Rep he went to live in London in a house with several indigent actors and writers: the basement housed Tom Stoppard, whom he remembered staying up all night writing scripts for Mrs Dale’s Diary.

Jones joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych, playing Cucurucu in Peter Brook’s production of Marat/Sade, reprising the part on Broadway and in the film version of 1967. But he did not relish his time at the RSC – “I was marked down, along with people like Tim West and John Nettleton, as a BCM – a bad company member” – and turned down an offer to rejoin them in 1980.

His other major stage parts included Alec in Stanley Eveling’s two-hander Dear Janet Rosenberg, Dear Mr Kooning (Hampstead Theatre, 1969), about a middle-aged novelist corresponding with a young female admirer; the title role in David Mercer’s Flint (Oxford Playhouse, 1970); Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman (Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford, 1975); a pederastic remittance man in Harwood’s Tramway Road (Lyric, Hammersmith, 1984); and Malvolio in Griff Rhys Jones’s production of Twelfth Night (Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1991).

Freddie Jones as Sandy Thomas, with Harriet Bellamy as his daughter Laurel, in Emmerdale

Freddie Jones as Sandy Thomas, with Harriet Bellamy as his daughter Laurel, in Emmerdale CREDIT: ITV/REX

Two parts seemed, in retrospect, rehearsals for The Dresser: another actor of the old school in Mercer’s A Life in the Theatre (Open Space, 1979); and the guilt-ridden Mathias, the part created by Sir Henry Irving, in Leopold Lewis’s Victorian melodrama The Bells (Greenwich, 1976). He gave up stage work in the early 1990s, apart from a brief return in the surreal comedy Bewilderness (Lyric, Hammersmith) in 2001.

In the cinema his poignant performance as the monster in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), the best of his several Hammer horrors, drew favourable comparisons with Boris Karloff.

He took the lead in Fellini’s gently surreal comedy And the Ship Sails On (1983), set on an ocean liner, and was an eccentric scientist in the Clint Eastwood thriller Firefox (1982). Among his other films were Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Zulu Dawn (1979), Krull (1983), Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and The Count of Monte Cristo (2002).

In 2004 he appeared in Ladies in Lavender starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith; “Piss-poor part,” he told the director, Charles Dance, “but I’ll do it because I’m in love with Judi Dench.”

But it was television that he regarded as his true home, he said. He made his debut in a bit part in Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion in 1960; the director, Ronald Eyre, was so pleased with him that he expanded the role.

Jones first gained real attention as the sinister Corporal-Major Ludovic in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour in 1967, and among many other television productions he was memorable in Alice Through the Looking Glass as Humpty Dumpty; Pennies from Heaven; The Mayor of Casterbridge; Nicholas Nickleby, as, inevitably, Vincent Crummles; The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole as the headmaster Pop-Eye Scruton; Vanity Fair as Sir Pitt Crawley; Inspector Morse, as a louche artist; The League of Gentlemen, and two versions of Cold Comfort Farm, in 1968 and 1995. He particularly enjoyed playing Sir George Uproar in the late-1970s children’s series The Ghosts of Motley Hall.

In 2005 he joined Emmerdale as Sandy Thomas, the scapegrace father of the vicar. He mostly provided comic relief, but latterly enjoyed more serious storylines, when his son succumbed to dementia and then died. He left the series in 2018 aged 90, complaining that the scriptwriters were not giving him enough to do.

Freddie Jones married, in 1965, the actress Jennie Heslewood, with whom he had three sons: Toby and Casper, both actors, and Rupert, a director.

Toby Jones, who has joined him in the pantheon of Britain’s treasured character actors, observed of his father in 2015: “In a way, acting saved his life … he fell in love with the romance of acting. Suddenly he could express himself. And I think, to this day, he can key into that euphoria.”

Freddie Jones, born September 12 1927, died July 9 2019

Catherine Kimmance

Wed 10 Jul, 20:11

What a lovely man, and as has been said, a real gentleman with a friendly smile for everyone.  Great anecdotes, great fun and great talent. Condolences to his lovely wife and family. 

Deborah Longshaw
👍 1

Wed 10 Jul, 18:55

Loved Freddie, always had a friendly smile or wave. 

An amazing man & actor (to still be working in his 90’s) has passed his legacy onto to his sons. 

You will be missed.

Susie Finch
(site admin)
👍 1

Wed 10 Jul, 18:47

Lovely man, great actor and wonderful character.  He will be sorely missed.  RIP Freddie x

Charlie M
👍 1

Wed 10 Jul, 18:33 (last edited on Thu 11 Jul, 12:37)

An absolute Gent. 
Also a star in one of my favourite films of all time - "Far from the Madding Crowd".

RIP Sir.

Alex Flynn
👍 1

Wed 10 Jul, 16:27

Lovely bloke Freddie and a great loss to both the acting profession and the human race. Such a nice family too. 

As a family friend I am still finding it hard to take in but at 91 he had a damn good innings. 


Paul Taylor
👍 2

Wed 10 Jul, 14:37

Sad to hear the loss of Freddie Jones. He was one of the first people to welcome us into the town. Some of the lads were having a few bears around town we were in to Bull  and going to play darts in Ye olde three Horseshoes Freddie asked if he could come what a funny Man great night

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