The title star’s conscience may have been Jiminy Cricket, but his voice in the 1940 Walt Disney animated feature Pinocchio belonged to 10-year-old Dick Jones, who made millions of fellow youngsters cry when his screen character was reunited with his father and then turned into a real boy.
Jones, not only the voice of Pinocchio but the veteran of 40 movies before he landed that role, died Monday night after a fall in his San Fernando Valley, California, home, his son, Rick Jones, told the Los Angeles Times. He was 87.
Inducted in 2000 as a “Disney Legend” at the studio that produced the beloved movie (which, coincidentally, was a box-office flop upon its initial release), Jones said: “At the time, Pinocchio was just a job. Who knew it would turn out to be the classic that it is today? I count my lucky stars that I had a part in it.”
His work on it lasted 19 months. He also rankled when anyone called the film a “cartoon.” “It’s an animated feature!” he’d respond in a huff.
According to the Associated Press, Jones was the son of a Texas newspaper editor and learned to ride and rope from an early age. By the time he was 4, he’d had a Western show career, which was parlayed on to the screen.
Later roles included that of hormonal high school kid Henry Aldrich, on radio’s The Aldrich Family, and parts in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with Jimmy Stewart, Destry Rides Again, with Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, and Stella Dallas, with Barbara Stanwyck. He was often on 1950s TV Westerns, including the lead on Buffalo Bill, Jr..
In all, he had made nearly 100 movies before retiring from acting in 1959 and turning to real estate and banking.
Jones is survived by his wife of 66 years, Betty, as well as two sons, two sisters, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, reports the Times.