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The Love Bug star Dean Jones dies aged 84

Published 03/09/2015

Dean Jones, pictured in New York in 1966, has died aged 84 (AP)
Dean Jones, pictured in New York in 1966, has died aged 84 (AP)

Dean Jones, whose boyish good looks and all-American manner made him Disney's favourite actor for such lighthearted films as The Love Bug, has died aged 84.

Publicist Richard Hoffman said that Jones died of Parkinson's disease in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

The actor's long association with The Walt Disney Company began after he received an unexpected call from Walt Disney himself, who praised his work on the 1962 TV sitcom Ensign O'Toole, in which Jones, a former Navy man, played the title role.

Two years later, Jones heard from Disney again, calling this time to offer him a role in That Darn Cat! opposite ingénue Hayley Mills. His FBI agent Zeke Kelso follows a crime-solving cat that leads him to a pair of bank robbers.

Released in 1965, it was the first of 10 Disney films Jones made, most of them in the supernatural vein.

"I see something in them that is pure form. Just entertainment. No preaching," he told the Los Angeles Times. "We're always looking for social significance but maybe people just like to be entertained."

The Love Bug (1969) was the most successful of the genre, with Jones playing a struggling race-driver who acquires a Volkswagen that wins races for him. The Bug, named Herbie, has hidden human traits, and when it feels unappreciated it disappears.

Jones must rescue Herbie from the hands of his nefarious rival and issue the car an apology before it wins the big race for him.

After The Love Bug, Jones returned to the stage, winning the lead role in Stephen Sondheim's Company, although he withdrew from the 1970 production after a short time, citing family problems.

He began his career as a singer before appearing in a string of mostly forgettable films throughout the 1950s, and i n 1960 he made his Broadway debut with Jane Fonda in There Was A Little Girl.

He returned to Hollywood, hitting his stride in Disney's gentle family comedies, including Monkeys, Go Home and Million Dollar Duck.

Jones returned to the Disney studio in 1977 for one more film, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, and 20 years later, he had smaller parts in the remake of That Darn Cat! and the TV version of The Love Bug.

He worked regularly into his 70s, appearing often on TV and in films.

Jones had left his hometown of Decatur, Alabama, at 15, supporting himself by picking cotton and cutting timber until he landed a job as a singer in a New Orleans nightclub. When the club closed, he returned to Decatur to finish high school.

After studying voice at Asbury University in Kentucky, he spent four years in the Navy. Soon after his release, he was signed by MGM.

Jones married Mae Entwisle, a former Miss San Diego, in 1954, and the couple had two daughters, Carol and Deanna. He and his second wife, Lory, had a son, Michael.

Over the course of his career, he appeared in 46 films and five Broadway shows. In 1995, Jones was honoured by his long-time employers with a spot in the Disney Legends Hall of Fame.

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