BY THEIR FRUIT YE SHALL KNOW THEM
Dean Jones: Star, Celebrity, Father, and Evangelist…But, Not in That Order
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Founder and Publisher
Actor Dean Jones (THE LOVE BUG, BEETHOVEN, THE SHAGGY D.A.) was a good friend to many people and great causes, including MOVIEGUIDE®.
We recently went to his memorial service at Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif. Dean had come to several of our Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala & Report to the Entertainment Industry and met with us several times to break bread at a meal He was always upbeat and filled with vim and vigor, but especially focused on the joy of being a member of the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Born in Decatur, Ala. in 1931, Dean had his own radio show, DEAN JONES SINGS, while in high school. Eventually, after serving in the Navy during the Korean War, he made his way to California, where he worked at Knotts Berry Farm, in their Bird Cage Theater.
He signed a contract with MGM and had a small role in the 1956 movie about colorful boxer Rocky Graziano, SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, starring Paul Newman. A year later, he landed a major role as a disc jockey in the classic Elvis Presley movie, JAILHOUSE ROCK.
After getting acclaim for his 1960 Broadway role of Dave Manning in UNDER THE YUM YUM TREE and repeating the role in the 1963 movie version starring Jack Lemmon, Walt Disney offered him the lead male role in THAT DARN CAT!, a 1965 mystery comedy starring Dorothy Provine as Dean’s romantic interest and Disney’s main star at the time, Hayley Mills, who played Dorothy’s sister.
The rest, as they say, is history.
THAT DARN CAT! was a smash hit, and Dean became Disney’s top box office star, playing in such hits as THE UGLY DAUCHSHUND, BLACKBEARD’S GHOST and THE LOVE BUG, plus several LOVE BUG sequels.
He created the role of Bobbie in Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed 1970 musical COMPANY, but had to leave the show shortly after opening night because of personal problems. A clip of him singing the heck out of the musical’s signature song reveals just how talented Dean truly was.
Dean became a born-again Christian in 1973-74 and started bringing many other people to Christ.
In the mid-1980s, Dean sent us his one-man video, ST. JOHN IN EXILE, and we gave him a great review. Why? Because, he communicated the power of the story of the Apostle John in amazing and revealing ways.
Listening to Dean’s endless credits at the memorial service from legendary singer and actor Pat Boone who said he wanted to be like Dean Jones, to the beautiful video remembrance from Gavin McLeod (OPERATION PETTICOAT, MCHALE’S NAVY, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and THE LOVE BOAT), who said Dean help introduce him to Jesus Christ, to remarkable testimonies by Dean’s wife and children.
If the proof of a man’s life is his children, then Dean was a superb example of a man of God. Every one of his children was on fire for evangelism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s no doubt in my mind that this was the best memorial I ever attended.
Dean is survived by his beloved wife of 42 years, Lory Patrick Jones, and his children Caroline, Deanna and Michael as well as his eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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