The US actor Dean Jones, famous for starring in Disney’s The Love Bug and That Darn Cat!, has died of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 84.
The actor’s publicist Richard Hoffman said that Jones passed away on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Jones had a long association with The Walt Disney Co. which began when he received an unexpected call from Walt Disney himself, praising his work on the TV show “Ensign O’Toole”.
Two years later, Jones heard from Disney again, when he was offered a role in That Darn Cat! opposite Hayley Mills.
The film, in which he plays FBI agent Zeke Kelso who follows a crime solving cat, was well received by critics and nominated for a series of awards including the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Motion Picture.
Released in 1965, it was the first of 10 Disney films Jones made.
He told the LA Times: “I see something in them that is pure form. Just entertainment. No preaching.”
“We’re always looking for significance but maybe people just like to be entertained.”The Love Bug, released in 1969, was Jones’s most successful Disney film, with Jones playing a struggling race-driver who acquires a Volkswagen called Herbie that has a mind of its own.
Jones began his career as a singer, appearing in a string of lesser-known films throughout the 1950s. He made his Broadway debut in 1960 opposite Jane Fonda in There Was a Little Girl.
He left his home town of Decatur, Alabama, at 15 supporting himself by picking cotton and cutting timber until he found a job as a singer in a New Orleans nightclub.
He then spent four years in the Navy and was signed by MGM soon after his release.
Over the course of his career Jones appeared in 46 films and five Broadway shows.In 1995, Jones was honoured with a place in the Disney Legends Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years Lory Basham Jones, as well as his three children Carol, Deanna and Michael.
Tributes have flooded in over Twitter in remembrance of the star, including from Mark Miller, writer of Kick-Ass and Wanted, who said: “The Herbie movies predate even superheroes as my favourite trips to the cinema. RIP!”
Additional reporting by Press AssociationReuse content