Griffith Jones, British Actor With Seven-Decade Career, Dies at 96

Obituaries   Griffith Jones, British Actor With Seven-Decade Career, Dies at 96
Griffith Jones, the British actor whose long-lived career included two Noel Coward premieres and a quarter century at the Royal Shakespeare Company, died Jan. 30 at the age of 96.

A British performer to the last, his career began and stayed in England, with one isolated side trip to Broadway. After winning a scholarship to University College in London, the man who was born Harold Jones was supposed to become a lawyer. But he skipped out after a year of study and enrolled at RADA—something he kept from his parents until his acting life began in earnest.

His professional stage debut was in Carpet Slippers at the Embassy Theatre. With H. Dennis Bradley's adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's satiric novel of feckless high society, Vile Bodies, he changed his name to Griffiths Jones. A final change to Griffith Jones came with his appearance in Ourselves Alone.

Further stage credits included Margaret Kennedy's Escape Me Never; Romeo opposite Margaretta Scott's Juliet; After October; John Van Druten's Gertie Maude; Noel Coward's Operette; and Eugene O'Neill's Marco Millions. Escape Me Never, one of the great hits of 1930s London theatre, transferred to the Shubert Theatre for a short time during the early months of 1935. Mr. Griffith's performance was also captured in a film of it the same year.

After breaking from work to serve in the army in World War II, Mr. Jones resumed his work in John Gielgud's Haymarket company, playing Lord Darlington in Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan. Frequently cast as a rakish member of the aristocracy, he later played a marquess who runs off with the wife of an American railroad tycoon in Coward's ill-fated Quadrille. His co-stars were Coward pals Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.

Meanwhile, his British film career flourished. He appeared in second leads in such popular English movies as "The Wicked Lady," "Return of a Stranger," "Sons of the Sea," "Miranda," "Atlantic Ferry," "They Made Me A Fugitive," and "Good Time Girl." His work in films declined after the early 1950s. Later on, he toured as Archie Rice in John Osborne's The Entertainer and as Long John Silver in Treasure Island. In 1975, when he was in his mid-60s, Mr. Jones began working at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He shined in dozens of small roles with the company in plays by Shakespeare and the Greeks, and was often directed by Trevor Nunn. Nunn also cast him in the ensemble that made up the landmark adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby.

Clean-shaven and dashing in his youth, he sported a white beard during his final years as an actor. He retired from the stage at the age of 90.

He is survived by his children Gemma and Nicholas Jones, both actors. Gemma was named after the heroine in daddy's old hit, Escape Me Never

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