February 19, 1934
September 18, 2008
Rockport, Maine, United States
Director, Producer, Professor (drama)
Sheila Marion Essex Allen Jones
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This respected British director of stage and TV brought his impressive background to films in the mid-1980s, helming a handful of small, cerebral films while keeping busy in other media.After graduating from the University of Cambridge with two degrees, Jones began a career as a producer and director for BBC-TV. In 1964, he was named artistic controller of the Royal Shakespeare Company and eventually rose to the rank of associate director. From the mid-60s to the mid-70s, Jones directed scores of plays in Britain, including several by Shakespeare and Chekhov. He immigrated to the US in the late 70s to accept a job as artistic director at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and later became a professor at the Yale School of Drama.Jones began his film career with "Betrayal" (1983), an adaptation of Harold Pinter's play that failed to excite the public in the US. Basically a three-hander, the film detailed a love affair in reverse chronology, from its ending backward to its beginning. It featured strong performances from Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Hodge, but what worked on stage didn't on film. Three years passed before Jones directed his next film, the quiet romantic comedy "84 Charing Cross Road" (1986)."Jacknife" (1989) was an overlooked, character-driven drama adapted from screenwriter Stephen Metcalfe's play "Strange Snow." Jones' understated direction allowed the film's leads, Robert De Niro and Ed Harris (as Vietnam War buddies) and Kathy Baker (as Harris' sister who is drawn to De Niro), to shine. Jones reteamed with Pinter for a remake of "The Trial" (1993). Despite a high-powered cast led by Anthony Hopkins and Kyle MacLachlan, the film was dismissed by critics as inferior to Orson Welles' 1963 version.Jones has worked extensively in TV, having produced several upper-middlebrow series for the BBC (including "Monitor" and "Play of the Month"). He has directed several notable telefilms including "The Christmas Wife" (HBO, 1988), a romance with Jason Robards and Julie Harris, and two collaborations with writer Richard Nelson for PBS' "American Playhouse" series: "Sensibility and Sense" (1990) starring Elaine Stritch and Jean Simmons; and "The End of a Sentence" (1991), a one-hour monologue starring Edward Herrmann. In 1993, Jones helmed a TV adaptation of John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger," starring Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Judi Dench. He also directed the AIDS-themed "And Then There Was None" (Lifetime, 1994) and the Civil Rights drama "Sophie and the Moonhanger" (Lifetime, 1996).