Jack Wild, best remembered for his role as “Jimmy” on the Sid & Marty Krofft puppet show H.R. Pufnstuf, passed away earlier this week from cancer. Jack is also remembered as “The Artful Dodger” in the 1960’s production of Oliver!. He was 53.

For Jack Wild, success came early and big. Discovered by an agent while playing soccer in a London park with his older brother, Arthur, Jack was enrolled in a actors school and began going on auditions at the age of 11.As with many other boy-actors in the London area, he was cast in the stage production of Oliver!, and joined with hundreds of other castmates at the audition for the film. Jack won the plum role The Artful Dodger, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts.

At the Hollywood premiere of Oliver!, Jack was introduced to puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft, who decided that Jack would be the perfect young actor to play the lead in their upcoming saturday-morning kids program, H.R. PufnStuf. Jack and his brother left London for the US, and moved in with Marty Krofft and his family while they filmed 17 episodes of the series plus a feature film based on the show.

A true sensation, 15-year-old Jack Wild became the darling of the teen magazines with a profitable recording contract and active career in films, incluing a starring role Alan Parker’s first fim, Melody.

After a few years, Jack faded from the limelight, and as with many of his idol cohorts fell in to several years of obscurity, depression and alcohol abuse.

Once again clean and sober, Jack appeared n several productions in the past few years, including a role in Robin Hood: Prince of Theives and a more recent part in a London stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz (as the Cowardly Lion). Tragedy struck Jack in 2004, when he was diagnosed with mouth cancer and had to have dramatic surgery that left him mute.