Jones in 2014
Terence Graham Parry Jones
1 February 1942
|Died||21 January 2020 (aged 77)|
|Alma mater||St Edmund Hall, Oxford|
- film director
|Known for||Monty Python|
2012; his death 2020)
Terence Graham Parry Jones (1 February 1942 – 21 January 2020) was a Welsh actor, writer, comedian, screenwriter, film director and historian. He was a member of the Monty Python comedy team.
After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English, Jones and writing partner Michael Palin (whom he met at Oxford) wrote and performed for several high-profile British comedy programmes, including Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Frost Report, before creating Monty Python's Flying Circus with Cambridge graduates Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, and American animator/filmmaker Terry Gilliam. Jones was largely responsible for the programme's innovative, surreal structure, in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with the team's film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed the subsequent Python films Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.
Jones co-created and co-wrote with Palin the anthology series Ripping Yarns. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson's 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of his work remained in the final cut. Jones was a well-respected medieval historian, having written several books and presented television documentaries about the period, as well as a prolific children's book author.
In 2016, Jones received a Lifetime Achievement award at the BAFTA Cymru Awards for his outstanding contribution to television and film. After living for several years with a degenerative aphasia, he gradually lost the ability to speak and died on 21 January 2020 from frontotemporal dementia.
1 Early life
2 Career history
2.1 Before Python and early Python
2.2 Directorial work
2.3 Writer and brewer
2.3.4 Column writing
2.4 Work with musicians
2.5 As performer
3 Personal life
3.2 Political views
3.3 Health and death
4 Selected bibliography
6 Documentary series
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Jones was born in the seaside town of Colwyn Bay, on the north coast of Wales, the son of homemaker Dilys Louisa (Newnes)and bank clerk Alick George Parry Jones. The family home was named Bodchwil. His father was stationed with the RAF in India. When Jones was 4 1/2, the family moved to Surrey, England.
Jones attended Esher COE primary school, then the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, where he was school captain in the 1960–61 academic year. He read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, but "strayed into history". He became interested in the medieval period through reading Chaucer as part of his English degree. He graduated with a 2:1. While there, he performed comedy with future Monty Python castmate Michael Palin in the Oxford Revue. Jones was a year ahead of Palin at Oxford, and on first meeting him Palin states, "The first thing that struck me was what a nice bloke he was. He had no airs and graces. We had a similar idea of what humour could do and where it should go, mainly because we both liked characters; we both appreciated that comedy wasn't just jokes."
Before Python and early Python
Jones performing “The Spanish Inquisition” sketch in 2014. He plays Cardinal Biggles (who resembles his namesake Biggles in wearing a leather aviator's helmet and goggles). The sketch was first broadcast 22 September 1970
Jones appeared in Twice a Fortnight with Michael Palin, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Jonathan Lynn, as well as the television series The Complete and Utter History of Britain (1969). He appeared in Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967–69) with Palin, Eric Idle and David Jason. He wrote for The Frost Report and several other David Frost programmes on British television. Of Jones' contributions as a performer to Monty Python's Flying Circus, his depictions of middle-aged women (or "ratbag old women" as termed by the BBC, also known as "pepper-pots" or "grannies from hell") are among the most memorable.
Jones co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Terry Gilliam, and was sole director on two further Monty Python movies, Life of Brian and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. As a film director, Jones finally gained fuller control of the projects and devised a visual style that complemented the humour. His later films include Erik the Viking (1989) and The Wind in the Willows (1996). In 2008, Jones wrote the libretto for and directed the opera Evil Machines. In 2011, he was commissioned to direct and write the libretto for another opera, entitled The Doctor's Tale.
Three of the films which Jones directed—The Meaning of Life, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Personal Services—were banned in Ireland.
Jones directed the 2015 comedy film Absolutely Anything, about a disillusioned schoolteacher who is given the chance to do anything he wishes by a group of aliens watching from space. The film features Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale, Robin Williams and the voices of the five remaining members of Monty Python. It was filmed in London during a six-week shoot.
In 2016, Jones directed Jeepers Creepers, a West End play about the life of comic Marty Feldman. It would be Jones' last directing work before his death.
Writer and brewer
Jones reading in 2007
Jones wrote many books and screenplays, including comic works and more serious writing on medieval history.
A member of the Campaign for Real Ale, Jones also had interest in real ale and in 1977 co-founded the Penrhos Brewery, a microbrewery at Penrhos Court at Penrhos, Herefordshire, which ran until 1983.
Jones co-wrote Ripping Yarns with Palin. They also wrote a play, Underwood's Finest Hour, about an obstetrician distracted during a birth by the radio broadcast of a Test match, which played at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in 1981. Jones also wrote numerous works for children, including Fantastic Stories, The Beast with a Thousand Teeth, and a collection of comic verse called The Curse of the Vampire's Socks.
Jones was the co-creator (with Gavin Scott) of the animated TV series Blazing Dragons (1996–1998), which parodied the Arthurian legends and Middle Ages periods. Reversing a common story convention, the series' protagonists are anthropomorphic dragons beset by evil humans.
Jones wrote the screenplay for Labyrinth (1986), although his draft went through several rewrites and several other writers before being filmed; consequently, much of the finished film was not actually written by Jones.
" speak to him on subjects as diverse as fossil fuels, or Rupert Bear, or mercenaries in the Middle Ages or Modern China ... in a moment you will find yourself hopelessly out of your depth, floored by his knowledge."
—Python biographer George Perry on Jones.
Jones wrote books and presented television documentaries on medieval and ancient history. His first book was Chaucer's Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary (1980), which offers an alternative take on Geoffrey Chaucer's The Knight's Tale. Chaucer's knight is often interpreted as a paragon of Christian virtue, but Jones asserts that if one studies historical accounts of the battles the knight claims he was involved in, he can be interpreted as a typical mercenary and a potentially cold-blooded killer. He also co-wrote Who Murdered Chaucer? (2003) in which he argues that Chaucer was close to King Richard II, and that after Richard was deposed, Chaucer was persecuted to death by Thomas Arundel.
Jones' TV series also frequently challenged popular views of history. For example, Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (2004; for which he received a 2004 Emmy nomination for "Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming") he argues that the Middle Ages was a more sophisticated period than is popularly thought, and Terry Jones' Barbarians (2006) presents the cultural achievements of peoples conquered by the Roman Empire in a more positive light than Roman historians typically have, attributing the Sack of Rome in 410 AD to propaganda.
Jones wrote numerous columns for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Observer condemning the Iraq War. Many of these editorials were published in a paperback collection titled Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror.
In November 2011, his book Evil Machines was launched by the online publishing house Unbound at the Adam Street Club in London. It was the first book to be published by a crowdfunding website dedicated solely to books. Jones provided significant support to Unbound as they developed their publishing concept. In February 2018, Jones released The Tyrant and the Squire, also with Unbound.
Jones was a member of the Poetry Society, and his poems have appeared in Poetry Review.
Work with musicians
Jones performed with the Carnival Band and appears on their 2007 CD Ringing the Changes.
In January 2008, the Teatro São Luiz, in Lisbon, Portugal, premiered Evil Machines – a musical play, written by Jones (based on his book), with original music by Portuguese composer Luis Tinoco. Jones was invited by the Teatro São Luiz to write and direct the play, after a successful run of Contos Fantásticos, a short play based on Jones' Fantastic Stories, also with music by Tinoco.
In January 2012 Jones announced that he was working with songwriter/producer Jim Steinman on a heavy metal version of The Nutcracker.
Jones (right) behind the counter during the “Spam sketch” at Monty Python Live (Mostly) in 2014. He plays a waitress who recites a menu in which nearly every dish contains Spam
Apart from a cameo in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky and a minor role as a drunken vicar in the BBC sitcom The Young Ones, Jones rarely appeared in work outside his own projects. From 2009 to 2011, however, he provided narration for The Legend of Dick and Dom, a CBBC fantasy series set in the Middle Ages. He also appears in two French films by Albert Dupontel: Le Créateur (1999) and Enfermés dehors (2006).
In 2009, Jones took part in the BBC Wales programme Coming Home about his Welsh family history. In July 2014, Jones reunited with the other four living Pythons to perform at ten dates (Monty Python Live (Mostly)) at the O2 Arena in London. This was Jones' last performance with the group prior to his aphasia diagnosis.
In October 2016, Jones received a standing ovation at the BAFTA Cymru Awards when he received a Lifetime Achievement award for his outstanding contribution to television and film.
Jones married Alison Telfer in 1970, and they had two children together, Sally (born 1974) and Bill (born 1976). They had an open marriage. In 2009, Jones left her for Anna Söderström, who was 41 years his junior and with whom he had been in a relationship for five years. In September 2009 a daughter was born to Söderström and Jones; they got married in 2012.
Jones published a number of articles on political and social commentary, principally in newspapers The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and The Observer. Many of these articles criticised the War on Terror, belittling it as "declaring war on an abstract noun" and comparing it to attempting to "annihilate mockery".
In August 2014, Jones was one of 200 public figures who signed a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.
Health and death
In 2015, Jones was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a form of frontotemporal dementia that impairs the ability to speak and communicate. He had first given cause for concern during the Monty Python reunion show Monty Python Live (Mostly) in July 2014 because of difficulties learning his lines. He became a campaigner for awareness of, and fundraiser for research into, dementia. By September 2016, he was no longer able to give interviews. By April 2017, Jones had lost the ability to say more than a few words of agreement.
Jones died on 21 January 2020 from complications of dementia at his home in Highgate, north London.
Evil Machines (2011), ISBN 978-1-908717-01-6
Trouble On The Heath (2011), ISBN 978-1-907726-20-0
The Tyrant and the Squire (2018), ISBN 978-1783524624
Illustrated by Michael Foreman
Fairy Tales (1981), ISBN 0-907516-03-3
The Saga of Erik the Viking (1983), ISBN 0-907516-23-8 – Children's Book Award 1984
Nicobobinus (1985), ISBN 1-85145-000-9
The Curse of the Vampire's Socks and Other Doggerel (1988), ISBN 1-85145-233-8 – poetry
Fantastic Stories (1992), ISBN 1-85145-957-X
The Beast with a Thousand Teeth (1993), ISBN 1-85793-070-3
A Fish of the World (1993), ISBN 1-85793-075-4
The Sea Tiger (1994), ISBN 1-85793-085-1
The Fly-by-Night (1994), ISBN 1-85793-090-8
The Knight and the Squire (1997), ISBN 1-86205-044-9
The Lady and the Squire (2000), ISBN 1-86205-417-7 – nominated for a Whitbread Award
Bedtime Stories (2002), ISBN 1-86205-276-X – with Nanette Newman
Animal Tales (2011), ISBN 978-1843651635
Illustrated by Brian Froud
Goblins of the Labyrinth (1986), ISBN 1-85145-058-0
The Goblin Companion: A Field Guide to Goblins (1996), ISBN 1-85793-795-3 – an abridged re-release, in a smaller format, with the colour plates missing
Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book (1994), ISBN 1-85793-336-2
Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells: Quentin Cottington's Journal of Faery Research (1996), ISBN 0-684-83206-2
Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Journal (1998), ISBN 1-86205-024-4
Lady Cottington's Fairy Album (2002), ISBN 1-86205-559-9
Illustrated by Martin Honeysett and Lolly Honeysett
Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls with Michael Palin (1974) ISBN 0-413-32740-X - expanded and revised editions of the book appeared as Dr. Fegg's Nasty Book of Knowledge in the US in 1976 and Dr. Fegg's Encyclopeadia (sic) of all World Knowledge, in the UK in 1984.
Chaucer's Knight: The Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary. 1980. ISBN 0-297-77566-9.; rev. ed. (1994), ISBN 0-413-69140-3
Jones, Terry; Yeager, Robert F.; Doran, Terry; Fletcher, Alan; D'or, Juliett (2003). Who Murdered Chaucer?: A Medieval Mystery. ISBN 0-413-75910-5.
Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror. 2005. ISBN 1-56025-653-2.
With Alan Ereira
Crusades. 1994. ISBN 0-563-37007-6.
Terry Jones' Medieval Lives. 2004. ISBN 0-563-48793-3.
Terry Jones' Barbarians. 2006. ISBN 0-563-49318-6.
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