Actor Dean Jones is interviewed at Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1972.

Actor Dean Jones is interviewed at Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1972. (Charles Dees/Stars and Stripes)

Dean Jones' screen credits read like a help wanted ad for a menagerie.

Who could ever forget such memorable movies as "That Darn Cat," "The Love Bug," and "The Million Dollar Duck," to name but a few.

But to the tall, personable actor, in Europe to judge USAFE's play contest, those Walt Disney films do have a place in the show biz scheme of things.

"For one thing," Jones told Stars and Stripes during an interview at the Von Steuben Hotel in Wiesbaden, "you can take the whole family to a Disney film. And for another thing, they've kept me working steadily for a number of years, which is a kind of rarity for a Hollywood actor."

The lanky 41-year-old actor comes on in person much like he does in his film roles — not without sex appeal and almost embarrassingly polite.

Jones, dressed in a belted, muted plaid sports coat and open necked shirt, looked like the "frustrated, over-eager, slightly stupid professors" he says he usually plays on the screen. But he prefers meatier roles during his annual sojourns into live theater. He played the lead in "Company'' on Broadway in 1970 and does summer stock.

"Stage acting is like flexing your muscles," he said. "Today, audiences are hip to political jokes and the techniques of stagecraft. You can't fool an audience today."

Besides stage acting, Jones's other passion is motorcycles.

"I enter a lot of enduro races because of the competitiveness of the thing, not to mention the fun," Jones said. "But, I hardly ever drive a bike on the streets. Cars scare me to death."

In 1966, Jones was seriously. injured after hitting a coyote while driving his bike across Mexico's Baja peninsula.

"I tried to cross a Mexican coyote with a British motorcycle and it didn't work," Jones told a wire service reporter after the accident.

During the years that separated him from stardom, Jones, a native of Decatur, Ala., earned his living picking cotton, driving trucks and was in the Navy during the Korean War.

"I started in show business singing in a New Orleans night club for $3 a night and dinner."

In the late 1950s Jones got his big break in the Broadway show "Under The Yum Yum Tree." In 1962, he starred in the "Ensign O'Toole" comedy TV series and then began the string of Disney films.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now