Rick Jones, born Frederick Joseph Jones, was born in London, Ontario on February 7, 1937. He moved to the England when he was 18 and studied at the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art. He began his television career as one of the original co-presenters of Play School, a daily programme for pre-school-age children. He also was the host/narrator of the kid’s show, Fingerbobs, which only ran for 13 episodes. He moved to the United States and settled in San Francisco where he worked on Laughing Daughter, a musical based on his time with the country rock band Meal Ticket who emerged from the London pub circuit during the 1970s. The show ran for three weeks in 2009 at the Indian Head Center for the Arts in Maryland. Rick Jones was 84 when he died from oesophageal cancer on October 7.
I mentioned that I had seen Christopher Plummer on stage when they were shooting the film version of the play Barrymore. Plummer had an impact on the young actress who would become Martha Henry. I had seen Martha Henry at Stratford a number of times, but I most enjoyed her performance in Marjorie Prime at Toronto’s Coal Mine Theatre. Intimate doesn’t describe the place. With seating for just 85, if you get to sit in the first or second row you forget the people you can’t see behind you and what you can see is like watching a play unfold in your living room. My late friend, the award-winning television producer Jerry Lawton knew Martha Henry and in 2016 offered to write about her for Northernstars. Just one paragraph from his biography should tempt you to read the entire piece: Martha “and her mother paid a visit to the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, to see Christopher Plummer in Hamlet. When the play was over and the house lights came on Martha was speechless, she literally couldn’t talk. It wasn’t just Plummer’s breathtaking performance, it was the stage, that magnificent stage. She was in love with it. That experience changed her mind about how to best pursue her career and she journeyed to Toronto where she auditioned for Murray Davis, who headed a successful repertory company at the Crest Theatre. He was impressed and asked her to join the company and Martha made the fateful move to Canada.” Martha Henry was 83 when she died of cancer at her home in Stratford, Ontario on October 21. Her passing came just 12 days after she gave her final performance in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women on October 9.
Lionel Blair’s British stage and screen career spanned eight decades but his life began on December 12, 1928 in Montréal as Henry Lionel Blair Ogus. He was still a young boy when the family moved to England. He grew up in Stamford Hill, north London and was evacuated to Oxford when World War II broke out. Blair was 13 in 1941, the year his father died. He had started performing in air raid shelters and began working as an actor the following year, appearing in musical productions. He became known thanks to his self-taught dancing skills learned by watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. He was best known as a television host, or presenter as they are called in the UK. Lionel Blair was 92 when he died at Banstead, Surrey, England.
Dan Aykroyd’s younger brother Peter died November 6. Peter Jonathan Aykroyd was born in Ottawa on November 19, 1955. They worked together a number of times. For example, they were together in the Toronto Second City comedy troupe and on Saturday Night Live. They wrote the movie Nothing but Trouble together. He was one of the co-creators the sci-fi show Psi Factor, which was hosted by older brother Dan. He was 65 when he died in Spokane, Washington on November 6 from septicemia.
In addition to a fine acting career, David Fox was also a writer. He wrote the teleplay for 1982’s Joey in which he played seven characters including both The Almighty and a Leadership Announcer. In 1996 he was nominated for a Genie Award for the film When Night is Falling, and in 2008 he was nominated for a Gemini Award for the television mini-series Across the River to Motor City. He was a stage actor as well. He appeared on stage at the Blyth Festival in Ontario for more than 8 seasons and appeared in the hit Canadian play, The Drawer Boy. He became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2018. Born in Ontario on March 24, 1941, he was 80 when he died in Toronto on November 13.
Keith Dinicol was born in Kamloops, British Columbia. He spent some 50 years performing on stages all across Canada, with the majority of his career spent at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. He also worked in film and television and many of his early credits are filmed versions of plays he was in at Stratford. He played the role of Biondello in the 1982 version of The Taming of the Shrew, and then played Grumio when The Taming of the Shrew was filmed again in 1988. More recently he appeared in 6 episodes of the series Chesapeake Shores. Committed to making his community and country a better place, he was a long-time member of the NDP and ran as a federal candidate in 2006. Keith Dinicol spent his final year in Victoria, BC and was 69 when he died suddenly and unexpectedly on November 18.