Jones in 2014
Terence Graham Parry Jones
1 February 1942
|Died||21 January 2020 (aged 77)|
Highgate, London, England, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||St Edmund Hall, Oxford|
|Known for||One of the six members of Monty Python|
(m. 1970; div. 2012)
After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English, Jones and writing partner Michael Palin 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 Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Eric Idle 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 punch lines. He made his directorial debut with the Python film 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 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 in 2020 from frontotemporal dementia.
Jones was born in the seaside town of Colwyn Bay, on the north coast of Wales, the son of Dilys Louisa (Newnes), a homemaker, and Alick George Parry-Jones, a bank clerk. The family home was named Bodchwil. As he recalled in The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons, he was "born right bang slap in the middle of World War Two," while his father served with the Royal Air Force in Scotland. A week after he was born, his father was posted in India as a Flight Lieutenent (Temporary). He had a brother, Nigel, two years his senior. He reunited with his father after four years, as the war ended; of their first meeting at Colwyn Bay train station he recollected: "I'd only ever been kissed by the smooth lips of a lady up until that point, so his bristly moustache was quite disturbing!" When Jones was four and a half, the family moved to Claygate, 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."
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.
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.
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.
--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, in 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.
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.
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.
Jones married Alison Telfer in 1970; they had two children together, Sally in 1974 and Bill in 1976. They had an open marriage. In 2009, Jones left Telfer for Anna Söderström; she was 41 years his junior and they had been in a relationship for five years. In September 2009, Söderström and Jones welcomed a daughter, and in 2012 they married.
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.
In October 2006, Jones was diagnosed with colon cancer, and underwent surgery. After a complete cycle of chemotherapy, he became free of cancer. Later reminiscing about the event, he said, "Unfortunately, my illness is not nearly bad enough to sell many newspapers and the prognosis is even more disappointing."
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; and donated his brain for dementia research. By September 2016, he was no longer able to give interviews. By April 2017, he had lost the ability to say more than a few words of agreement.
Jones died from complications of dementia on 21 January 2020, 11 days short of his 78th birthday, at his home in Highgate, North London. His family and close friends remembered him with a humanist funeral ceremony.
|The Frost Report||1966-1967||Yes||No|
|A Series of Bird's||1967||Yes||No||Additional material|
|Twice a Fortnight||1967||Yes||No|
|Do Not Adjust Your Set||1967-1969||Yes||No|
|Broaden Your Mind||1968||Yes||No||Additional material|
|The Complete and Utter History of Britain||1969||Yes||No||Also co-creator|
|Christmas Night with the Stars||1969, 1972||Yes||No|
|Monty Python's Flying Circus||1969-1974||Yes||No||Also co-creator and performer|
|Frost on Sunday||1970||Yes||No|
|Marty Amok||1970||Yes||No||TV special|
|The Two Ronnies||1971-1976||Yes||No||13 episodes|
|Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus||1972||Yes||No|
|Black and Blue||1973||Yes||No||Episode: "Secrets"|
|Ripping Yarns||1976-1979||Yes||No||Also co-creator|
|The Mermaid Frolics||1977||Yes||Yes||TV special|
|The Rupert Bear Story: A Tribute to Alfred Bestall||1982||No||Yes||TV documentary|
|The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles||1992||No||Yes||Episode: "Barcelona, May 1917"|
|Blazing Dragons||1996-1998||Yes||No||Co-creator and executive producer|
|Ancient Inventions||1998||Yes||No||3 episodes|
|The Hidden History of Egypt||2002||Yes||No|
|The Hidden History of Rome||2002||Yes||No|
|The Surprising History of Sex and Love||2002||Yes||No|
|Terry Jones' Medieval Lives||2004||Yes||No||8 episodes|
|Terry Jones' Barbarians||2006||Yes||No||4 episodes|
|Kombat Opera Presents||2007||No||Yes||Episode: "The South Bragg Show"|
|Twice a Fortnight||1967||Various characters|
|Do Not Adjust Your Set||1967-1969|
|Broaden Your Mind||1968|
|The Complete and Utter History of Britain||1969|
|Christmas Night with the Stars||1969, 1972|
|Monty Python's Flying Circus||1969-1974|
|Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus||1972|
|Ripping Yarns||1976-1979||Mr. Ellis / Bear / Mr. Moodie / Director|
|The Mermaid Frolics||1977||Various characters||TV special|
|Saturday Night Live||1978||Orson Welles' director (voice)||Episode: "Michael Palin/Eugene Record"|
|Peter Cook & Co.||1980||Various characters||TV special|
|The Rupert Bear Story: A Tribute to Alfred Bestall||1982||Himself||TV documentary|
|The Young Ones||1984||Drunk Vicar||Episode: "Nasty"|
|The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles||1992||Marcello||Episode: "Barcelona, May 1917"|
|Space Ghost Coast to Coast||1996||Himself||Episode: "Explode"|
|Boy in Darkness||2000||Storyteller||TV short film|
|The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Espionage Escapades||2001||Marcello||TV film (episode "Barcelona, May 1917" with new connecting segments)|
|Comedy Lab||2001, 2010||Knife (voice) / Handyman||2 episodes|
|Dinotopia||2002||Messenger Bird (voice)|
|The Legend of Dick and Dom||2009-2011||Narrator|
|Ancient Inventions||1998||3 episodes|
|Gladiators: The Brutal Truth||2000|
|The Hidden History of Egypt||2002|
|The Hidden History of Rome||2002|
|The Surprising History of Sex and Love||2002|
|Terry Jones' Medieval Lives||2004||8 episodes|
|The Story of 1||2005||Documentary|
|Terry Jones' Barbarians||2006||4 episodes|
|Terry Jones' Great Map Mystery||2008||4 episodes|
|Perspectives||2015||Episode: "In Charlie Chaplin's Footsteps"|
|And Now for Something Completely Different||1971||Yes||No|
|Monty Python and the Holy Grail||1975||Yes||Yes|
|Monty Python's Life of Brian||1979||Yes||Yes|
|The Box||1981||Yes||No||Short film|
|Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl||1982||Yes||No||Concert film|
|Monty Python's The Meaning of Life||1983||Yes||Yes|
|Erik the Viking||1989||Yes||Yes|
|The Wind in the Willows||1996||Yes||Yes|
|Monty Python Live (Mostly)||2014||Yes||No|
|Boom Bust Boom||2015||Yes||Yes||Documentary|
|And Now for Something Completely Different||1971||Various characters|
|Monty Python and the Holy Grail||1975||Sir Bedevere the Wise / Various|
|Monty Python's Life of Brian||1979||Various characters|
|The Box||1981||Harrington (voice)||Short film|
|Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl||1982||Various characters||Concert film|
|The Crimson Permanent Assurance||1983||Very Big Corporation of America Clerk||Uncredited|
|Monty Python's The Meaning of Life||1983||Various characters|
|Erik the Viking||1989||King Arnulf|
|L.A. Story||1991||Sara's Mother (voice)||Uncredited|
|The Wind in the Willows||1996||Mr. Toad|
|Asterix & Obelix Take On Caesar||1999||Obelix (voice)||English version|
|Help! I'm a Fish||2000||Professor Mac Krill (voice)||English version|
|Locked Out||2006||Homeless person|
|Anna and the Moods||2007||Narrator (voice)||Short film|
|King Guillaume||2009||Oxford Professor|
|Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)||2010||Workingman / Mexican / Mountie|
|A Liar's Autobiography:
The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman
|2012||Graham's mother / Various voices|
|Monty Python Live (Mostly)||2014||Various characters|
|Absolutely Anything||2015||Scientist Alien (voice) / Van Driver|
|Boom Bust Boom||2015||Presenter||Documentary|