Dick Jones was 10 years old and already a veteran actor in Hollywood when Walt Disney cast him as the voice of Pinocchio in 1939. The young actor, whose screen name was “Dickie” Jones, had already appeared in nearly 40 motion pictures, including Stella Dallas with Barbara Stanwyck, Wonder Bar with Al Jolson and Dick Powell, and Daniel Boone with George O’Brien and John Carradine.
He later recalled, “At the time, Pinocchio was just a job. Who knew it would turn out to be the classic that it is today? I count my lucky stars that I had a part in it.”
Born February 25, 1927, in McKinney, Texas, Dick had been discovered by western film star Hoot Gibson by age three. Gibson was appearing in a rodeo in the youngster’s hometown. “Hoot told my mother I ought to be in pictures and sponsored our trip to Hollywood,” said Dick, who went on to work with practically every cowboy actor including Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, and Bill Elliott.
Among his memories of Pinocchio, Dick recalled donning a puppet costume and acting out scenes for a live-action film study to which animators could refer. And when there was a lull in recording lines, remembered Dick,
“Mr. Disney would take an old storyboard drawing, pin it up on a four-by-eight celotex sheet, and start a dart game with me using pushpins. He was good at throwing pushpins, underhand, and making them stick with fantastic accuracy. He always won the game.”
During the 19 months Dick worked on Pinocchio, he also managed to complete roles in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Destry Rides Again, both starring James Stewart, as well as other features.
In 1944 he was drafted into World War II. By the time he finished training, the war was over. After his Christmas Day discharge in 1946, Dick appeared in a few more films; his favorite was Rocky Mountain, starring Errol Flynn. As he once pointed out, the film “marks the first time in motion picture history the United States Cavalry arrived too late—we all died.”
In 1949, he debuted in television when Gene Autry hired him as a stuntman for his Flying A Productions. During this time, Dick played Jock Mahoney’s sidekick in The Range Rider, a western series, which led to his own series, Buffalo Bill, Jr. He went on to guest star on other television shows, including Gunsmoke, Annie Oakley, and The Lone Ranger. In all, Dick worked on nearly 100 films and more than 200 television episodes.
By 1959, he retired from show business and began a new career in real estate. In 1992, Dick founded his own agency, White Hat Realty.