David Colker of the Los Angeles Times is reporting that pioneering African-American filmmaker Ike Jones has died. Jones passed away October 11 in an assisted-living facility, where he lived after having suffered a stroke and congestive heart failure. Prior to his stroke, he was living in a rented room.
A Los Angeles native, Jones played high school football for Santa Monica High School and then UCLA. Colker’s piece didn’t mention the fact that in 1952, Jones became the first African-American graduate of UCLA’s prestigious film school. He was determined to be the first Negro to succeed on the production and executive side of the industry. Colker writes:
“He went to work for production companies that oversaw projects for Harry Belafonte and Burt Lancaster, and he headed Nat King Cole’s Kell-Cole Productions that produced the singer’s highly successful live shows. For the rest of his life, Jones kept a photo of himself and Cole at the White House with President Johnson.
In 1966 Jones was one of the producers of the film ‘A Man Called Adam.’ Sammy Davis Jr. headed a cast that included Louis Armstrong. Jones said on several occasions that the movie marked the first time a black person produced an A-list picture.”
Colker’s piece left out that ‘A Man Called Adam’ also starred Ossie Davis and Cicely Tyson, who would go on to star in Jones’ major achievement, the 1978 NBC four-hour mini-series ‘A Woman Called Moses’ starring Cicely Tyson as Harriet Tubman.
Jones’ life was filled with some controversy, particularly his marriage to actress Inger Stevens, a popular white actress whom he married in secret. Jones’ was also financially devastated after a series of bad investments. Sergio of Shadow and Act writes:
“Except for a few close friends, they both kept the marriage a secret from the public, studio and TV execs, and casting people because they feared that if it was known that Stevens had been married to a black man it would have ruined her career.
Unfortunately the last years of Jones’ life were a sad ones. He found himself bankrupt after a series of bad investments and suffered from bad heath for years…”
Ike Jones was 84.