The thing about Dean Jones was that you could throw anything at him. Anything at all.
A pirate?…Why not?
Hayley Mills at her Hayleyist?…You bet.
Anything at all and you still knew he would make it seem like something that could happen to your dad or your brother or the guy next door, and that it would all come right in the end.
It’s hard to really state how much that quality meant in the era of his greatest fame, when the world really was on fire. Like almost everyone who helped define Disney’s live action ethos, he was defined by it in turn. I’m sure he did fine work later on, but there was no way to really break free from those movies that meant so much to so many. More than most, he seemed to be at peace with that, which suggests what we saw on the screen came from the deepest part of him. If that’s the case then we knew him best for a quality that couldn’t be faked, even by such a fine actor.
I think I’m gonna go watch That Darn Cat! for the thousandth time and see if Elsa Lancaster or William Demarest or Neville Brand or Roddy McDowall or Frank Gorshin or any of those other charter members of the Scene-Stealing Hall of Fame can steal a scene from him this time.
Bet they don’t.
Because not even Hayley Mills could do that.