Dean Jones, lead actor in the Disney movie The Love Bug, died on September 1, at age 84.
People reports that Jones passed away on Tuesday, in Los Angeles, after battling issues with Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating disorder of the nervous system.
Along with The Love Bug, Jones starred in the Disney films That Darn Cat! and The Shaggy D.A. Other movie roles include a small part in the Elvis Presley film Jailhouse Rock, as well as more than 40 other movies throughout his acting career. He also appeared in five Broadway productions and various televisions shows and specials.
Jones was born as Dean Carroll Jones, in Decatur, Alabama, on January 25, 1931. He was the son of construction worker Andrew Guy Jones and homemaker Nolia Elizabeth White Jones. Jones left home at age 15 to become a singer, and did odd jobs in the meantime, which included loading coal, picking cotton, washing dishes, and cutting timber. He received his first break when he was hired as a blues singer in a New Orleans, Louisiana, nightclub.
Shortly after his nightclub stint, he served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Afterwards, he attended Asbury University, in Wilmore, Kentucky.
His career in the entertainment industry started back when he starred as the host of his own local radio show, Dean Jones Sings. In 1956, he made his first motion movie picture debut in Somebody Up There Likes Me.
However, it was his role in The Love Bug that the veteran actor is most well-known for. Jones portrayed Jim in the film, a washed-up race car driver who drove a magical Volkswagen Bug “with a mind of its own,” in a race competition, in which he eventually won.
While Jones showed a comical side in The Love Bug, arguably his most compelling work was in the 1970 documentary Original Cast Album: Company, which shows the late night recordings of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Company.”
Jones became a devout born-again Christian in 1974, according to his former wife, Lori Patrick Jones, who stated the actor suffered from severe mood swings.
“One night he got down on his knees and prayed that God would free him from the miserable moods that he had always suffered. He told me that in an instant it was gone and he felt peace and joy flood into his heart.”
For his accomplishments in the entertainment industry, Dean Jones was honored with his own star on the Alabama Walk of Fame, in Birmingham, Alabama.
[Photos Courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images & Hulton Archive/Getty Images]