Playing the Artful Dodger in Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! was the passport to stardom for two Manchester child actors in the 1960s.
Future Monkees’ lead singer Davy Jones and Royton-born actor Jack Wild both portrayed the street-wise leader of Fagin’s gang when they were 15.
Jones played the Dodger in the musical’s stage premiere in 1960 and Wild took the role by storm in Carol Reed’s landmark 1968 film.
Born in Openshaw in December 1945, Jones started his acting career as Ena Sharples’ grandson Colin Lomax on Coronation Street. He also appeared on the BBC police series Z-Cars.
But his heart was set on being a jockey. He left secondary school after his mother had died when he was 14 to start an apprenticeship with Newmarket trainer Basil Foster.
Although Foster knew Jones would make a successful rider, he didn’t hesitate in putting his name forward when a friend said he was casting for the musical Oliver!
With his impish grin and mischievous appeal, Jones was perfect as the Dodger and played the role on the West End and Broadway. He was even nominated for a Tony Award.
While in New York, Jones appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 with British pop sensations the Beatles.
He was blown away by the band’s stage presence and the adulation of their fans. He decided there and then that he wanted a pop career too.
Two years later, Jones was the lead singer of the Monkees – a pop group expressly formed for TV. Hit after hit followed and Jones became a worldwide teen idol.
Fellow actor Jack Wild, born in Royton, Oldham, in 1952, was discovered by theatrical agent June Collins while he was playing football with his brother in a park. June Collins was the mother of musician Phil Collins.
In autumn 1964, Jack and his brother Arthur won roles in the West End production of Oliver! – Arthur as Oliver Twist himself and Jack as Fagin’s gang member Charley Bates.
Wild was then chosen to play the Dodger alongside Mark Lester as Oliver and Ron Moody as Fagin in the celebrated 1968 film of the musical. His performance was a triumph, earning an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
He was also nominated for Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for most promising newcomer.
Wild starred in the American TV show H.R. Pufnstuf as well as the films Melody and Flight of the Doves in 1971. He also appeared in the BBC adaptation of Our Mutual Friend in 1976.
After bouts of alcoholism which stalled his career, Wild played the peddler in the historical movie Basil in 1998 and the male lead Mouse in the Tayla Goodman rock musical Virus in 1999.
Long-running Granada soap Coronation Street has been the launch pad for a host of Manchester child actors, many of whom have grown up with the series.
They include Simon Gregson, who has portrayed Steve McDonald since 1989, Nicholas Cochrane who played his screen brother Andy, and Tina O’Brien and Jack P. Shepherd, who play Sarah and David Platt.
Ashton-under-Lyne actress Dawn Acton portrayed Tracy Barlow from the age of 11 in 1988, leaving the Street when she was 22. The role is now played by Salford’s Kate Ford.
Gregson, born in Wythenshawe, became involved in the search to find the McDonald twins when he was a pupil at the Kingsway School in Stockport.
His classmate Nicholas Cochrane was selected to play Andy, so they looked for someone of the same height and hair colour to be his twin. Gregson fitted the bill as our photo of the two youngsters clearly shows.
Since taking the role of Steve at the age of 15, Gregson has been nominated for more than a dozen TV awards as well as winning the accolades of Best Soap Actor in 2009 and Best Comedy Performance in 2014.
Rusholme actress Tina O’Brien started playing Sarah Platt at the age of 16 in 1999 after starring in the TV dramas Children’s Ward and The Cops. She remains a central character in the soap now.
O’Brien’s moving portrayal of Sarah’s teenage pregnancy (her on-screen character was three years younger than her) won the Best Storyline category at the British Soap Awards.
Jack P. Shepherd joined the Street as Sarah’s brother David in April 2000 at the age of 12. Now 33, he has won a string of awards including Best Actor, Best Bad Boy and Villain of the Year.
*Unmissable images of Manchester and the North West feature in Clive Hardy’s latest hardback book, The Home Front – Britain 1939-45, published by iNostalgia Ltd. It’s on sale at £14.99 including UK postage and packing.
Just go to inostalgia.co.uk/shop to order your copy or call the order hotline on 01928 503777.