With the recent passing of Monty Python star, director, and historian Terry Jones, we’re paying a short tribute.
He was a very popular part of the film community and much-celebrated comedic wit. His Python co-stars (and many others) paid tribute to his talent after his sad passing.
TERRY JONES (1942-2020)
His contributions to cinema are well known to comedy fans all across the world. Whether that’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brain, or The Meaning of Life.
Jones was instrumental in the stream of consciousness style of humour that made the comedy troop’s bizarre brand of wit stand out.
With his co-stars, he rose to international prominence after the success of Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the 1960s. He worked with Sir Miichael Palin as a writing duo, but also acted throughout all four series in a wide range of absurd roles.
It opened doors for Jones to try his hand at directing. Which he and Terry Gilliam managed together in the utterly ridiculous and brilliant The Holy Grail (1975).
On a tight budget of £200,000 (and often soaked with rain due to the Scottish location), he and Gilliam turned the shoot into a huge success. Even if filming it was, apparently, horrible.
There are tips here for directors on a tight budget the world over. Unable to afford horses for the set, they turned it into a joke. The knights clatter coconut shells together to replicate trotting noises.
For 1979’s highly controversial Life of Brian, Jones took over full directorial duties. It’s now thought of as one of the best films of all time.
And certainly one of the funniest. Jones had several acting roles in it, most notably Brian’s amusingly cantankerous mother. That led to the legendary line:
“He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”
He also directed the Python’s final film in 1983, the black comedy The Meaning of Life. The Python group essentially disbanded after that (although had a brief get together for the 20th anniversary in 1989).
But his legacy in comedy continues to this day. He helped inspire the likes of Ben Elton, Rowan Atkinson, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, and many others in the 1980s. Another golden era of British comedy.
Working closely with Palin throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the pair also landed the superb Ripping Yarns between 1977 and 1979.
He also wrote the screenplay for the popular cult classic Labyrinth in 1986, which features David Bowie and was directed by industry legend Jim Henson.
Later in his career, Jones became a historian and wrote books for children. But he also turned his attention to medieval history.
That interest became a BBC documentary series in 2004 called Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives.
He showed off his versatility further still by becoming an amateur brewer, joining the Poetry Society, and in the 2000s began working with musicians across various projects.
More recently, he took part in the Monty Python renunion in 2014. His final appearances in television and film followed in 2015, including voice over work.
But he was also famous for his magnanimous nature. The Young Ones and Bottom star, Ade Edmondson, later acknowledged Jones agreed to have a cameo in the 1982 cult classic. A gesture that delighted Edmondson and he remembers it to this day.
Jones will be much missed, but his contributions to cinema will continue for many decades to come.