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Artful Dodger actor Jack Wild dies aged 53

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) Actor Jack Wild, best known for playing the Artful Dodger as a teenager in the 1968 film ''Oliver!'', has died from cancer aged 53.

Nominated for an Oscar for that role aged just 16, he went on to star in the US television series ''H R Pufnstuf'' and in several films before his career began to derail, in part because of excessive drinking from an early age.

''Jack died peacefully at midnight last night after a long battle with oral cancer,'' his agent Alex Jay said today.

''He always said he was an entertainer. He wanted 'The Entertainer' to be played at his funeral,'' Jay added, referring to the Scott Joplin tune used for the film ''The Sting''.

Wild, also a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 and underwent an operation in 2004 to remove part of his tongue and several vocal cords. As a result he lost his speech, but appeared on stage after the surgery miming his part in a pantomime.

Wild married his long-term partner Claire last year.

REUTERS OM RN1754

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