For a generation of moviegoers, Sam J. Jones is better known as Flash Gordon. Sam’s engaging portrayal of the quintessential comic strip space adventurer won over the hearts of millions around the world. In an acting career that now spans over thirty years, Jones has endured in Hollywood – with close to a hundred appearances on the big screen and television – due to the versatility and enthusiasm that he brings to each and every role.
Born in Chicago, Jones grew up in sunny West Palm Beach, Florida, where he basked on the beaches while surfing and scuba diving in his youth. After serving his country in the United States Marine Corps as a mere teenager, Sam found himself without any long-term plans and working all sorts of odd jobs, from selling shoes to playing semi-pro football. Having had some success as a model (and a little encouragement from his friends), he decided that the time was right to give acting a try and relocated to Los Angeles on the condition that in six months he would hopefully find some steady work. Soon his all-American good looks and ambition would earn him auditions and minor roles on television and local theatre before eventually landing a solid movie part in Blake Edwards’ classic 10 as the beau of Bo Derek.
Since the Sunday newspaper strip debut in 1934 courtesy of the vision and artistry from creator Alex Raymond, the characters from Flash Gordon and their exploits on Mongo quickly ingrained themselves into the heights of popular culture in everything from radio dramas, pulp novels, comic books, cartoons, television and the ultimate celluloid serial series featuring the legendary Buster Crabbe. So finding an actor to play the larger than life qualities of Flash Gordon for a major motion picture was a quite troublesome ordeal for mega producer Dino De Laurentiis. In true Hollywood fashion, the casting of Sam Jones was purely accidental luck with a dash of good timing. At the behest of De Laurentiis’ mother-in-law, upon seeing the young actor as a potential suitor on an episode of The Dating Game, the producer brought in Jones for a series of auditions that eventually won him the principal role of a lifetime in a major big budget theatrical picture.
Upon earning the role and a multi-picture deal for potential Gordon sequels, Sam totally invested every ounce of himself, physically and emotionally, into giving the film and the character his all. The actor always understood that it wasn’t enough that he was the living embodiment of the classic character but that he had to portray Flash as an earnest man that rises to the occasion as a natural born hero and friend to all, selfless in the face of any evil. Amongst an all-star international cast, Sam’s hard work would help him stand out and succeed in making him the definitive Flash Gordon in the eyes of many.
“Well, I always feel that it’s very hard to cast Flash Gordon,” said Brian Blessed, the highly regarded British actor and Sam’s Flash Gordon co-star. “You can find Vultans, you can find Prince Barins, you can find Ming the Merciless. Seven or eight people can play it in their own way. But it’s very hard to find a Flash Gordon and Dale. And, I mean, for instance, you could take Tom Cruise, who’s got a wonderful face and a lovely smile, it’s the perfect smile Tom Cruise has. But you can put a camera on him in certain angles and he will look sinister. But you could put a camera on Sam Jones from any angle and he looked pure, so that when he walked into a room, he was pure. When he suddenly said to Ming, “My name’s Flash Gordon, quarterback, New York Jets.’ I think Sam is the Flash Gordon because he is so pure.”
The 1980 film remains a charming picture that is full of adventure, humor, sexual innuendo and good old fashion fun. Never was there a cast that so closely resembled their comic strip personas in a picture like this one. The endearing self-confidence of Flash and Dale in the face of Ming the Merciless and the unknown dangers of Mongo make for a lovely comment on good old American cockiness and spunk. It’s one of the films where every single element is crucial to its viewing experience: the lively acting approach from Sam and the rest of the cast, Queen’s explosive music, Lorenzo Semple’s breezy dialogue, Mike Hodges’ light- hearted vision and direction, the creative special effects and the colorful production values of Danilo Donati. In a world full of big screen comic book film adaptations, Flash Gordon remains a timeless gem that’s loaded with heart and pure enjoyment.
Although the film became a cult favorite in United States and its sequels never materialized, Flash Gordon was a box office sensation around the rest of the world. The enduring popularity of the film was the start of an extremely successful career for Sam that led to starring roles in many action features, leads in various television projects and countless guest-star appearances on many memorable shows on the tube. When not in front of a camera, Sam keeps himself employed as a security professional and consultant, working for a prestigious risk management company protecting VIP’s traveling to high-risk environments throughout the world.
During the last forty years, Sam has always been very active volunteering and donating his time nationwide – from coaching local youth sports to motivational speaking and personal appearances. For his efforts in hundreds of charitable events and selflessness, Sam was presented with the Outstanding Courageous Citizen of The Year Award and The Star Sapphire Halo Award, provided by The Southern California Motion Picture Council, The California State Senate, The Los Angeles City Mayor's Office, The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and The North Hollywood Police Department. Sam’s 2017 film projects (for release) include Axcellerator, Enter The Fist and the Golden Fleece, Head Games and Life After Flash, The Documentary.