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Character actor L.Q. Jones who featured as the ‘heavy’ in westerns dies at 94 surrounded by family

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Character actor L.Q. Jones, who featured in a string of film and TV westerns often in the role of the ‘heavy,’ has died of natural causes at the age of 94.

His grandson Erte deGarces broke the news to Variety, saying Jones was surrounded by family at his Hollywood Hills home when he passed on.

Jones’ career spanned over half a century and included a series of films by the famed director Sam Peckinpah, who specialized in gritty, unflinching westerns.

During the 1970s, Jones also directed the cult dark comedy A Boy And His Dog, based on a Harlan Ellison novella and starring a young Don Johnson.

Dearly departed: Character actor L.Q. Jones, who featured in a string of film and TV westerns often in the role of the ‘heavy,’ has died of natural causes at the age of 94; pictured in 2006

Jones was born Justus Ellis McQueen Jr. in 1927 in the southeast Texas town of Beaumont and was named after his father, a railroad worker.

When he was just a small boy, he lost his mother Jessie to a car accident and wound up bouncing from town to town in the care of his relations.

‘I had a horse by the time I was 8 or 9, and grew up around tough rodeo people – my uncle was into roping – so westerns were easy and fun,’ he told The Spectrum.

A stint in the navy was followed by college, where his roommate was Fess Parker, who himself went onto become a Hollywood actor.

Remember when: it was in 1962 that he embarked on what became his five-film collaboration with Sam Peckinpah, beginning with Ride The High Country (pictured)

Remember when: it was in 1962 that he embarked on what became his five-film collaboration with Sam Peckinpah, beginning with Ride The High Country (pictured)

It was Parker who gave Jones the idea of going into acting and featuring in Raoul Walsh’s film of the war novel Battle Cry.

‘Fess encouraged me to come out and drew me a map on the back of a laundry shirt stuffing showing how to get to the studio,’ Jones recalled decades later. 

He made his movie debut in 1955 with Battle Cry under the name Justus McQueen – but his character was called LQ Jones, providing the inspiration for his stage name.

As his acting career progressed, he repeatedly featured in westerns, from the television series Cheyenne in 1955 to the 1960 Elvis Presley movie Flaming Star.

Remember when: During the 1970s, Jones also directed the cult dark comedy A Boy And His Dog, based on a Harlan Ellison novella and starring a young Don Johnson

Remember when: During the 1970s, Jones also directed the cult dark comedy A Boy And His Dog, based on a Harlan Ellison novella and starring a young Don Johnson

During the 1950s he worked with the acclaimed directors Mervyn LeRoy and Don Siegel on Toward The Unknown and An Annapolis Story respectively.

However it was in 1962 that he embarked on what became his five-film collaboration with Sam Peckinpah, beginning with Ride The High Country.

Jones continued to play supporting roles in Peckinpah’s westerns like Major Dundee, the classic The Wild Bunch and The Battle Of Cable Hogue.

His final picture with the infamously mercurial director was Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, which came out in 1973.

Throwback: He made his movie debut in 1955 with Battle Cry under the name Justus McQueen - but his character was called LQ Jones, providing the inspiration for his stage name

Throwback: He made his movie debut in 1955 with Battle Cry under the name Justus McQueen – but his character was called LQ Jones, providing the inspiration for his stage name

A few years later Jones told Roger Ebert he and Peckinpah were best friends ‘for about five or six years before I stopped talking to him.’  

‘Sam was a genius and I loved him, but he was a basket case. He drove everybody nuts,’ Jones remarked a few years ago.

‘Most people after one show give it up and can’t take it anymore. I did 13 deals with Sam so you can see where it puts me,’ he told the website Focus Blondie. 

‘You gotta be a nut but I liked him because he is so good at what he does. He’s going to make you look good. He can’t help it and a lot of people think it was easy for Sam, but it wasn’t easy for Sam,’ Jones added.

Early years: As his acting career progressed, he repeatedly featured in westerns, including the television series Cheyenne, which he is pictured on in 1955 alongside Clint Walker (right)

Early years: As his acting career progressed, he repeatedly featured in westerns, including the television series Cheyenne, which he is pictured on in 1955 alongside Clint Walker (right)

He occasionally turned his hand to directing himself, beginning with the 1964 small town drama The Devil’s Bedroom, for which he returned to his birth name.

His most famous directorial venture was the 1975 post-apocalyptic dark comedy A Boy And His Dog, which failed at the box office but has since become a cult classic. 

Jones only returned to directing once after that for a television episode, and has since said that being at the helm of a project is ‘too much work.’

Acting, however, proceeded apace, including on TV with such westerns as Rawhide, Gunsmoke, The Big Valley and Wagon Train. 

What a career: During the 1950s he worked with the acclaimed directors Mervyn LeRoy and Don Siegel on Toward The Unknown and An Annapolis Story (pictured) respectively

What a career: During the 1950s he worked with the acclaimed directors Mervyn LeRoy and Don Siegel on Toward The Unknown and An Annapolis Story (pictured) respectively

He continued working with top-flight directors later in life, even securing a small part in Martin Scorsese’s 1990s classic Casino.

As the 21st century dawned, he acted in such movies as the Mel Gibson starrer The Patriot and his final feature film, Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion in 2006.

About a decade later, his answering machine message cheekily told his callers: ‘I’m around somewhere, probably just counting my money. When I get through, if I’m not too tired, I’ll return your call.’

Swan song: As the 21st century dawned, he acted in such movies as the Mel Gibson starrer The Patriot and his final feature film, A Prairie Home Companion in 2006 (pictured)

Swan song: As the 21st century dawned, he acted in such movies as the Mel Gibson starrer The Patriot and his final feature film, A Prairie Home Companion in 2006 (pictured)

However as recently as three years ago he refused to concede he was retired, maintaining he would pick up a project if it met his standards.

‘I’m independently poor. I can do what I want to do so we keep looking and if something comes along, we’ll grab it,’ he said. 

On the personal front, Jones was married to his college sweetheart Sue Lewis for over 20 years before their divorce in the 1970s.

He is now survived by one daughter, Mindy McQueen, and two sons called Steve Marshall and Randy McQueen. 

Joie de vivre: However as recently as three years ago he refused to concede he was retired, maintaining he would pick up a project if it met his standards; pictured in 2005

Joie de vivre: However as recently as three years ago he refused to concede he was retired, maintaining he would pick up a project if it met his standards; pictured in 2005

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