James Earl Jones

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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

It is possible that a few individuals may exist who are unaware of a significantly talented human being named James Earl Jones. It is also likely that such persons live under rocks at the bottom of the garden and only emerge on February 29 for a brief period at twilight. For the rest of the human community, however, there is the realization that James Earl Jones is undoubtedly and unarguably one of the great actors of this century. Indeed, one of the most important consequences of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s is that the nation as a whole is able to see and enjoy what are frequently deeply and movingly affected performances by this truly gifted individual.

Yet Jones is not merely a vehicle to convey another’s thoughts and insights—he is very much a teller of a compelling and candid tale. In the course of this easily accessible autobiography, the reader learns that one of the most distinctive voices of this generation was silent for more than four years; that his childhood on a farm in Michigan left him untouched by many of the crippling affects of segregation; that he is obsessed, as was his actor father, with William Shakespeare’s OTHELLO; and that, despite his honors and awards, this consummate performer of stage, screen and television remains strangely unaffected by those distinctions. This unaffected person finds not the slightest contradiction between classical theater, action pictures, cinematic masterpieces, voice-overs for television network news and advertisements, or even between starring roles and bit parts. For James Earl Jones, those who can put food on the table for their families do so regardless of the prestige connected to the individual situation. Finally, Jones is anything but bitter, although he could easily give voice to recrimination, and he is not inclined to keep silent regarding the details of his craft.