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JONES, JAMES EARL
(1931– ). American actor.

IMDB credits James Earl Jones is an actor who is now, first and foremost, recognized for his Voice—deep, distinctive, and authoritative; for years, he left viewers in no doubt about which network they were watching by announcing "This is CNN," and he added a special aura of power and malevolence to the Star Wars franchises's Darth Vader by providing his voice, most recently in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). But as the character, revealed as Luke Skywalker's father, gradually reformed in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), he demonstrated that his voice could be affecting as well as menacing, as almost demonstrated by his regal, sympathetic father in The Lion King (1994). And when he intoned the introductory narration for Judge Dredd (1995), he momentarily led viewers to suspect that it was going to be a good film.

But one primarily evaluates actors by their on-screen performances, and Jones long excelled in that area as well. Barely seen in Dr. Strangelove (1964), he did as well as he could with the script of The Man (1972) and brought conviction to the role of a man kidnapped by aliens in The UFO Incident (1975). While unavoidably weak in roles that place him in a stereotypical Darkest Africa, as in Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and Allan Quatermain and the City of Gold (1986), he was brilliantly menacing as Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian (1982). Two other memorable performances came as a reclusive writer in Field of Dreams (1989), helping to make that illogical drama about the magic of baseball seem evocative and meaningful, and as a teller of campfire horror stories in Grim Prairie Tales: Hit the Trail to Terror (1990), wherein his interludes with Brad Dourif proved more entertaining than the not particularly frightening vignettes that they introduced.

However, probably recognizing that he could always earn a living with his voice alone, Jones allowed himself to gain more and more weight, making him difficult to cast, and while he could still provide standout performances in realistic films like Cry, the Beloved Country (1995) and A Family Thing (1996), it was sad to see him wasted in supporting roles in films like The Meteor Man (1993) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). Still, even as he entered his eighties, he recently appeared in the television series Agent X (2015) and the film Warning Shot (2017), indicating that while he has most memorably been heard, he has retained a desire to be occasionally seen.

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