James Earl Jones

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Date of Birth: January 17th 1931

American actor of stage and screen, well known for his deep basso voice. He is perhaps best known for voicing the sinister Darth Vader from the Star Wars franchise.

Jones had his acting career beginnings at the Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee, Michigan. In 1953 he was a stage carpenter. During the 1955 – 1957 seasons he was an actor and stage manager. He performed his first portrayal of Shakespeare’s Othello in this theater in 1955.

His first film role was as a young and trim Lt. Lothar Zogg, the B-52 bombardier, in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in 1964 which was more famous for the work of Peter Sellers and Slim Pickens. His first big role came with his portrayal of boxer Jack Jefferson in the film version of the Broadway play, The Great White Hope which was based on the life of boxer Jack Johnson. For his role, Jones was nominated Best Actor by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he is the second African-American male performer (following Sidney Poitier) to receive a nomination.

In 1969, Jones participated in making test films for a proposed children's television series called Sesame Street; these shorts, combined with animated segments, were shown to groups of children to gauge the effectiveness of the then-groundbreaking Sesame Street format. As cited by production notes included in the DVD release Sesame Street: Old School 1969-1974, the short that had the greatest impact with test audiences was one showing bald-headed Jones counting slowly to ten. This and other segments featuring Jones were eventually aired as part of the Sesame Street series itself when it debuted later in 1969 and Jones is often cited as the first celebrity guest on that series, although a segment with Carol Burnett was the first to actually be broadcast.

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