Entertainment News would like to wish a happy 76th birthday to the great James Earl Jones. Though rarely taking the lead role, Jones has had small parts in several great movies. His very first film was the hilarious cold war satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in which he played Lt. Lothar Zogg, one of the crew of the bomber piloted by Slim Pickens. Jones also played Admiral James Greer in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan trilogy: The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear & Present Danger (in a related note, Entertainment News does not recognize Sum of All Fears as part of the Jack Ryan trilogy because of the involvement of Ben Affleck). Jones shows up at the end of Sneakers as Bernard Abbott of the NSA to bargain with Robert Redford. He also shows up at the end of The Sandlot as Mr. Mertle, the owner of the dog on the other side of the fence. In a role that showed he could do comedy as well, Jones played the part of John Dolby in the Dana Carvey movie Clean Slate. It's funny because he plays the district attorney who is in a wheelchair and a neck brace but still manages to wear a tie through the brace. In another comedy Jones played King Jaffe Joffer, Eddie Murphy's father in Coming to America. Of course two of his most famous roles came from his voice only. He was King Mufasa in Disney's The Lion King and Darth Vader in four of the six Star Wars movies, although he almost wasn't. George Lucas originally wanted Orson Welles to be voice of Darth Vader.
It hasn't all been small parts for James Earl Jones. He was Kevin Costner's costar in Field of Dreams and he starred opposite Richard Harris in the 1995 adaptation of Cry, The Beloved Country. His biggest role, however, came in The Great White Hope, a 1970 movie based on the life of early twentieth century boxer Jack Johnson, who was the subject the Ken Burns documentary Unforgivable Blackness. It was a role for which Jones had previously won a Tony for the Broadway version.
James Earl Jones does mostly voice work these days, which is one of my dream jobs (the other is NFL punter). However, I have a voice for newspaper to go along with my face for radio (see my post on beautiful people). Later this year the voice of James Earl Jones can be heard in 2004: A Light Knight's Odyssey, an animated science fiction film also featuring the voice talents of Casey Kasem, Samuel L. Jackson (or Samuel F. Jackson as I like to call him, in honor of his favorite word), Christian Slater and John Travolta.
Also celebrating birthdays today are Zooey Deschanel (27), Kid Rock (36), Jim Carrey (45), Muhammad Ali (65), Maury Povich (68), former Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer (76), Vidal Sassoon (79), Betty White (85), and Al Capone (108).
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