James Earl Jones, Voices and Silences

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9780684195131: James Earl Jones, Voices and Silences
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One of America's great actors presents his life story, revealing the challenges he has faced and overcome, from his impoverished and neglected Mississippi childhood, through his years as a stutterer and a mute, to his spectacular artistic successes.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

An autobiography in brief, as well as a supremely rewarding text on acting, by the always brooding, green-eyed black actor today best known as the voice of Darth Vader and the steely, saturnine voice of New Jersey Bell. Niven (Carl Sandburg, 1991) worked with Jones for four years on this project, which the thesbian seems to write entirely in his own voice. Jones apparently didn't start out to write a text on acting and perhaps doesn't think of this as such, but budding actors shouldn't leave home without it. Knowing Jones's work, we wait somewhat impatiently for him to get through his early days on the Mississippi farm where he was born and raised and into the exciting worlds of stage and film. But those early days are Jones. Parted from his father and mother and raised by his grandparents, he began to stutter as a child, then fell into a muteness that lasted until a high-school teacher had him read a poem aloud and he found that he could read fluently from a text. What's more, his awakened voice had deepened. (The muteness may account for the great intensity of Jones's listening when he acts.) He spent a decade playing innumerable roles Off-Broadway and in regional theater before his breakthrough with Joseph Papp's Shakespeare in the Park troupe. Long enthralled by Othello, he has played the role in many productions, each of which he analyzes here for new ideas about who the Moor is and how to play him. Best moments overall include the lessening in scope and power of The Great White Hope from Washington to Broadway to film; the difficulty of wrestling a better text out of Angus Wilson for Fences; and stone-sucking thoughts about Jones's feelings and passions in his various roles. A star is born among the classics on acting. (Three eight-page photo inserts--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Celebrated actor Jones, writing with Niven ( Carl Sandburg: A Biography ), has produced a compelling memoir. Raised by his hardworking grandfather and storytelling grandmother, six-year-old James began to stutter when the family moved from Mississippi, where he was born in 1931, to Michigan. Virtually mute for the next eight years, he recaptured speech by reciting poetry and prose. Jones reconnected with his estranged actor father during his journeyman years in Manhattan theater; in the 1950s he blossomed in the "democracy of the frontier" that was off-Broadway. He offers lively and nuanced reflections on his great and sometimes controversial parts, which include, on stage, Paul Robeson, and on film: the title role in Othello , Lennie in Of Mice and Men , Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope and Troy Maxson in Fences. While Jones concentrates more on his professional than on his personal life, he also discusses his complicated multiracial heritage and his two marriages. He ends with tender thoughts about the almost spiritual richness of life on his New York farm and the joy he takes in his young son. As his career and his memoirs verify, Jones's lifelong struggle with language has produced some lasting words. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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