An A-Z of Actors: J

After the problems with ‘I’, this letter has more to offer, with all those Jones, Johnson, and Jackson surnames available. I will try to choose some of the less obvious, and leave you to add your own choices in the comments.

Starting today with a talented British actor who has worked on stage, screen and television. He also directs, and is one of the founders of The Royal National Theatre. Still working regularly at the age of 79, the credits of Sir Derek Jacobi are too long to list in full, but he will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the great actors of his generation. He first came to my attention playing Claudius, in the outstanding BBC adaptation of ‘I, Claudius’, in 1976. At the time, he was also a customer in my shop in London, and was a very nice man in every respect. To international readers, he might be best known for his film work, including ‘The Day Of The Jackal’ (1973), ‘The Odessa File’ (1974), ‘Henry V’ (1989), ‘Gladiator’ (2000), and ‘Gosford Park’ (2001). His most recent film roles are in the remake of ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ (2017), and ‘Tomb Raider’ (2018).

Glenda Jackson is a little difficult to warm to as a person. Outspoken and overtly political, she was a member of parliament until 2015, and came across as very self-assured and abrasive, not a bad thing in that job. But her acting skills are undeniable, and she has two Oscars and a crop of other awards to testify to that fact. She started acting in 1957, and received critical acclaim almost immediately, going on to great success on stage and in film, as well as appearing on television. In 1971, her role as Elizabeth the first in ‘Elizabeth R’ saw the series shown all around the world, and became the benchmark performance of that historical character. She played the same role in the drama ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ (1971), opposite Vanessa Redgrave as Mary. Two films by Ken Russell gave her great roles in ‘The Music Lovers’ (1971), and ‘Women In Love’ (1969). She went on to star in over twenty more films, before entering politics.

Scarlett Johansson is an American actress who as well as being talented is also very good to watch on screen. I confess to a fondness for looking at her that makes it hard to be critical of her performances. But that said, she has been in some excellent films, and shown great talent in many of them. She is also an accomplished stage actress, winning a Tony Award for Best Actress in ‘A View From The Bridge’, in 2010. I spotted her in the excellent Indie film ‘Ghost World’ (2001), though she had been around for a long time before that. She played alongside the wonderful Thora Birch, and held her own in every scene. Then came the simply sublime ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’ (2003), and her outstanding role in ‘Lost In Translation’ (2003). In 2013, she played an alien in the compelling film ‘Under The Skin’, and I literally could not take my eyes off the screen. At just 33, we can expect a great deal more from her, I’m sure.

Puerto Rican star Raul Julia had such a distinctive face and voice, as well as showing great talent in many roles. As he later became so famous in ‘The Addams Family’ films, it is easy to overlook his career before that. He was in ‘The Panic In Needle Park’ (1971), an underrated film starring Al Pacino, and ‘The Eyes Of Laura Mars’, (1978) with Faye Dunaway. He later starred alongside Terri Garr in one of my favourite films, ‘One From The Heart’ (1982), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, before appearing in the Oscar-winning film ‘Kiss OF The Spider Woman’, in 1985. In ‘Presumed Innocent’ (19900, he played Sandy Stern, opposite Harrison Ford. He died at the young age of 54, in 1994, leaving behind his unforgettable role as Gomez Addams as a great legacy.

Last up is British actress Geraldine James. She is close to my own age, so I feel I have grown up watching her career. Beginning in TV drama, she received the nomination for Best Actress BAFTA for the harrowing ‘Dummy’, in 1977. To this day still one of the best things I have ever seen on TV. More television credits here include ‘The Jewel In The Crown’, and ‘Band Of Gold’. Her film career has been long too, including ‘Gandhi’ (1982), ‘The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase’ (1989), ‘Moll Flanders’ (1996), and ‘Calendar Girls’ (2003). More recent roles have seen her appear in films as diverse as ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ (2011), and ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (2016).

51 thoughts on “An A-Z of Actors: J

  1. I like Scarlett Johansson, and have seen a number of her films, including “The Horse Whisperer,” “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” and “Under the Skin.” I have “Eight Legged Freaks” on DVD, as well as “The Prestige” and a couple of her Marvel films.

    I have to mention Irène Jacob, just because.
    Don Johnson stars in one of my guilty pleasures, “The Hot Spot.”
    Thomas Jane is always fun to watch, even as a shark punisher. Ain’t that the sweetest thing?
    She may be nuts, but I do enjoy Angelina Jolie, and have a number of her films. Check out “Gia.”
    I’m fond of Famke Janssen. I feel like we’ve bonded.
    David Janssen was, and Tommy Lee Jones is, way cool.
    And then there is Milla Jovovich. She may or may not be a great actress, but as a fifth element, she’s perfect. (And, of course, I have all of her “Resident Evil” films. They’re not good, but she is!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David. I also like Milla, especially in ‘The Messenger: Joan of Arc’. (1999)
      As for Angelina, I really only rate her acting in one film, ‘Changeling’ (2008).
      I never think of Don Johnson as an actor, to be honest. Just as someone playing Don Johnson. 🙂
      Thanks for your other good choices too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My grandmother actually had a bit part in Song of Bernadette. But as for your series, I too think of Tommy Lee Jones. He was in my class at Harvard. When I see him now I can’t figure out how he got so old while I stayed just the same!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You always start these off with such impeccable choices Pete! Raul Julia, Scarlett Johansson, and Geraldine James are definitely on my list. As is James Earl Jones, Shirley Jones and Hugh Jackman (my secret crush). I’d also add Tommy Lee Jones, Famke Janssen, Kate Jackson, Samuel Jackson, Dwayne (the Rock) Jones, Ashley Judd, Leslie Jordan, Zane Milla Jovovich.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that comprehensive list, Kim. I see that all you ladies have a real thing for Hugh Jackman! I used to want to look like George Clooney, but I am now changing that request to Hugh! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had already mentioned Shirley Jones in the I’s because of her marriage, so it was easy to come up with Carolyn Jones, James Earl Jones (who doesn’t know that iconic voice?!!) and Dean Jagger.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A few inclusions in your worthy list (nice to see Glenda Jackson returning to the stage). American actress Joyce Jameson primarily for her hysterical portrayal of Amaryllis Trumbull opposite Vincent Price (in his best comic performance) in “The Comedy of Terrors”. American actor Richard Jordan for “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine”, the perpetually underrated great crime drama “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (by far the best movie to have any association with Boston), “The Yakuza”, “The Mean Season” (a silly film but he’s terrifying in it) and “The Hunt for Red October” (one of the wittiest performances representing the oiliness of politicians on film). Swedish actor Erland Josephson for his entire body of work (but especially his extensive Bergman collaborations), culminating in the devastating “Scenes From a Marriage”. British actor Saeed Jaffrey for “The Man Who Would Be King”, “A Passage to India”, “My Beautiful Laundrette”, “The Deceivers” and the underrated “The Chess Players”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great selection, (as expected) Chandler. I well remember Jordan in ‘The Mean Season’, (“Kenosha Cadillacs”), though it was so obvious he was the villain, and how Kurt Russell couldn’t see that immediately is laughable. ‘Eddie Coyle’ is one of my favourite films, and he was suitably ruthless in that one too.
      Best wishes, Pete,

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pete, you and your followers have listed a great variety of talent with a “J” already – I interviewed Raul Julia for the film “Moon Over Parador”, he was gracious and thoughtful. I want to add one name, this year’s Best Supporting Actress Allison Janney…not only for her work in “I, Tonya”, but for all of her many character roles – in “The Hours”, “Juno”, and for one hilariously funny slapstick moment in the great political film “Primary Colors”

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  7. My favourite J actor is an Australian actor Hugh Jackman. I love his role of Wolverine in X-Men film series and his part in Les Miserable movie. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I didn’t know that Scarlett J. won a Tony for Best Actress! I love her, too. I remember her beginning as a girl in ‘The Horse Whisperer” and think she’s gorgeous. What a to-do with her voice in “Her”. And I was just reading about Glenda Jackson the other day. I knew nothing about her and don’t recall a single film of hers that I’ve seen. Here I learn she was a member of parliament, too. How interesting.
    For me, the letter J was troublesome. I can only think of Samuel L. Jackson, and I”m not that much of a fan of his. Fraggle took my vote –Hugh is the perfect man!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah, you them hairy, Cindy! 🙂
      I think you would like Glenda in the historical parts a lot. She was also quite good in romantic comedy, opposite George Segal, in ‘A Touch Of Class’ (1973). I expected to get a lot of votes for Samuel L. J., though I agree he often plays himself, rather than the part.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ah, Celia Johnson and her Encounter at Carnforth station! I remember being most impressed with Geraldine James in The Jewel in the Crown….and, of course Irène Jacob in Kieslowski’s Three Colours

    Liked by 1 person

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