Friday, March 14, 2014

Godspeed Film Trailer Voice Artist Hal Douglas

Hal Douglas, a voice artist well known for his voice overs of film trailers, died on 7 March 2014 at the age of 89. The cause was complications from pancreatic cancer. Alongside Don LaFontanie and Don Morrow, he was among the best known voice-over men in the industry.

Hal Douglas was born Harold Cone on 1 September 1924 in Stamford, Connecticut. His mother died when he was only 9 years old and as a result he was raised by his maternal grandparents. During World War II he served as a pilot in the United States Navy.  Following the war he attended the University of Miami where he majored in acting.

It was after he left college that he began work a television and radio announcer. He moved from announcing on TV and radio to producing television commercials for the Madison Avenue advertising agencies. After around ten years in advertising he returned to working as a voice artist. Over the years Mr. Douglas would narrate thousands of movie trailers, although he also did voice over work in other media. He did thousands of commercials, as well as promos for television shows and commercials for stage plays. Among the trailers he narrated were Philadelphia, Con Air, Forrest Gump, and Men in Black. Among the cable channels for whom he narrated promos were A&E, the Disney Channel, HBO, and the History Channel, as well as the now defunct broadcast network the WB. He narrated commercials for such companies as Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, and Trojan. He also narrated the film Waterworld (1995).

Hal Douglas appeared in the  trailer for Jerry Seinfeld's documentary Comedian (2002), parodying the various cliché phrases of film trailers ("in a world...," When your life is no longer your own . . .," “When everything you know is wrong . . .," and so on). Like Don LaFontaine, Hal Douglas was identified with the phrase "in a world", and it has been a matter of debate as to which one actually coined the phrase.

There was a good reason that Hal Douglas was one of the top voice-over men in the business. His voice was absolutely massive, and could quite easily fill a room. At the same Mr. Douglas' voice had considerable range. He could do nearly any sort of trailer given to him, using a more booming voice for action films, a lighter voice for family films, and a more whimsical tone for comedies. What his more he was not limited in the emotions he could evoke in a trailer, everything from horror to humour. He also had perfect timing. In many respects Hal Douglas had the ideal voice for film trailers, so that there should be little wonder as to why he was one of the best in the business.

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