Pop Culture

Voice-over superstar Hal Douglas dies at 89

One of the entertainment world's most recognizable voices is gone. That husky baritone heard in thousands of movie trailers or TV promo spots belonged to voice-over artist Hal Douglas, a superstar in his industry.

Douglas died at his home in Lovettsville, Va. on March 7, from complications of pancreatic cancer, his daughter Sarah Douglas told the New York Times. He was 89.

In a career spanning nearly six decades, Douglas performed voice-overs for movies, TV shows, plays and commercials. From “Forrest Gump” to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to “Cats,” Douglas always got the tone just right, striking a note of humor, intensity, or suspense — whatever the project needed.

"People have been telling me that they have been hearing me since they were children," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2006.

“I get direction, but for the most part it is kind of working in the dark to an extent, particularly for movies," Douglas told the Los Angeles Times. "You get the description of the movie, the contexts of the lines that you are doing, and the rest of it is intuitive. It comes as a result from a long history of doing this stuff. Movies, particularly, fall into departments. You have an action film, you have a romantic film, you have the dark films. They all suggest an attitude and a voice quality. I don't do character voices per se, but depending upon the emotion, try to approach it as an actor."

Douglas worked steadily until two years ago, and once made an on-screen appearance in the trailer for Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian." There Douglas showed off his sense of irony, playing a an overly dramatic voice-over artist who can't help but speak in promo cliches. 

Douglas was born Harold Cone in Stamford, Conn. After his mother died when he was nine, Douglas and his brother, Edwin were raised by their grandparents, according to the New York Times. He later trained as a pilot and spent three years in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he enrolled on the G.I. Bill at the University of Miami, where he studied acting. When he moved to New York, he changed his last name to Douglas and began acting and doing voice-over work in radio and television. 

Although he became one of the top talents in his industry, Douglas told the New York Times in 2009: "I’m not outstanding in any way. “It’s a craft that you learn, like making a good pair of shoes. And I just consider myself a good shoemaker.”

In addition to his daughter, Douglas is survived by his wife of 43 years, Ruth Francis Douglas, and two sons from a previous marriage, Jeremy and Jon.