The film industry lost a significant voice today, literally, as recording artist and trailer-voiceover icon Hal Douglas died at his home in Virginia. He was 89.
The NY Times reports that Douglas died from complications related to pancreatic cancer. It doesn’t make much sense to us to tell you about Douglas right off the bat. It’s better if you hear him, at his best. This is Douglas playing off of his unusual job, recording a trailer for Jerry Seinfeld’s hysterical documentary, Comedian. It captures the essence of Douglas, beautifully:
"Ah, no ‘In a world, Jack.’" That’s very funny.
It’s also one of what the Times reports as "thousands" of trailers Douglas narrated for movie studios over the years. Douglas once was considered one of the three "go-to talents" when you needed a trailer narrated (alongside the late Don LaFontaine, who died in 2008, and Don Morrow). A Miramax publicist once described Douglas as "the most recognizable trailer voice in the business," and that’s hardly an exaggeration.
Listen to a few of Douglas’ signature trailers. His voice was pure audio velvet:
That is vintage Douglas. Smooth as silk, with memorable, bite-sized lines that basically sum up the movie.
This trailer saves Douglas for last, but he lands a serious emotional punch.
Stallone’s Daylight, on the other hand, uses Douglas’ inflections to sell a silly plot. How many times did this audio ace have to pull off that kind of miracle?
Needless to say, our trailers will never sound the same now that Douglas is gone. As a tribute to his legacy, rent Lake Bell’s amusing romantic comedy In A World, which is set in the universe of trailer artists. It’s a fitting homage on this sad day.