The late Don "Thunder Throat" LaFontaine may have been the film trailer "Voice of God" but Hal Douglas was no less prolific, well-regarded or vocally seductive. During nearly six decades in front of a microphone, Douglas performed thousands of voice-overs for films, television programmes, advertisements and stage plays. He became an eminence in the field – a craft in which a handful of highly paid professionals get most of the work.
He narrated TV commercials for Broadway shows such as Cats, Dreamgirls and Miss Saigon and trailers for films like Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Meet the Parents, Chocolat and Men in Black. He also sold products as varied as Mercedes-Benz cars and Trojan condoms. Some of the overlapping work did not sit well with corporate executives. "I did Chevrolet, I think, and they requested I get myself off the condoms," he recalled.
The control Douglas maintained over his voice – which he described as "very throaty, very chesty" – gave it tremendous range, musicality and tempo. His timing was critical in a job in which he might be asked to shave off half a second without sacrificing rhythm or mood.
"To say he was as good as it gets only begins to scratch the surface," said Marice Tobias, a leading Los Angeles-based voice consultant. "He was a storyteller. Whether he was doing Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Terminator 16, he was able to step into that emotional world and convey to the audience what we call The Promise – the promise of the experience you're going to have."
Harold Cohen (Hal Douglas), voice artist: born Stamford, Connecticut 1 September 1924; died Lovettsville, Virginia 7 March 2014.
© The Washington PostReuse content