Legendary voice-over artist Hal Douglas, whose sonorous delivery starred in trailers for thousands of movies and documentaries, has died, his family said Thursday.
Douglas, who was 89, died March 7 at his home in northern Virginia with his wife Ruth and daughter Sarah at his side, the family said in a written statement. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010.
While Douglas could probably walk down any street in the U.S. unrecognized, his voice was unmistakably a star. He was among the top voice-over artists of a generation, creating a career based on a rich baritone speaking voice that ranged from biblically epic to theatrically cheesy.
His work on trailers was eclectic, ranging from the somber Philadelphia to the comedic, including Meet the Parents.
Douglas riffed on his aural celebrity – and made a rare on-camera appearance – in the trailer for the Jerry Seinfeld documentary Comedian. In the 2002 film, he takes his place in a recording booth and launches into a trademark trailer opening, “In a world where…” – only to be cut short repeatedly by a director.
The appearance was his first on screen in 40 years, Sarah Douglas said. The campy “In a world …” phrase was credited to Don LaFontaine, another voice-ever great, she said.
Douglas said her father didn’t dwell on his fame. “He was a pretty humble guy and he was pretty humble about his work,” she said.
Despite his lifelong connection to Hollywood, Douglas worked primarily from New York. The last 15 years he had worked from the horse farm he shared with his wife in northern Virginia.
His family said his voice got him work in television, radio and promotional films.
In October, he suffered a stroke, losing most of his ability to speak, Sarah Douglas said.
“It was very, very interesting to watch this man learning how to speak again,” she said, adding that he did recapture a limited ability to speak.
Despite the cancer diagnosis in 2010, “He had a great four years,” she added. She said she wanted others with cancer to know that aspect of his life.
Douglas once said, “The real art is the art of life – the art of living,” his family said.