Hal Douglas, who lent his vocal gravitas to hundreds of movie trailers in his long career as a voiceover artist, died March 7 at his home in Lovettsville, Va. He was 89 and had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010. In October, he suffered a stroke, losing most of his ability to speak.
He was among the top voiceover 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.”
He provided the voice-over narration for Kevin Costner’s 1995 epic “Waterworld” and for HBO’s “First Look” movie docu series in the late 1990s.
Douglas was featured on-camera in a handful of projects, including Jerry Seinfeld’s 2002 documentary “Comedian,” in which he riffed on his aural celebrity. 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 campy “In a world …” phrase was credited to Don LaFontaine, another voice-over great, 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.
Douglas grew up in Connecticut. He spent three years in the Navy during WWII, and studied acting at U. of Miami after the war, according to the New York Times. He later moved to New York to pursue acting gigs and wound up landing radio and TV voiceover work.
Douglas is survived by his wife of 43 years, Ruth, and two sons.
Here’s a look at Douglas at work in the trailer for “Comedian.”