<span style="font-family: Verdana,Helvetica,Arial;"><span style="font-size: 12px;">The voice-over artist who was ‘King of the Trailers’</span></span>
Don LaFontaine 1940-2008
The sonorous baritone of Don LaFontaine, who has died at 68, was among the most recognizable voices in Hollywood. LaFontaine narrated some 350,000 commercials, thousands of TV promos, and, most famously, more than 5,000 film trailers, many of them beginning with his ominous signature line, “In a world where ...” Known as “Thunder Throat,” “The Voice of God,” and “King of the Trailers,” LaFontaine became a household name when he appeared in a 2006 Geico auto insurance spot that identified him as “that announcer guy from the movies.”
A native of Duluth, Minn., LaFontaine liked to say his career began when his voice cracked at age 13, said the London Independent. Soon he was in demand by classmates “who wanted to cut class and would ask him to call school posing as their fathers.” After serving in the Army as a recording engineer, he went into business with radio commercial producer Floyd Peterson to make movie trailers. In 1964, when an announcer didn’t show up to record the trailer for the MGM Western Gunfighters of Casa Grande, LaFontaine “stepped in to fill the silence. Soon he was the most familiar narrator in film.”
LaFontaine was surprisingly versatile, said the San Antonio Express-News. “His deeply resonant articulation was equally effective setting the mood for an apocalyptic adventure as for a screwball comedy.” He also knew how to hook audiences with short, riveting pronouncements. For Fatal Attraction, in 1987, he intoned, “A look that led to an evening. A mistake he’d regret all his life,” while for Dodgeball (2004) he declared, “There are those who are born to be winners, and then ... there are these guys.” His grabber for 1984’s The Terminator was, “In the 21st century, a weapon would be invented like no other”; seven years later, for the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, he announced portentously, “Same make. Same model. New mission.”
LaFontaine routinely recorded 60 promotions in a week and once did 35 in a single day, said The Washington Post. “He traveled from job to job in a chauffeured limousine to avoid taking the time to look for a parking place. The driver kept the motor running.” Eventually he worked from home, recording in a studio that his wife, who survives him, called “the Hole.” LaFontaine was not above self-parody, often recording phone greetings for friends. For the Geico ad, an actual customer calmly recounted her car accident (“When the storm hit, both our cars were totally underwater”) while the bald, mustachioed LaFontaine offered dramatic counterpoint (“In a world where both of our cars were totally underwater”). But he approached each job with equal seriousness. “Even the worst picture is someone’s favorite film,” he said, “and that someone is the fan I am always talking to.”
LaFontaine’s prerecorded voice will grace coming attractions for many months to come.