For more than 40 years Don LaFontaine was the voice of the film preview. His sonorous, gravelly, ignore-me-at-your-peril delivery became virtually synonymous with the movie trailer. We originally aired this tribute to his career shortly after his death in September of 2008.
Artist: by Galaxie 500
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This month in an L.A. Times Op-Ed, Joe Queenan came up with a novel reason why fewer people are going to the movies. It’s not just that the quality of the films has slipped, he says. It’s because we are less motivated to go see them. And that’s because last year, Don LaFontaine passed away. [CLIP]: [DRUMS ROLLS] DON LaFONTAINE: John Rambo was innocent. SYLVESTER STALLONE AS RAMBO: I didn't do anything! [DRUMS] DON LaFONTAINE: They pushed him too far. SYLVESTER STALLONE AS RAMBO: I’m starting to dislike you, a lot. [DRUMS] DON LaFONTAINE: One man who'll never give up. [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: For 33 years, LaFontaine owned those two minutes of gut-shaking, tightly-edited highlights. It was his gravelly, ignore-me-at-your-peril delivery that made every movie preview sound like this [CLIP]: DON LaFONTAINE: The good – [SOUNDS OF WIND AND A HORN] The bad – [SOUND OF A FLUTE] The ugly. [THUMPING/SCREAM] [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: In some 5,000 previews and countless commercials, LaFontaine intrigued you, beguiled you, scared you a little, because suddenly you were - [CLIP]: DON LaFONTAINE: In a world of danger. [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: Or – [CLIP]: DON LaFONTAINE: In a world where change is often frightening. [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: Or even - [CLIP]: DON LaFONTAINE: In a world of falafel and pizza - [FOREIGN LANGUAGE/MUSIC] - stand in the line - [MUSIC] - for the best sabich in the universe. [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: In a brief video tribute, the inventor of “in a world” explains that his extraordinary magic sprang from a pretty ordinary place. [CLIP]: DON LaFONTAINE: When I was 13 years old, my voice changed in the middle of a sentence. [HIGH VOICED] Mom, [DEEP VOICED] I'll help you with the dishes. Literally. And for a while there, it really upset me, but then I discovered that I could be everybody’s dad. [DEEP-VOICED] Jimmy can't come to school today because he’s not feeling very well. [END CLIP] In a world where unique talent deserves recognition, we salute you, Don LaFontaine. Also, we have a special respect, envy, really, for anyone who can enthrall with only the sound of his voice. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York's flagship public radio
stations, broadcasting the finest programs from NPR, PRI and American Public Media, as well as a wide range of award-winning local
programming. WNYC is a division of
New York Public Radio.