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Art Gilmore dies at 98; announcer was a familiar voice on radio, TV, movie trailers

'Amos 'n' Andy' on radio and 'The Red Skelton Show' on television were among his many gigs, which also included more than 2,700 movie previews.

October 02, 2010|By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times
  • Kelly Crawford sits in a replica of the cruiser used by his father, Broderick Crawford, in "Highway Patrol." Standing is Art Gilmore, the series narrator.
Kelly Crawford sits in a replica of the cruiser used by his father, Broderick… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

Art Gilmore, who launched his more than 60-year career as an announcer in the 1930s and became a widely recognized voice on radio, television, commercials, documentaries and movie trailers, has died. He was 98.

Gilmore died Sept. 25 of age-related causes at a convalescent care center near his home in Irvine, said his nephew, Robb Weller.

"He was one of an elite corps of radio and television announcers, a voice that everyone in America recognized because it was ubiquitous," film critic and show business historian Leonard Maltin told The Times this week.

"For at least 20 years, if you listened to radio, watched TV or went to the movies, you couldn't help but hear Art Gilmore's voice," said Maltin. "It wasn't especially deep like some announcers, but it had authority, command and yet also a kind of friendliness. I think it was an all-American voice."

Among the highlights of Gilmore's long and prolific career:

On radio, he was the announcer on shows such as "Amos 'n' Andy," "Dr. Christian," "Red Ryder" and "The Sears Radio Theater."

Moving to television in the 1950s, he was the announcer for "The George Gobel Show," and he began a 16-season stint as the announcer on "The Red Skelton Show." He was also the narrator on the TV series "Mackenzie's Raiders," "Men of Annapolis" and "Highway Patrol," for which he intoned:

"Whenever the laws of any state are broken, each state has a duly authorized organization that swings into action. It may be called the state militia or the state police or the highway patrol. These are the stories of the men whose training, skill and courage have enforced and preserved our state laws."

On both radio and television, Gilmore's voice was heard introducing and concluding "The World Tomorrow," a church-sponsored program with Herbert W. Armstrong and later his son, Garner Ted Armstrong.

Moviegoers also heard Gilmore's voice on more than 2,700 movie trailers, including those for " It's a Wonderful Life," "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Rear Window," "Shane," "Creature From the Black Lagoon" and the original "Ocean's 11."

Among the odds and ends of a career that included narrating children's records and serving as national spokesman for Chrysler: Gilmore was the voice of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1942 movie "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Weller, a television host and producer, said his Uncle Art served as his mentor, beginning in the late '50s.

"When I was a kid, 8 or 9, I'd go with him to CBS Television City, where he was announcing 'Red Skelton,' and sit right in the booth with him," recalled Weller, noting that Gilmore was a stickler for precise pronunciation and always kept a dictionary by his side.

"Art always said the word tells you how to say it," said Weller. "If it's an exciting word, it's exciting. If it's a morose word, you say it in a lower tone. So when he did [the trailers for] 'It's a Wonderful Life,' it's up and fun; and when he did 'Seven Days in May,' it was down and serious and foreboding.

"I think his ability to vary his reads and give the studios what they wanted was his key to doing so many of these trailers."

Gilmore was born in Tacoma, Wash. on March 18, 1912. While studying speech at what is now Washington State University, he became an announcer on the campus radio station. He left school in 1935 and became staff announcer at KOL in Seattle.

Moving to Los Angeles in 1936, he became a staff announcer at KFWB and soon went to work at the CBS-owned KNX.

After serving as an officer in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, Gilmore resumed his career, which included serving as the narrator of the Joe McDoakes comedy shorts starring George O'Hanlon. He also occasionally worked as an actor on "Dragnet," "Adam-12" and other shows.

Gilmore served as the national president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists from 1961 to 1963 and was the founding president of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters.

From 1973 through 2005, Gilmore volunteered reading textbooks for the Los Angeles unit of Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic and served as a board member from 1980 to 1984.

A resident of Sherman Oaks for 65 years, Gilmore moved to Irvine five years ago.

His survivors include his wife of 72 years, Grace; his daughters, Marilyn Gilmore and Barbara McCoy; two grandchildren; and four great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 600 St. Andrews Road, Newport Beach.

dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

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