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King of the movie trailers dies

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Don LaFontaine records a commercial in the recording studio in his Los Angeles home in February 2007. He was one of Hollywood's most prolific voice actors. (Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press)

Don LaFontaine, the man who provided the sonorous voice for more than 5,000 movie trailers, died Monday at age 68.

LaFontaine died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications from a collapsed lung. He had been taken to the hospital Aug. 22 with a blood clot in the lung.

LaFontaine was known as the "king of the movie trailers," having done the trailer voiceovers for films such as Terminator, Fatal Attraction, Cheaper by the Dozen, Batman Returns and his personal favourite, The Elephant Man.

His baritone voice and melodramatic delivery are famously associated with the oft-repeated movie trailer phrase, "In a world…"

He also has been parodied by comedians such as Janeanne Garofolo and Pablo Francisco and even participated in parodies of himself, including a shtick in The Simpsons Movie in which Homer repeats what LaFontaine says right after he says it.

LaFontaine also did thousands of television commercials, network promotions, video game trailers and other spots.

He told Entertainment magazine he did more than 60 such promotions a week, and at one point was famous for having a driver take him from studio to studio to save time finding parking.

With the advent of digital recording that could be sent from a home studio, he began recording spots in his Hollywood Hills home.

LaFontaine worked for every major U.S. network, including NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and UPN, in addition to TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network.

He did voiceovers on shows as diverse as the 79th Annual Academy Awards, America's Most Wanted and Entertainment Tonight.

He also did spots for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Budweiser, McDonalds, Coke and many other corporate sponsors, according to his website.

A 'one-man army'

Born Aug. 26, 1940, in Duluth, Minn., LaFontaine enlisted in the army after high school and learned to become a recording engineer. He began his career as a recording engineer for National Recording Studios and produced his first promo for Dr. Strangelove.

The man he was working with, Floyd Peterson, started a company to produce promos, and the two helped create some of the clichés of the movie trailer, including phrases such as "In a world," "A one-man army" and "Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and no way out."

While working on the 1964 movie Gunfighters of Casa Grande, he filled in for another voice actor in a radio promo. This led to more voice work, and by the 1970s, he was one of Hollywood's busiest voice actors.

He became head of production for Kaleidoscope Films Ltd., a trailer production house, and in 1976 he started his own production company, Don LaFontaine Associates.

His first assignment as an independent was The Godfather, Part II.

From 1978 to 1981, he worked exclusively for Paramount, becoming the voice of the company. After that, he became independent again and moved to Los Angeles to be closer to the studios.

Among his most recent assignments were an appearance (in person) in a Geico ad, a voiceover for Arrested Development and promos for Borat and the Disney movie Meet the Robinsons.

LaFontaine is survived by his actress-singer wife, Nita Whitaker, and three children.

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