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Don La Fontaine (Donald LaFontaine)

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Born: 1940 AD
Died: 2008 AD, at 68 years of age.

Nationality: American
Categories: Announcer, Radio Host, Voice Actor

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1940 - Born in August, 26th - Duluth, Minnesota.

 

 

A performer aptly named "The King of Voiceovers" for his everpresent vocal work (especially on movie trailers), Don La Fontaine ultimately grew so prolific that the sound of his voice became a veritable staple of American pop culture.

 

 

1950's-1960's  -  La Fontaine's distinguished sound emerged in early adolescence; he began his professional life as an audio engineer, producing radio spots for Floyd Peterson, but quickly segued into voiceovers for a myriad of projects.

 

 

 

1950's-1960's - In U.S. Army

 

 

 

1960's - After the United States Army, and worked as a recording engineer for the Army Band and Chorus. He continued in that field after discharge and began working at the National Recording Studios in New York City, where, in 1962, he had the opportunity to work with producer Floyd Peterson on radio spots for

Dr. Strangelove in 1964. Peterson incorporated many of LaFontaine's ideas for the spots, and, they went into business together producing advertising exclusively for the movie industry. LaFontaine claimed that it was this company that first came up with many of the famous movie trailer catch phrases, including his own future trademark, "in a world..."

 

 

 

1964-65 - While working on the western Gunfighters of Casa Grande, LaFontaine had to fill in for an unavailable voice actor in order to have something to present to MGM. After MGM bought the spots, LaFontaine began a career as a voiceover artist.

 

 

 

 

1967-1988 - Married to Joan Studva, they had 1 child.

 

 

 

1960's-80's - He became the head of Kaleidoscope Films Ltd., a major movie trailer producer before starting his own company, Don LaFontaine Associates, in 1976. Shortly thereafter, he was hired by Paramount to do their trailers, and was eventually promoted to a vice president. However, he decided to get back into trailer work, left Paramount, moving to Los Angeles in 1981. LaFontaine was contacted by an agent who wanted to promote him for voiceover work. Thereafter, LaFontaine worked in voiceovers. At his peak, he voiced about 60 promotions a week, and sometimes as many as 35 in a single day. Once he established himself, most studios were willing to pay a high fee for his service. His income was reportedly in the millions.

 

 

1980's-90's - LaFontaine often had jobs at a number of different studios each day, and famously hired a driver to take him from studio to studio in order to save time finding parking. With the advent of ISDN technology, LaFontaine built a recording studio in his Hollywood Hills home and began doing his work from home.

 

 

1960's-2000's - LaFontaine was the voice of thousands of movie trailers over his career, spanning every genre. For a time, LaFontaine had a near-monopoly on movie trailer voiceovers. Some notable trailers which LaFontaine highlighted in the intro on his official website include: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Shrek, Law & Order and Batman Returns. LaFontaine stated in 2007 that his favorite work in a movie trailer was for the hit biographical film The Elephant Man, though according to a response to the question on his website, he had several trailers which stood out in his mind, and he didn't like to choose one.

 

 

2007 - In a interview, LaFontaine explained the strategy behind his signature catch phrase, "in a world where...":

We have to very rapidly establish the world we are transporting them to. That's very easily done by saying, "In a world where... violence rules." "In a world where... men are slaves and women are the conquerors." You very rapidly set the scene.

 

 

 

 

                               -LaFontaine also did other voice work, including as the announcer for the newscasts on WCBS-TV New York, from 2000 to 2001. LaFontaine was a recurring guest narrator for clues on the game show Jeopardy! and appeared on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! on May 14, 2005, where he played "Not My Job" (a game in which famous people have to accurately answer questions totally unrelated to their chosen professions). The prize (for a listener, not the contestant) is "Carl Kassell's voice on your home answering machine". LaFontaine did not win the game, and offered to record the listener's answering machine message himself. LaFontaine once claimed that he enjoyed recording messages like these because it allowed him to be creative in writing unique messages, and said that he would do so for anyone who contacted him if he had the time. However, by 2007, he found the requests to be too numerous for him to take on, and stopped providing the service.

 

 

 

1990's? - 2008, Married to Nita Whitaker (African-American) had two kids, Daughter, Skye LaFontaine, Daughter Elyse LaFontaine.

 

 

2006 - GEICO began airing an ad campaign in which actual customers told their own stories of GEICO experiences, accompanied by a celebrity who helped them make the story interesting. LaFontaine was featured as the celebrity in one of these ads which began airing in August 2006. In the commercial, he was introduced as "that announcer guy from the movies", with his name printed on-screen to identify him. He began his telling of the customer's story with his trademark "In a world...". LaFontaine credited the spot as life-changing for having exposed his name and face to a significant audience, noting, "There goes any anonymity I might have had...

 

 

He said that Peter Thomas influenced his career. In interviews he stated that his voice spontaneously cracked in mid-sentence at the age of 13. He became very self-conscious about his "new" voice until his classmates at school would pay him to speak as their fathers to make "sick calls" on their behalf so they could take a day off from school.

 

 

 

 


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Page last updated: 12:29pm, 12th Aug '09