The Voice Of Hollywood Is Stilled

by Leonard Maltin
September 28, 2010 12:53 PM
14 Comments
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Art loaned me this sweet photo of him with protean radio actress Lurene Tuttle taken in the late 1930s outside of CBS in Hollywood.

For several decades, Art Gilmore was the voice of Hollywood—or so it seemed. He narrated so many coming-attractions trailers that it almost seemed as if he’d cornered the market. When a tribute to him was mounted at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater some years ago the trailers ranged from Alfred Hitchcock classics to schlocky teen and sci-fi films of the 1950s. He always struck just the right note.

In fact, reading these scripts came so quickly and easily to him that, he once told me, he was almost tempted to—

—leave the motor running in his car while he recorded them! For a man who started out as an actor and mastered the craft of radio (and later television) announcing to the point that he co-authored a textbook on the subject, spewing out a handful of promotional lines was just a piece of cake.

I first met Art Gilmore when I wanted to produce a story about vintage movie trailers for Entertainment Tonight. I’d only recently moved to Los Angeles and didn’t have a lot of industry contacts. (This was also before the Internet made searching for information so simple.) How could I find out if this legendary announcer was still alive? I decided to consult the San Fernando Valley phone book and there he was, living with his wife Grace in Sherman Oaks. When I phoned to ask about an interview he sounded wary, only because (it turned out) he was unaccustomed to being in the spotlight. He was a very good subject and proved it again when I spoke to him for my book about radio, The Great American Broadcast. (In one of those impossible coincidences, just weeks after meeting him for the first time his nephew, Robb Weller, was hired as the host of ET!)

Art and Darryl Hickman at a Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters luncheon in 2007, at which I received an award in his name! I couldn’t have been more honored.

As I chatted with him at our first meeting, I could scarcely believe that I was sitting across from the man whose voice boomed out the unforgettable words, “LIVE—FROM TELEVISION CITY IN HOLLYWOOD” every week at the beginning of The Red Skelton Show. That was my indelible memory of his all-American voice. Art announced many famous shows on radio (Amos ‘n’ Andy, Dr. Christian, Red Ryder) and television (The George Gobel Show, Climax, Shower of Stars, Highway Patrol) and also acted, mostly for Jack Webb on Dragnet (as a police captain), Emergency!, and Adam-12. Broadcasters also know that Art gave back to his profession, serving as both local and national president of AFTRA, and donating his services to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.

Art Gilmore lived a good life, and was married to his loving wife Grace, who survives him, for seventy-two years. They have two daughters, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

I will always remember him as a genuinely nice man who was generous to me in more ways than one. His voice will never leave my consciousness, because I continue to hear it as I enjoy vintage radio shows—and movie trailers.

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14 Comments

  • Byron Hodges | October 30, 2010 2:51 AMReply

    Art Gilmore was one of a kind. He will be missed. I watched Highway Patrol growing up and could recite the opening credits form memory today. All the roles he played in Jack Webb's productions and other shows. There will not be another like him.

    I am so glad to hear that he had a wonderful life and the type of person he was.

    I am sorry I never got to meet him.

    Thanks for the memories.

  • Larry Grannis | October 6, 2010 5:21 AMReply

    I first met Art. Gilmore in 1943 when I was 12 and in military academy during WWII. I had decided to be a radio announcer when I was 8 and patterned my practicing after hearing him so many times on the big RCA in our home. After repeated requests, my mother took me to see the "Dr. Christian" radio show in Hollywood. Following the program, the cast walked through the lobby in a roped off area so that audience members might see and speak with them. There was Jean Hersholt, Lurene Tuttle and the rest. It was thrilling. But the one I wanted to meet was Art Gilmore. "Mr. Gilmore," my mother called, "my son wanted to meet you." He seemed genuinely pleased to come over and chat with us. I was breathless. I told him that being on radio was a dream of mine. He asked my mother for contact information in case something came up that he could help me with. When I was much older, my mother told me that Mr. Gilmore had called a few weeks later to tell her that children were being auditioned for "Dr. Christian" and he hoped that I could try out. She waited to tell me that because she had said, "No." She felt that I should not leave military academy even for that short time and knew that I would have been terribly disappointed if I had known it at the time. Some 20+ years later, I joined the staff of KWIZ in Santa Ana, Calif., an AFTRA station, and made it a point to drive up to Hollywood to one of the union's meetings where Mr. Gilmore was President. I got a chance to tell him that I had succeeded in becoming an announcer and thanked him for being an inspiration to me all these years. Good night, Mr. Gilmore, it was great listening to you.

  • Hal | October 4, 2010 9:46 AMReply

    Art Gilmore also dubbed the voice of FDR in "Yankee Doodle Dandy", repeating the role for the radio version.

  • Carl Rabbin | October 4, 2010 2:43 AMReply

    Mr. Gilmore also narrated records of stories for children. That's how I first heard of him. If I remember right, back in the mid-1950s I had a 78 RPM recording of him narrating the story of Peer Gynt (the Norwegian folk tale) accompanied by the music by Grieg. I was quite surprised that he was also the announcer on so many TV shows (often ending with "This is Art Gilmore Speaking"). He was probably the first inspiration for my interest in broadcasting. I never pursued it beyond college, but never lost my interest.

  • Kevin Butler | October 2, 2010 8:58 AMReply

    My God!

    Another sad loss to radio & tv history.

    I grew up listening to Mr.Gilmore annoucing"The Red Skelton Hour!"/''The Red Skelton TV Shows"on CBS TV.

    And he became just a welcomed part of my life as Mr.Skelton's comedy characters,skits and pantomimes.

    He will be missed Lenny.

    Goodbye Mr.Gilmore!

    Kevin S.Butler.

  • John Butler | October 2, 2010 5:59 AMReply

    Thanks LM for giving equal billing to the "broadcaster" part of Art Gilmore's wonderful career. A lot of that work is locked in vaults and broadcast museums, or lost. But his powerful and distinctive work in all those trailers is replayed endlessly, and sounds as good as ever.

  • Jeff Walton | October 2, 2010 4:42 AMReply

    Nobody...nobody will ever be able to duplicate the magic voice of Art Gilmore. If you stop and think about it Art was the one who read the copy and got you into that theatre seat. Over the years I've often thought what they need to sell todays film trailers was Art Gilmore's honest, direct selling of a film. I can still hear him now.

  • voxpop | October 1, 2010 11:08 AMReply

    I'm 79 years old and as a teenager I saw my first radio show at CBS in Hollywood; then and there I decided that's what I wanted to do and I did. I bought Art's book on announcing and founded it quite helpful as I talked into my wire recorder..God bless you Art.

  • Tom Kennedy | September 30, 2010 4:32 AMReply

    Simply excellent- an oxymoron perhaps - but the best way to describe the talent and personality of Art Gilmore.
    As a radio/television/recording voice Art was unmatched. His voice will continue to be heard as well as his reputation in the broadcasting industry manifested by his being honored as Chairman Emeritus of The Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters.
    Long live your memory Art!

  • Gerry Fry | September 29, 2010 12:30 PMReply

    As an aspiring announcer growing up in Spokane, Art Gilmore was one of my role models, especially when I learned that he attended Washington State College (now University) just 70 miles south in Pullman. Many years later I have been proud to know him and share membership with him in Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, of which he was a founder and Chairman Emeritus. Our PPB Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award, given five times a year to celebrity industry pioneers, will keep his name alive for many years to come.

  • Roger Smith | September 29, 2010 11:24 AMReply

    Art was a long-time friend of characer actor Parley Baer, who had a career-ending stroke in 1997. When Parley's daughter, Kim, and I were caregiving for him, Art continued his friendship with many visits to the home, until Parley passed in 2002. We took pictures like this one with Leonard Maltin, and treasure them along with memories of this good man who never forgot his friends, and who, then at 90, drive his own car to come and visit. Thank God, his audiences will hear him forever. Rest in Peace, Art. You were well loved.

  • Roy Atkinson | September 29, 2010 10:48 AMReply

    So great to learn that Art Gilmore had such a long and happy life. As a kid I remember him from "Climax" and Red Skelton. But all those coming attractions trailers he did are both history and great fun today. What a treat to catch one of them on TCM or as a DVD bonus extra. His voice will live on.

  • Gary Goltz | September 29, 2010 6:57 AMReply

    10-4 Art. We will miss you at our event on Monday which will now be dedicated to you.

  • dbenson | September 29, 2010 5:42 AMReply

    I remember Art Gilmore appearing on camera exactly once for the Red Skelton show. It was a special consisting entirely of silent bits, I think, with no big guest stars or musical numbers. And instead of the usual monologue, there was a thin, serious stranger in a tux to do a short introduction. When he gave his name as Art Gilmore in that familiar voice, the audience applauded and he looked a little surprised.

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