Great Voices in Entertainment

Bob Sheppard, the "voice of the New York Yankees," passed away this week.  His soothing words, "Welcome to Yankee Stadium," still echo in the memories of everyone who passed through the old House That Ruth Built, and a recording of his legendary voice still plays at the new stadium.  He will be missed by all baseball fans.  I then started contemplating the classic voices in entertainment history, actors and actresses whose distinctive vocal tones resonate with audiences through the ages. (I looked at speaking voices not singing voices.)  Here are my picks for the best of the best.

Vincent Price - The greatest voice of all comes from this terrific actor, born in, of all places, Missouri.  The voice could be both chilling and sinister, perfect for horror movies, and gentle and crisp, perfect for comedy.  Whether it was in an adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe tale or playing the villainous Egghead in the campy Batman television show or speaking the monologue in Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Vincent Price earns the top spot in my ranking.

James Earl Jones - Who better to provide the voice of Darth Vader than Mr. Jones?  His deep, trademark voice is etched in the minds of Star Wars fans and non-Star Wars fans alike, with lines like "I find your lack of faith disturbing" and the classic "I am your father!" 

Mel Blanc - One of the most celebrated voices of all time provided the words that came out of the animated mouths of such famous cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Woody Woodpecker, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Tweety Bird...hold on, there's more...Foghorn Leghorn, Captain Caveman, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, and on and on and on.  It's amazing that one man could have created so many completely different and memorable voices.

Lauren Bacall -  Such a sultry, seductive voice!  From her first role as a teenage femme fatale in The Big Sleep to her noteworthy role later in life in The Mirror Has Two Faces, you can see and hear why movie-lovers (and Humphrey Bogart) fell in love with her.

Boris Karloff - The British voice of Frankenstein's monster always surprised me.  People would try to imitate it or spoof it, but nothing beat the original. 

Orson Welles - He had the perfect voice for radio, and his adaptation of War of the Worlds convinced thousands of listeners that they were hearing a real alien invasion.  His movie performances displayed gravity and incredible presence, and even his later commercial endorsements, which were often mocked, still had depth and charisma -- "We will sell no wine before its time!"

Jimmy Stewart - This Pennsylvania boy became one of the most beloved actors of all time.  Whether playing the lead in a Frank Capra classic, an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, a George Cukor romantic comedy, or a John Ford western, his unique voice was one of the many talents he brought to the screen.

Casey Kasem - I grew up listening to Mr. Kasem count down America's Top 40 on the radio every weekend.  He also provided the voice of Robin the Boy Wonder from Super Friends, Mark from Battle of the Planets, and don't forget Shaggy from Scooby-Doo!

Adam West - Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale all have portrayed the Dark Knight, but no voice has better suited the role in my always humble opionion than that of Adam West.  Even the great Kevin Conroy from Batman: The Animated Series is a close second.  (Close, but still second!)

Isaac Hayes - The voice of Chef from South Park was rich and smooth, like no other.  I had the pleasure of interviewing him once, and hearing that voice over the phone was a real thrill.

Frank Oz - The voice of Yoda definitely needs to be on this list.  He also provided the voices for the Cookie Monster, Miss Piggy, Grover, Fozzie Bear, Bert, and a bunch of other great Muppets

Cary Grant - Often imitated, never replicated, Grant's debonair voice was one of many elements that made him one of the greatest stars in film history.

Katherine Hepburn - That quiver in her voice became iconic, and each line she ever delivered had an impact.

Jimmy Durante - Easy to impersonate, but never able to be equalled, Durante was a true original.

William Shatner - His speech patterns are often the source of humor, but the man who immortalized Captain James Tiberius Kirk trained as a Shakespearean stage actor and even in the twilight of his career continues to use that great voice to bring some fantastic characters to life.

Humphrey Bogart - Another voice that is often imitated, no one could really capture that easy delivery that Bogart brought to every role he played.

John Wayne - Say "pilgrim" all you want, you still can't match the Duke.

Bette Davis - Another legend, another great voice.

Alfred Hitchcock - There are many reasons why Hitchcock became such a phenomenon on film and TV.  His great voice added to his endearing personality and made his opening monologues on his television show so much fun.

Morgan Freeman - Freeman is one of those guys whose voice you only have to hear for a few seconds on a commercial and you'll know it's him. 

June Foray - She gave us the voices of Rocky the Flying Squirrel from Rocky and Bullwinkle, Jokey from The Smurfs, Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Granny from Looney Tunes. 

Peter Lorre - His distinct accent was probably one of the factors that typecast him in sinister roles, but I never grow tired of listening to his performances.

Elvis Presley - The Southern charm came through every time he spoke a word. 

Judy Garland - There's something about her voice that captured the hearts of many movie viewers.

That's a long list.  There are so many more -- Ossie Davis, Gregory Peck, Kathleen Turner, etc.  I had better stop there otherwise I would keep going until I eventually reach Russ Leatherman, Mr. Moviefone himself!