As we explored earlier, the voice is a powerful tool. We form very strong images and opinions about others without ever having seen or met or interacted with them, simply because of the way they sound. Even when they aren’t a good representation of the person, voices are often the first impression we choose to trust. From actors who have built entire careers on their voice, to the often unnoticed background on thousands of film trailers and television spots, here are some of the most iconic voices we’ve heard, whether you’ve realized it or not.
Orson Welles: Famous for his stage and radio presence, he portrayed Charles Foster Kane, the iconic caricature of William Randolph Hearst, in Citizen Kane. He also presented a radio adaption of the H.G. Wells story War of the Worlds which launched his fame to new heights after the ‘report’ of extra-terrestrials supposedly caused widespread panic.
Terry Gross: Host of NPR’s Fresh Air since 1975, Terry Gross has a legacy any radio program has reason to be jealous of. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to tell a story and have her listening on the other end? She’s built a reputation as being warm, empathetic, sharply curious, and intelligent, all at once, all based on a voice people hear over the radio waves.
James Earl Jones: Though he has a great voice in its own right, he is most famous for giving life to the character of Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies. His voice replaced that of the Vader actor, David Prowse, whose Scottish accent and reedy timbre did not give the impression producers wanted. Starting his career on Broadway in the 1950s, Jones has gone on to receive Tony Awards, Emmys, and Academy Award nominations for his work on stage and screen.
Morgan Freeman: His voice has appeared everywhere recently. From the 2012 Summer Olympics commercials, to his many acting roles including God and Nelson Mandela, it seems that there isn’t anything he can’t record a perfect narration for. Perhaps he can thank his deep, calm voice for helping him develop a reputation as a go-to actor for leadership roles.
Don LaFontaine: He is the man behind the voice of over 5000 movie trailers. You’re probably familiar with his deep bass tones, and his famous phrase, “In a world…” as he once had a monopoly on movie trailer voice-overs in Hollywood. He began his career as a voice-over actor in 1964 and remained an industry standard until his death in 2008.
Oprah Winfrey: She has the instantly recognizable voice that has coaxed out hundreds, if not thousands, of confessions, and is a hallmark of a brand worth over 2 billion dollars. She began her career in radio and TV news casting, before moving over to TV talk shows because of her emotional, empathetic delivery, and has been rising in success ever since. Her voice sits in a low register for a woman, which may have contributed to her becoming arguably one of the most influential women in the world.