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!)
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.