Alan Bleviss, Edmonton-born Voice Actor, has died

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Alan Bleviss, Edmonton-born Voice Actor, has died

Postby jon » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:20 pm

Alan Bleviss, legendary Edmonton actor who voiced trailers for Scarface and Dirty Dancing, dies at 76
Odds are you’ve heard Bleviss's voice selling you something, telling you how to vote, or letting you know what was coming to a theatre near you
National Post
Richard Warnica
January 8, 2018
10:00 PM EST
Last Updated
January 9, 2018
12:28 PM EST

You could make a good case that Alan Bleviss, who died in New York just after Christmas, had the most famous voice in Canadian history.

He introduced the world to Tony Montana and Frances “Baby” Houseman. He convinced Americans to trust Joe Biden and Bill Clinton. He was the voice of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, of Heinz tomato juice and Canada Dry ginger ale.

In fact, odds are that even if you’ve never heard the name Alan Bleviss before, you’ve heard his voice — a warm, golden rumble — selling you something, telling you how to vote, or letting you know what was coming soon to a theatre near you.

Alan David Bleviss, who was born in Edmonton on Aug. 6, 1941, died on Dec. 30. A classically trained actor, he stumbled into an accidental career as a voice-over artist for commercials, movie trailers and political campaigns in the United States.

In the 1970s and ’80s he was one of the three or four most famous voices — if not names — in that industry. “He was in the top echelon,” said his long-time manager, Scott Linder. “He had a voice that grabbed your attention when you heard it on TV.”

Bleviss was the oldest of three children born to Joseph and Lee Bleviss, a relatively devout Jewish couple in Edmonton. The family kept kosher, according to Bleviss’s daughter Sarah, even if that meant driving for hours to get to the kosher butcher when the family lived outside the city for several years.

Joseph Bleviss ran a series of businesses in Edmonton, including a nightclub, a skating rink, a car wash and, for a time, several theatres. But he never wanted his son to be an actor. When Alan enrolled in the theatre program at the University of Alberta, he lied to his father and said he was studying law. When Joseph found out the truth, he was furious. “He never got over it,” said Sarah Bleviss.

After a brief stint teaching high school in Toronto, Alan went on to study at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. After he graduated, he worked intermittently on stage, making ends meet with a hodge podge of part-time work, including, he claimed in later years, driving an 18-wheeler truck.

“I found it very difficult to support myself on $75 a week, maintaining two apartments — one where I lived and one that I had to rent on the road,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1991.

His big break came in New York, when his agent suggested he try out for a voice-over job. At first, Bleviss wasn’t impressed.

“My first audition was for McDonald’s,” he told the Inquirer. “I looked at the script and thought, ‘What a piece of junk,’ and I walked out. I was a proud actor.”

He had better luck, or at least fewer qualms, the next time. He booked a job for Canada Dry ginger ale. “It was something like, ‘From the salt spray of the Pacific Ocean to the wheat fields of Alberta … the champagne of ginger ales,” he told the University of Alberta’s Current magazine in 2016. “And then I got my first paycheque.”

The work was lucrative enough to draw Bleviss to New York full-time. He went on to voice hundreds of commercials. Eventually he started doing movie trailers as well.

His voice, described in 1991 as sexy, warm, confident, honeyed and assured, is the voice you think of when you close your eyes and think “movie trailer.”

“The music sets her dancing” he purred in a trailer for Dirty Dancing. “The dancing…sets her free.”

He did trailers for Scarface, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Ragtime, On Golden Pond and hundreds of others. He joked once in an interview about how many times he had to say ‘In a world’ and other stock trailer phrases.

Bleviss’s reassuring tones also made him a natural for political advertising. But his personal politics meant that he’d only work for one party, the Democrats, his daughter said. Voicing ads for Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and scores of lesser names was his way of participating in the U.S. process before he could vote there, she said.

Bleviss’s career almost ended in the late 1980s when he was diagnosed with a severe nerve disorder. He was briefly paralyzed and permanently disabled. He also lost his voice. It took him years of intense therapy, with a former Israeli drill sergeant turned vocal coach he found in New York, to get it back, said Sarah Bleviss.

Bleviss made a sizeable fortune in voice-over work. He passed a considerable amount of that on to the National Theatre School, where he was made a lifetime governor in 2016, and the drama program at the University of Alberta.

He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2016. Last November, he was moved into hospice care. A day later, he was able to leave to watch his daughter, Sarah, marry her now wife at New York’s City Hall.

His love for performance never dimmed, Sarah said. The week before he died he was on the phone with the Screen Actors Guild, urging them to forward screeners to his new address in New York.

Bleviss leaves behind three children from two marriages, Lisa, Joshua and Sarah. He was a beloved figure in the small world of voice-over acting.

“He was the easiest person I ever had the privilege of working with,” said his manager. “You never heard anyone have a bad word about Alan Bleviss.”
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