November 19, 2004 by

Norman Rose


Categories: Actors, Education, Hollywood, Media

Norman Rose, a veteran actor whose velvety baritone was often called “the Voice of God,” died on Nov. 12 of pneumonia. He was 87.

The Philadelphia native attended George Washington University before moving to the Big Apple in the 1940s. Rose honed his craft at the Actor’s Studio Drama School, then landed parts in plays on- and off-Broadway. During World War II, he was recruited by the Office of War Information to work as a radio newscaster.

In 1948, Rose co-founded New Stages, an off-Broadway repertory company, with producer David Heilweil. New Stages presented the American debut of Jean-Paul Sartre’s best-known play, “The Respectful Prostitute,” prior to its run on Broadway.

After the war, Rose lent his distinctive voice to radio programs such as “Dimension X,” “The Martian Chronicles” and “CBS Radio Mystery Theater.” He narrated the short film “Harold and the Purple Crayon” in 1959, and provided several of the voices on the CBS cartoon “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales.” From 1969 to 1974, Rose stepped in front of the camera to portray the same character — psychiatrist Dr. Marcus Polk — on two ABC soap operas (“One Life to Live” and “All My Children”).

A former drama instructor at The Juilliard School, Rose lived up to his reputation in 1975 when he provided the voice of God in the Woody Allen film “Love and Death.” The prolific performer later narrated the 70th anniversary broadcast of the Academy Awards and recorded numerous books for the blind, but he was most famous for giving a voice to Juan Valdez, the long-time advertising spokesman for Colombian coffee.

36 Responses to Norman Rose

  1. Steve "Hillard" Newman

    I’ll never forget the time I was introduced to this incredible voice in 1965 when he did the intro to “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. I was a college student at the time but I knew then I wanted to meet and/or work with him. I had that oppurtunity in 1997 when I had him voice liners for WRR-FM (the classical station in Dallas). He told me he was very impressed with the way I handled the session (Mixed Nuts Studios). After the session he took me to have drinks and 24 clams on the half shell. We got along so well. I believe they’re still using the “Liners” on WRR. (I hope they’ve paid the royalties as I certinly made sure they were paid until I departed the station in December of 1999.
    I will never forget that session. May he Rest in Peace.
    Steve “Hillard” Newman

  2. Paul Anthony

    I’ve been in the broadcasting and voice-over business for over 40 years and one of my greatest influences was Norman Rose.
    Not only did he sound magnficent but his incredible command of the nuances of the english language were peerless.
    I’ve been very successful in this business, but when anybody asks me who I think is the best, Mr. Rose’s name always clears my lips.
    Norman, I will miss hearing those magnificent sounds.
    Paul Anthony, New York City

  3. Raymond Rogoway

    Every Sunday morning, as a child, I would listen to a radio show called “The Eternal Light” narrated by Norm Rose. The show was dramatization of Jewish history. Television not having been invented yet, Mr. Rose’s voice provided the picture in my mind. Because of his talent, I was able to live in those times while eating my fried matzohs and bacon!

  4. Ken Laing

    I first heard Norman Rose’s voice in the early fifites. As a kid, living 60 miles from Toronto, I would listen to a radio show called, “The Small Types’ Club” out of CBC Radio in Toronto (CJBC, 860 a.m. now broadcasting in Canada’s other official language, French.) The “club” was hosted by a huge bear of a man called Byng Whittaker, one of Canada’s greatest announcers. Whittaker would play recordings of stories for children, and one of those stories was “Muffin the Dog”.
    It was read by Norman Rose. I didn’t know that name back then. I was only about nine years old.
    All I knew was that I loved the story and the voice reading it. As I grew up, I would recognize
    “that voice” whenever I heard it on radio or television. For years, I knew the voice but never knew the name of the man behind it.
    I grew up and went into radio as an announcer.
    It wasn’t until my second small station in Niagara Falls, Ontario that I was able to enlist the help of a fan in finding out who belonged to that voice. The lady (I can’t remember her name now, so many years later) worked at one of the nearby Buffalo tv stations. She was a film librarian or some such thing. Anyhow, I told her this guy’s voice was featured on a public service announcement being played on her station. She went over the reel of film with the announcement on it and determined that it was Norman Rose. I’ll always be grateful to her.
    As I went from station to station in Canada I kept hearing and anjoying that voice….and being inspired by it. In about 1967, I wrote him to tell him how much I admired what he did. I listed the many items I had heard him doing over the years. He was so impressed he handwrote me a little card about the size of a rolodex card.
    Using an elegant fountain pen, he scrawled a thankyou note saying he didn’t usually respond to such letters but was very impressed with all the stuff I had heard him do….and how I had retained it all. That emboldened me. About a year later, I worked up the nerve, and phoned him at home. I can’t remember the conversation. I was so nervous I could only babble and flatter him like I had done in the letter I sent him. He was very kind.
    I’m so glad to contribute this little sentiment about Norman Rose. I’m delighted there are other people who think as much of his voice as I do. During a recent vacation trip to New York, I made sure to drive through Upper Nyack. I drove by the house where he lived. I even phoned his widow to tell her how much I admired her husband’s skill.
    I had to let somebody know.
    Ken Laing.
    Announcer Emeritus,
    CBC Radio.
    Windsor Ontario. Canada.

  5. david

    Lots of us will remember him from childhood as the narrator for many Children’s Record Guild 78 rpms. I’m 45 and feel like I grew up to his voice.

  6. Dave Mitchell

    Yes. WRR is still running Norm Rose’s liners. I only found out today (11/03/05) that he had passed away.
    I am WRR’s afternoon news anchor, and although I’m told I have very good pipes, my voice sounds kinda weak coming on directly after one of Norm Rose’s WRR station breaks.
    We’ll miss you Norm.

  7. Gene Packard

    There are very few truly great voices and Norman Rose had one of them. Right up there with Gregory Peck. It had everything. Nobility,marvelous phrasing and cathedral like resonance. As my friend Paul Anthony wrote:someone to record and study. As we say:What a set of pipes! Gene Packard

  8. david bohn

    aloha: norman had a voice to remember and i can remember all my years growing up and hearing that voice but never knew the person that was attached to it. i remember seeing him for the first time in a war movie but i don’t remember the name or was i able to really judge his performance in it. norman’s voice will be missed from the air waves but for those of us who heard him will always remember him.

  9. Vicki Boston

    Thanks to Norman Rose, his voice first introduced
    me to A CHORUS LINE, in the 1976 tv ad, when ACL
    was traveling to San Francisco,Ca.
    I loved the way he introduced me to CASSIE,RICHIE,VAL,AND MIKE.
    And his telling of CBS’s NUTCRACKER in 1977 too.
    Oooh sigh, give him your attention, do I really have to mention, he’s the oooneee.1-1-1-1!

  10. Tom Deely

    What a coinciden!! I was just up in West Nyack today, where I now know Norman Rose lived. Tonight I just googled his name and found he died in 1987. I am a Roman Catholic Priest and I greatly admired the wonderful things he did with is voice. He did a wonderful voiceover at a very low price for a filmstrip on Our Lady of Perpetual Help MANY years ago, in 1965. A friend of mine who worked at Y & R Publicity in New York was always going to have me meet him. Anyway now he is “comparing his voice to the real God”. I hope there is a good match

  11. Michael

    Didn’t Mr. Rose play Abrahahm Lincoln in a TV ad for the College Level Examination Program? It was a classic – self-educated Lincoln applying for a job requiring a college degree; the slimy interviewer munched on a sandwich the whole time. At one point, he says “uh, Lincoln, ya got a chauffeur’s license?”

  12. Jack Rose

    We had a series of records in the 1960’s -classical music along with the stories of each composer – narrated by Norman Rose. I was googling to find the record company which produced these records (now out of print), but found this site instead. I’m so glad I did. My name is Jack Rose, and I’m Norman’s son. Thank you all for your kind words and warm thoughts about my father. I knew that his voice was almost as recognizable as Charlie Chaplin’s face, and wondered if anyone missed him. It’s so gratifying to know that his talent was appreciated and admired. A couple of things: Tom Deely posted on 5/6/06, a tribute in which he stated my father died in 1987. He actually died on Nov. 12, 2004 at the AGE of 87. In a posting on 8/17/06, Michael asked if Norman had played Abraham Lincoln in a TV spot. My father never did an on-camera commercial. I remember the spot in question, and as a matter of fact, my father DID bear a resemblance to Lincoln – so much so that one of his agents begged him to audition for on-camera spots depicting Lincoln. He refused. I guess maybe he figured it was more dramatic to keep the face behind his voice a mystery. However, he DID show his face in movies such as “The Anderson Tapes” and “The Front”. Ken Laing, thank you for contacting my mother. She truly appreciated hearing from you. I also grew up with my father’s voice on “Muffin in the City” and “Train to the Zoo”, on little yellow vinyl 78’s, along with his voice saying stuff like, “JACK, STOP BURPING AT THE TABLE!!!” I miss him more than words can say. Once again – Thank you all for your kind tributes. Sincerely, Jack Rose.

    • Johanna Maria Rose

      Hey Jack, this is your big sister Johanna talking. Remember me? I’m sorry, but I have to correct you, bro. Those yellow records were the Little Golden Records, which our dad was never on. The Children’s Record Guild records and the Young Peoples’ Records were all on 10-inch black 78s, with a different colored label on Side 1 and Side 2.

      But you did a great job clearing up some incorrect info inadvertently posted by some of these kind friends and admirers of our wonderful father. I too thank you all for your appreciation of our dad’s gorgeous instrument and of his artistry. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to him, even seven years after his death. He was one in a million. Sincerely, Johanna Maria Rose

  13. Steve Forrest

    I met norman in 1977 when I was a senior copywriter at Grey Advertising. I was responsible for the Kenner Star Wars Toys account. We were casting for a baritone-voiced announcer for the campaign which included over a dozen commercials. I specifically asked our casting director for Norman to read for the part. He was incredible. And got the job without any questions. I had kept a friendship with Norman since then. We had a mutual respect for each other’s work. In 1987, I left advertising and became a television producer. My first show was producing the International EMMY Awards. I specifically wanted Norman to be the announcer, adding a distinguished flavor to the international broadcast. I went on to produce the event for 8 years and Norman was my announcer each year. I did not know that he passed away. This is sad news for me, but 87 years is a long life and god bless him. And contrary to Jack’s information that Norman was NOT on camera in the role of LIncoln for the CLEP commercial, I beg to differ. Norman once told me that hit was him. And he even repeated his great line as LIncoln from that commercial, “I’ve done a lot of reading, sort of on my own”.
    About 25 years ago, Norman took me to lunch at the Players’ Club on Gramercy Park. He was so proud of that place and it’s history and showed me Booth Tarkinton’s office upstairs. It was a special afternoon for me to have such a prolific actor like Norman show me the establishment.
    I’ll miss Norman but I am blessed to have worked with him on so many jobs and there is no more rewarding feeling for a writer than to have one of the greatest voices of all time read your words.
    Steve Forrest

  14. Fred B Hetrick Jr.

    I was sad to hear of the death of this fine actor. I was introduced to him when I heard him on a episode of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, entitle ‘A Portrait of Memory’. I also enjoyed all the other episodes he played in as well. However, I never could fine a close-up photo of him so could match a face with the voice until I happen catch him in a supporting role on a episode of Lights Out! being broadcast on the SciFi Channel’s RetroTV. I was please to see a distinctive face went with his distinctive voice! He will be missed.

  15. Stephen Bowlby

    It was a lifelong dream to work with Norman Rose and I was able to in the eighties for two regional hospital television campaigns that I was producing. We did a series of voicevers together at Howard Schwartz, and worked well together. He was genuine and gracious. A year later we lined him up again for a new campaign. We got on the phone patch and he said, “Oh Steve! Wonderful to talk with you again,” if for all the world I was the most important person at that second. That’s class and professionalism and true personal warmth.

  16. Elani Knarr Fink

    I had met Norman through his nephew Joseph Vagnoni. We spent time at his beautiful home on the Hudson.
    Though I never spent one-on-one time conversing with him, it was always a joy to hear his deep resonating voice.


    I saw norman when he played psychiatrist Dr. Marcus Polk — on two ABC soap operas (“One Life to Live” and “All My Children”).
    I was so impressed because my nane is Norman Rose, and I have a cousin named Jack Rose…..No relation???????

  18. Steve Vagnoni

    Norman Rose was married to my fathers sister, he had a great voice, but he was also a wonderful
    Uncle we all loved him very much and still miss him. Steve Vagnoni

  19. Steve Aronson

    I am a retired audio techinician and between 1967 and 1976 recorded & edited the sound for every film strip produced by Educational Audio Visual (EAV) in Pleasantville, NY. I was able to convince the editors to ask Norman Rose, who was my idol in the voice-over field, to do narration work for us. We paid far less than he could command, but he graciously agreed to record our scripts. I was extremely grateful and overjoyed to have his magnificent voice on several of our projects. I felt honored to have worked with him and shall never forget that melifluous, highly refined instrument (his voice) that was trujly music to my ears. It was later that I learned of his other work and honors. I was wondering about him him and googled this morning. I am sorry to hear of his passing. He is legendary.

  20. Tomi Hayashi

    Hi all—old string I know, but this is the 1st I’ve seen with Rose/Vagnoni family members.
    And I’m hoping they will visit again and see this.
    I spent alot of time at the Rose house—Jack, please verify—haha.
    actually, It’s Jack and Steve Vagnoni I’d like to say hello to—Jack, it’s nice to see your words here. Steve, I knew your aunt Katy quite well, as again Jack can verify, tho I’m not sure I remember you. And Elani—I can’t remember you at all, it’s the Vagnoni name I recognize.
    but since this is a Norman tribute, let me say that I knew him as the father of my friends, his kids. As well, I drove him to NYC occasionally, played piano for him to sing, and generally made a pest of myself around his house. He was a lovely man, and it was a privilege to hear that VOICE even when he yelled at ME!

  21. Roberta Barmore

    I am sorry to read of Mr. Rose’s passing. I, too, grew up hearing his wonderful voice and never knew his name until he appeared on CBS Radio Mystery Theatre when I was working in radio.
    It would have been a pleasure to listen to him reading a grocery list! He will never be equalled. It’s good to read that his personality was as fine as his pipes.

    • Johanna Maria Rose

      Just reading over comments again, here at the close of 2011! Roberta, you say “It would have been a pleasure to listen to him reading a grocery list!”, and that brought back a childhood memory which I thought I’d share here. When my two older sisters, Liz and Maggie, and I were very little (before our brother Jack was born), my dad used to let us “mash” on the keys of his old Remington typewriter. We’d fill up a whole page with complete nonsense. Then Dad would take the page out and proceed to read it to us as if it were a Shakespeare play! He would have us in complete hysterics, the way he so carefully enunciated and expressed something that looked like ” alej ‘pqwieu rqo;eiu ;oeiffi jef”! A great actor and a great Dad!

  22. Paul Baker

    I first heard Norman Rose’s wonderful voice in the 1950’s on Children’s Record Guild recordings. I especially remember his portrayal of Bottom in Felix Mendelssohn’s musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He narrated several other CRC productions, one of which was “The Story of Slow Joe,” a boy who moved slowly until the prospect of eating peppermint ice cream set him to moving like the wind.
    I listened for his voice on radio and television from then on and was gratified to hear it a lot.

  23. Rachel Ehrenberg

    I worked with Norman at the United Nations where he narrated many films and radio programmes. He was a friend and an inspiration. He kept in touch with me many years after I left NYC and moved the the west coast. He never turned down a request for a quick voice over for one of my projects that he never asked a nickel for and often sent them to me at his expense. A gentleman and my person hero.

  24. Brian Fahey

    I had the privilege of working with Norman Rose for more than nine year while I was working at ABC Sports. Twice a week he would come into our recording studios to voiceover the scripts I had written for our sports promos. He made every script he ever read better and, if that wasn’t enough, he was one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever met. I think of him often and he is deeply missed.

  25. Jack Rose

    I haven’t been to this site since I last posted on Sept. 22nd 2006!?! So many new posts!! I want to thank all of you again for taking the time to write about your personal experiences with my father; either professionally or listening to his recordings. It’s like seeing my Dad in a whole new light and helps keep his memory close. My Dad was a New York guy. He loved the city, and he loved his work. I am deeply moved to know that he was admired and respected and is missed. Thank you all, and I hope you all come back to this site so you can know how much I appreciate your tributes.
    Now Steve, now that you remind me of that line, “I’ve done a lot of reading, mostly on my own” I recall that my Dad dubbed in the voice for the on-camera actor portraying Lincoln. I am absolutely positively sort of sure that he was not on camera.
    Also you guys gave me some good tips on what to look for at the Museum of Television and Radio Artists. ie CBS Radio Mystery Theater “A Portrait of Memory” and “Lights Out” on Sci Fi. (Thanks, Fred). And Paul, thanks for mentioning CRG’s recordings of “Mid Summer’s” and “Story of Slow Joe”. Maybe I can find those somewhere now. Hec, maybe in the back of some upstairs closet.
    Tomi, it’s really nice to hear from you.
    Anyway, if any of you want to get in touch with me, here’s my email address: (the “0” is a zero, not the letter “o”) Your words moved me to tears. Thank you.

  26. Jack Rose

    Hey folks – Check out You Tube, and type in “Abraham Lincoln Gets a Job”. Those of you who know what my dad looked like, you’ll know that ain’t him. BUT – it IS his voice dubbed over the actor’s. – Jack

  27. Tinga

    I worked as Norman’s bookkeeper in the late 80s, early 90s. When he would come to the office, hearing his voice come down the hall brought joy to the day. Leaving that job was made all the more difficult because it meant leaving Norman behind. I’m glad he lived – we shared books, poetry, music and laughter and I will always remember him. You were a prince of this world, Norman. I can only imagine how you are regaling the crowds in heaven. Tinga

  28. Jamie HJwarth

    Norman was a gentleman of the first order. And what a voice. I was a recording engineer at ABC in the 80s and 90s and probably spent 100 hours with him over the years in sessions. Recording Norman taught me all I’ll ever need or hope to know about the human voice. A master of inflection, detail, and resonance. Simply the best. I can still hear him in my head like it was yesterday. And the nicest guy – always in good humor, and I swear that once in a while he would goof up just to break the tension so the rest of us could feel human…otherwise it would have been simply too intimidating – every take was flawless. Very very gracious and with some very talented kids… much missed.

  29. Anne E. Culbertson

    Norman Rose was the owner of the beloved voice on my Children’s Record Guild records (78s) from the 50s: Peter the Pusher, Muffin in the City, Muffin in the Country, and many more. I named my dog Muffin after the dog in those stories. I now teach music to children at a Quaker school and my first graders love those records as much as I did. And they still work just fine. What a treasure. This man left the world a great gift!

  30. Herb Lowe

    I’m nearing 85 and worked with your dad in the 1960’s. Was thinking of him today and googled only to learn of his death. I was at your house in Upper Nyack (I lived in Tappan and my son and
    daughter were born in the Nyack Hospital) once or twice when you and your siblings were tots running around. The film actor, Arthur Hill, was having coffee in your kitchen and your dad
    had me use him in a filmstrip. Arthur was primarily a film actor and when we started recording, his voice just came out as a squeek. I had to throw that session away and got Nelson Olmsted(the NBC Story Teller) to do it. For The Methodist Church and the National Council of Churches I produced dozens of
    filmstrips (before videotape) and your dad narrated most of them – often bringing out nuances
    of not even the writer was aware. During those years, Norm’s voice was ubiquitous on the airwaves, as well as in my audiovisuals. What good reputation I had was a reflection of the excellence your dad contributed. Once, in the early 60’s I watched an outdoor pageant in Cherokee, North Carolina, called “Unto These Hills”, a story of the Cherokee’s trail of tears. There was a voiceover narration and I thought – That sounds like Norm. When I got back to the city he told me he had done that recording years earlier and was surprised they were still using it. We also worked on some radio programs (with Bryna Raeburn, Staats Cotsworth, and others from The Eternal Light.) Sometimes Norm and three others would change their voices and do scripts
    with a dozen characters. Those were fun times – and we were all being paid for having fun.
    Once, I had six filmstrips to be narrated, We went to a midtown recording studio where he
    taped all six in a row, in an hour, with no need for the editor to do anything. It was perfect.
    He’s not around to hear my gratitude, but be assured that I admired him beyond words.
    Herb Lowe

  31. Anonymous

    I remember Norman Rose. He lived in a magnificent tudor mansion with property that ran down to the Hudson River. In his office, he had an incredible marble collection. I saw him perform off Broadway, and though I was too young to understand the play, his performance left a lasting impression.

  32. Merrick Wolfe

    How nice to see this string of comments about Norman Rose, one of my three voiceover idols (the other two being the now-88yo Peter Thomas, and the late Ernie Anderson). My first exposure to Mr. Rose was on one of the children’s books records — he read Mother Goose, and his voice was rich, melliflous and simply unforgettable — even from that age of 6 or 7 I’ve carried Mr. Rose’s voice around in my head since then. I’m glad to be reminded that he has done some award shows — his was the PERFECT voice for those shows, rather than many of whom they’ve had on there in recent years such as — with my apologies, because she’s so right for many other things but not the Oscars — Randy Thomas, whose claim to fame is serving as the voice of those “Hooked On Phonics” commercials. For some reason I thought it was Mr. Rose who did the Kennedy Center Honors every year on CBS but have since found out it was NPR’s Carl Castle — there was a slight similarity — but I wish the producers of these award shows like Howard W. Koch, Don Mischer, and, especially Gil Cates, would have hired Mr. Rose to give the ceremony an even greater gravitas.

    I was just perusing some mini-bios and obits for Mr. Rose and noticed one major recent credit missing: The Charlie Rose Show. Unless I’m mistaken, he did the short intro to Charlie’s show for a few years and I think Charlie may have continued using it past his death. I always wondered if Charlie and Norman were related, like maybe brothers, but that is not the case.

    Glad to see Mr. Rose’s children posting on here, that’s quite nice — and, yes, your dad’s voice WAS noticed, very much so, and is very much missed.

  33. Murray Smith

    I remember the day I met your father at the studio when he dubbed the voice of Lincoln. The actor was the agent for the director George Gomes. The irony was that he looked more like Lincoln than his agent. I’m glad to see his voice to some is as memorable as the commercial.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *