Edward Herrmann’s voice is so compelling and engaging, so familiar and so attuned to the text, that the narrative, whatever it may be, flows smoothly. He is, simply, one of our best narrators, and he brings biographies and histories to vivid life. In ENDURING COURAGE, his sustaining voice maintains the tension of the action while giving weight and purpose to the rich technical and historical background Ross fills in along the way. Early auto racing driver and WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker was a genuine American hero, a rough, uneducated youth whose legendary grit, mechanical ingenuity, and fighting spirit exemplified “the right stuff” before it had its name. And he makes the young adult adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s UNBROKEN a joy for the ears.--2014 Best Voice in BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY
As our review of David McCullough’s THE GREATER JOURNEY attests, "Edward Herrmann trusts the text explicitly." What greater quality could one hope for from a narrator of nonfiction? Herrmann embodies consummate skill, whether he’s delivering the history of American expatriots in Paris, telling Louis Zamperini’s life story in Laura Hillenbrand’s UNBROKEN, or giving critic Roger Ebert a voice again in LIFE ITSELF. As a narrator, Herrmann has presence, and his rich, patrician voice is unmistakable, but he never upstages the text, instead drawing in the listener with authority and calm assurance. He has a voice we love to listen to.--2011 Best Voice in BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY
Between his numerous stage, screen, and TV assignments, Golden Voice Edward Herrmann manages to record a large number of audiobooks. AudioFile contributing editor Yuri Rasovsky has directed him in two audio plays ( THE MALTESE FALCON , an Audie winner, and SAINT JOAN ) and an audiobook ( THE BIRTHING HOUSE ). "The guy's great to work with," the audio dramatist told us, "imaginative, down-to-earth, responsive, and blessed with sharp understanding and great technique." We sent Yuri to interview Ed, one of his favorite actors.
YR: Among the myriad books you've performed, are there any that were particularly challenging or otherwise stand out in your mind?
EH: I dislike ones that are badly written. The effort to make a badly written book sound good is enormous, especially when an author insists we record it "exactly as written," as if it were the King James translation of the Bible. But what makes a book really painful and even sickening to record is the shallowness of the thinking and the childishness of the philosophy of life it expresses. Books that stand out for good writing seem to flow easily and get one's juices going: INNOCENT and PRESUMED INNOCENT by Scott Turow, John Adams, and all of the David McCullough works I've had a hand in.
YR: I remember your version of H.G. Wells's THE INVISIBLE MAN with particular relish. It was dramatic, funny, and the character¬≠izations were spot-on. It was fun to listen to and you sounded as if you had fun doing it.
EH: I did.
YR: Was THE MALTESE FALCON your first audio drama?
EH: No, but I'm damned if I can remember what the first one was!
YR: How does acting for the mike differ from TV, movies, and the stage?
EH: It's a very specialized art form. The voice is important in a way that it is not in film or television. The whole character and color of the emotional life of a scene must be conveyed by the voice of the actor alone. Wonderful--and challenging to do.
YR: I've noticed that though you have no director for most of your audiobooks, you take direction beautifully--complete understanding and spot-on adjustments. Do you prefer narrating with or without a director?
EH: The most important thing a director can do to help the actor reading is to keep the flow of the reading smooth and energetic, one idea leading seamlessly to the next. I like a good director to help me because I do make mistakes.
YR: Mistakes?! You?
EH: Yes, it's true!! Though sometimes I work without a director, and it's a relief. Some directors think they need to interrupt at every pause or glitch before I stop and correct it myself. Worse, they may have an interpretation they think is dandy that doesn't fit with the overall conception of the book.
YR: Do you enjoy listening to audiobooks?
EH: Not as much as my wife, who's expert at it.
YR: When you do listen, who are your favorite narrators?
EH: John Rubinstein is an excellent reader, as is Simon Vance, who did a great job with Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST. Agnes Moorehead was brilliant: Listen to SORRY, WRONG NUMBER sometime! But the king of readers to my mind will always be Charles Laughton, whose recorded performance as the Devil in Shaw's "Don Juan In Hell" is incomparable. Talk about a voice that conveys emotion without a face! Simply the best.
YR: What kinds of books give you the most gratification as a narrator?
EH: Books that have an authentic voice. I like all kinds of styles, not just English or "Updikish" prose. I'd love to record Elmore Leonard or Raymond Chandler or Hemingway or Graham Greene. Alas! But, perhaps before I die. Still, I've had some choice authors to record--Turow, Halberstam, Wells, Shaw, McCullough, Hammett, the King James translation of "Genesis"--no small-fry these! All share an authentic point of view, clearly and dramatically expressed. Their stories grab you and take you on a journey, and when you're done, you've been somewhere.--Yuri Rasovsky August/September 2010
Growing up, Ed says, he loved hearing stories and the stirring of the imagination in the listener. "I love the spoken-word. I love hearing it. The way the words can seduce you." He hones that skill whenever he has the opportunity to record an audiobook amid the demands of Emmy-winning TV shows ("The Practice"), or his Dodge commercials, or, as many listeners will remember, his portraits of Franklin Roosevelt.
Always attuned to the music of a sentence, Ed thinks of his role as "reading a story to someone, not narrating." Like many actors, he enjoys playing all the parts and handles the multinational casts of popular thrillers with aplomb. His facility with characters sweeps listeners into a historical drama like John Jakes's AMERICAN DREAMS or captures well-known characters like those from the recent Casablanca sequel, AS TIME GOES BY . When Ed gets a chance to do more serious fiction like Ayn Rand or Annie Proulx, his flawless delivery brings out the power and compelling themes of the works. In recent nonfiction, such as David Halberstam's biography of Michael Jordan, PLAYING FOR KEEPS , Ed easily reflects the scholarly bent of the work. His patrician voice, like Roosevelt's, draws in the listener with authority and calm assurance. He has a voice we love to listen to.--[December 1999]
Always brings listeners keen insights into the author's intent, whether in history, biography, or cultural nonfiction. MAYFLOWER and EINSTEIN are high points of the year, along with Audies nominee THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE by Ron Suskind.
A high point of Ed's audio year was winning the 2006 Audie for Abridged Nonfiction with LUCKIEST MAN , the biography of Lou Gehrig. (Years ago he played Gehrig in a TV movie.) Ed's keen skills with nonfiction improve each project he undertakes. Ron Suskind's THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE benefits from his finely tuned perceptions and his ability to convey complex ideas to listeners. Whether he's reading David McCullough, Erik Larson, or Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ed compels attention to the author's narrative.
With well over 300 titles to his credit, Ed was an Audie finalist in three categories this year. His renderings of Books 1-3 of the popular children's series Geronimo Stilton, ASK NOT by Thurston Clarke, and MORNINGS ON HORSEBACK by David McCullough were all honored with Audie nominations. Other notable recordings include Scott Turow's ORDINARY HEROES and THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD , another of David McCullough's engrossing histories.
Ed was the master of ceremonies for the gala 2004 Audie Awards, which celebrated the publishers, producers, and narrators who have contributed so many outstanding titles this year. His gracious introductions of colleagues and fellow narrators were a highlight of the evening. THE JOHN CHEEVER AUDIO COLLECTION —in which Ed read several stories—was a finalist for 2004 Audiobook of the Year (and winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award). Ed also added another audiobook by David McCullough, THE GREAT BRIDGE , to his growing list of recordings of the historian's work.
Ed Herrmann has a close connection to the works of David McCullough, having narrated JOHN ADAMS and THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS , and his new recording of McCullough's MORNINGS ON HORSEBACK is another compelling performance. Ed was also part of the ensemble cast who reads the short stories in THE JOHN CHEEVER AUDIO COLLECTION , an AudioFile favorite for 2003. History Channel devotees will recognize Ed's voice from many programs, and his recording of John D. Eisenhower's GENERAL IKE was added to the history repertoire this year. Another interesting biography he tackled was WHO SAYS ELEPHANTS CAN'T DANCE by Louis Gerstner, former CEO of IBM.
A host at the 2002 Audie Awards in New York City, Ed was himself honored for his reading of JOHN ADAMS by David McCullough, which won the Audie for Abridged Nonfiction. Another of Ed's performances that attracted our attention this year was A BEAUTIFUL MIND by Sylvia Nasar.
Following his interest in history, that has guided many of his audiobook projects, Ed recorded David McCullough's bestselling biography JOHN ADAMS . With a subtle New England accent and clear diction, Ed helps listeners believe the many quoted letters and journal entries are being read by the patriot himself. As he does for many History Channel programs, Ed guides listeners through the many facets of the twentieth century in the recording of FROM DAWN TO DECADENCE by Jacques Barzun. Ed relishes the chance to record classics, and his recording of THE INVISIBLE MAN by H.G.Wells is now available again. Film and TV work including a recurring role on "Gilmore Girls" has kept Ed busy this year outside of audiobook work.
Since receiving a 1999 Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Drama for an episode of "The Practice," Ed has followed a busy schedule of TV and film commitments, but he found time for a couple of audiobooks. In the review of MACARTHUR'S WAR , which received an AudioFile Earphones Award, we noted that "the unpretentious tone; flawless, informed reading; and perfect pace exactly complement the well-crafted text." Ed's fluid, articulate presentation of two other nonfiction titles, IN THE HEART OF THE SEA and ISAAC'S STORM, also received praise. Often heard on The History Channel, Ed offers listeners a careful command of historical accounts.
Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images
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