Edward Joseph "Ed" Herlihy (August 14, 1909 – January 30, 1999) was an American newsreel narrator for Universal-International. He also was a long-time radio and television announcer for NBC, hosting The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour in the 1940s and 1950, and was briefly interim announcer on The Tonight Show in 1962. He was also the voice of Kraft Foods radio and TV commercials from the 1940s through the early 1980s. When he died in 1999, his New York Times obituary said he was "A Voice of Cheer and Cheese".
Radio and television
Educated at Boston College, graduating in 1932, he gained his first radio job in his hometown, at Boston's WLOE. When he was hired by NBC in 1935, he decamped for New York, along with his friend, fellow Boston announcer Frank Gallop, who was hired by CBS. In their early days as network announcers, Herlihy and Gallop shared an apartment on West 45th Street. He was immediately successful in network radio, at that time in its sharpest ascendancy. He was the announcer for many radio shows from the 1930s, to the 1950s, among them: America's Town Meeting, The Big Show, The Falcon, Mr. District Attorney, and Just Plain Bill. Herlihy became the host of the The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour on radio in 1948, remaining its announcer when the show went to television. He continued his success in the new medium: his early television credits included Sid Caesar's hit Your Show of Shows and soap operas As the World Turns and All My Children. He was also the host of Recollections At 30, which was a special NBC Radio series created for the network's 30th birthday.
In 1947 Herlihy began his long association with Kraft Foods on radio and continued it when the company sponsored the Kraft Television Theater on television in the 1950s. Richard Severo writes in his obituary of Herlihy that the show — and Herlihy's talent — suited Kraft well:
- "A dramatic offering, all of it done live, the show featured everything from Shakespeare to Rod Serling; it was at the center of what critics would come to call television's Golden Age. During commercials for Kraft products (Good food and good food ideas, Mr. Herlihy would say), audiences heard only his voice, a voice he said he tried to make sound friendly. It was an avuncular, next-door-neighbor, deep, mellow kind of voice, a digestive guide through the preparation of all manner of souffles, dips, marshmallow salads and fondues. He was noted for his ability to ad lib through commercials when dramatic presentations ran too long or too short."
Herlihy's role as Kraft spokesman lasted nearly 40 years, his voice becoming as familiar as a next-door neighbor's. From his New York Timesobituary: "He liked to recall a summer day in Times Square when he helped a blind man to cross at 44th Street. He took the man's arm, and the man said it was a beautiful day. "Yes," Herlihy replied, "this is the kind of day the Lord made for the good guys." The blind man replied: "I know you. You're the cheese man on TV.""
In his capacity with Kraft, Severo writes, Herlihy "introduced Cheez Whiz, offered innumerable entreaties to buy Velveeta and delivered eloquent apologias for the entombment of almost anything edible with Miracle Whip."
For Universal Newsreels in the 1940s, Herlihy narrated editions describing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Allies' early setbacks against the Axis powers, the turning of the tide of WWII, the death of President Roosevelt, and the detonation of the first atomic bombs. In the next decade, during the Cold War, he narrated the very first American newsreel on the launch of Sputnik.
Films and stage
When he worked for Sid Caesar in the 1950s, Herlihy met Woody Allen, then a fledgling writer. Allen was so impressed with Herlihy's voice that he used him in several of his films in the 1980s, including Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days and Zelig; his other film credits included Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy and Tim Burton's Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
He also appeared in road company stage productions outside New York City, including Camelot, Good News and Damn Yankees. He was inWatergate: The Musical, in Atlanta in 1982; Herlihy played Senator Sam Ervin, a role for which he spent $40 for a pair of bushy eyebrows, only to find that they would not move up and down.
Herlihy made his last TV appearance on a PBS tribute N.Y.TV: By The People Who Made It in 1999. He was married for many years to his wife, Fredi; they had two daughters, two sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Ed Herlihy died of natural causes in New York City, at age 89. The Herlihy family is one of the supporters of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey; the foyer, with its oil portrait of Herlihy, is named in his memory.