Voice actor and Seattle radio host Jim French has died at age 89. He passed away late last week. French was one of the last full-time “radio theater” actors, syndicating his radio show Imagination Theater on over 100 AM/FM radio stations in the United States as well as SiriusXM. He also found work as a voice actor for video games, with his best known role as Bill Overbeck, one of the four survivors in the original Left 4 Dead game.
French was a veteran of World War II, and he began his radio theater program a few years after the war’s end. Despite television starting to push radio theater out of the limelight, French’s program (which was renamed Imagination Theater when it began syndication in 1980) ran for decades and produced hundreds of shows.
French was the perfect choice to portray Bill, one of Left 4 Dead‘s four survivors. Bill’s beret and lit cigarette gave him the most recognizable and definitive look of the four, and he acted most as the group’s no-nonsense leader. Like French, Bill was also a veteran, albeit of Vietnam. In Left 4 Dead 2, there is even an achievement in one mission if you sacrifice Bill to save the rest of the team.
Left 4 Dead was not French’s only video game credit; he appeared in a few other games, including many by Valve. He voiced the Elder Titan in Dota 2, the mysterious Father Grigori in Half-Life 2, and the fisherman in Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, among a few others.
French was born in 1928 and knew from an early age that he wanted to be a radio personality. His most well-known radio performances include Harry Nile and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Our condolences to Mr. French’s friends and family. His work touched the lives of many. Load up a copy of Left 4 Dead and blow up some Boomers in his honor this holiday season. Enjoy his work as Bill with the video below: