NEW YORK – Jackson Beck (search), a master of voice-over who bellowed the phrase "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!" to introduce the Superman radio show (search) and used his versatile voice to promote everything from Aqua Fresh toothpaste to Combat roach killer, has died. He was 92.
Beck died at about 6 a.m. Wednesday of complications of old age, according to Jeff David, a friend. He had been ill after suffering a series of small strokes four or five years ago, David said.
In addition to narrating Superman's adventures, Beck doubled as villains, supporting characters and the Daily Planet copyboy, Beany (search), on the popular radio broadcasts of the 1940s.
He also portrayed the bully Bluto in more than 300 Popeye cartoons (search), was the voice of the Cisco Kid and was known for his impersonations of world leaders in "The March of Time," an enactment of the week's news from Time magazine.
Beck's strong, deep voice was heard on television commercials for Sugar Frosted Flakes (search), Pepsi, Brawny paper towels, Hasbro-Bradley's GI Joe figures and dozens of other products, as well as football and boxing promotions for NBC.
"I'm an advertising man, and I treat my voice as a business," Beck told Newsday in 1990. "People who treat it as art don't make any money."
He also did voice-over for two Woody Allen movies, "Radio Days" (search) and "Take the Money and Run," and could be heard on "National Lampoon (search)" radio broadcasts and "Saturday Night Live." He worked well into his 80s.
Beck, the son of Max Beck, a silent film actor, was a founding member of the American Federation of Radio Artists, which merged with the Television Authority to become what is now the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. He is survived by a son, Leslie Winter.