In Search of…Leonard Nimoy

A few months ago, I spent more time than usual with a film reference request. The film copy that came down for Clear Skies, Clean Air (1971) was 35/32mm, which meant that I had to make a print before I could run it on the film scanner. I listened to the soundtrack several times while I was prepping, performing quality control, and eventually transferring the film on our HD scanner. It was while I was scanning the film that I got the idea that Leonard Nimoy might be the uncredited narrator.

But why, you ask, would Leonard Nimoy narrate a GSA film about converting cars to liquid natural gas? That I don’t exactly know, but I’ll lay out the evidence as I see it.

When I first listened, while prepping the film, I thought it sounded like “Standard 1970s Narrator Guy.” You may know him—he narrated educational films that were in use for decades. Upon a second listen, during the quality control process, I thought that, more specifically, the voiceover sounded like the narrator from In Search of…, that fantastic 1970s television program about mysteries like the possible existence of Big Foot and the lost Roanoke colony. Only while I was scanning the film did I remember that In Search of… was narrated by Leonard Nimoy. At that point, my colleague Heidi Holmstrom walked in and said “Is this Leonard Nimoy?”

leonard-nimoy-2

Leonard Nimoy narrates Tuesday, May 19, 1981, a 1970s training film that warns against improper handling of chemicals.

Right there, that was enough for me. I did, however, look for production files (there are none), and asked the researcher, who works at the GSA, if he knew anything about the film. No leads. I admit I became a little obsessed with proving that Clear Skies, Clean Air was narrated by an uncredited Leonard Nimoy, asking colleagues and friends to chime in. I made the case to a few folks, but no one guessed Leonard Nimoy without my prompting.

So, I turn to you. Do you think Clear Skies, Clean Air is Leonard Nimoy? For comparison, I’m including a clip from a Union Carbide training film Nimoy narrated in the late 1970s detailing events of a “future” day when carelessness in chemical handling led to multiple disasters. (The disasters were hypothetical, but the date became so ingrained in the minds of viewers that, when an actual chemical accident occurred in New Jersey on May 19, 1981, it appeared the film had prophesied it.)

For your consideration, here is a comparison of the conclusions of both films:

As a final piece of evidence, before you vote, I will remind you that Leonard Nimoy was not only known for his voiceover skill, he was also a clean air advocate! Turn your attention to the 1962 telegram that Leonard Nimoy sent to President John F. Kennedy, in which he pleaded: “In [the] name of decency, don’t pollute air with bomb. Preserve children’s right [to] breathe clean air.”

Please vote in our completely non-scientific poll:

And here’s the complete, Nimoy-guaranteed Tuesday, May 19, 1981:

About Audrey Amidon

Audrey works in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, which is responsible for performing conservation and preservation work on motion picture records held across the National Archives.
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5 Responses to In Search of…Leonard Nimoy

  1. cedric says:

    Definitely not Nimoy,, The narrator pronounces certain words that begin to fall into a lower mid west regional accent.. and that is the tell tale. FYI if it makes any difference this opinion comes from a Non White person of Color. Again…The devil is in the details.

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    • Audrey Amidon says:

      Thanks for the input! Which words fall into the midwest accent? I’ll have another listen.

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      • cedric says:

        one example is at around .25-26 sec..word ” Clash” around the 43-45 sec..the delivery of the ” after eons” passage was out of Nimoy character ..just to get you started on few quick examples

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  2. Ang says:

    I’ve spent this summer re-watching the Original Star Trek series, and the Standard Narrator Guy is definitely not Nimoy. The inflection and tone are totally different. Sorry, Audrey – but thanks for posting!

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  3. Inquire with Leonard Nemoy’s family/estate as to whether this piece of film is something he might have participated in. His work speaks for itself.

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