Harry von Zell, born in Indianapolis, made his mark as an announcer of radio programs and an actor in films and television shows.
His family moved to California, where von Zell studied music and drama at UCLA and worked at a variety of jobs. After friends tricked him into singing on a radio program, he received offers from radio stations, and his radio career began. Auditioning for Paul Whiteman's radio show, he beat out 250 other announcers. When that series came to an end in 1930, he headed for New York and became a CBS staff announcer, working with Fred Allen, Phil Baker, Eddie Cantor, Eddy Duchin and Ed Wynn. He also announced for The March of Time.
As a young announcer, von Zell made a memorable verbal slip in 1931 when he referred to U.S. President Herbert Hoover as "Hoobert Heever" during a live tribute on Hoover's birthday. Hoover was not present at this tribute. Von Zell's blooper came at the end of a lengthy coverage of Hoover's career in which he had correctly pronounced the President's name several times. Some mistakenly believe Hoover was present when the incident happened because of a re-enactment fabricated by Kermit Schaefer for his Pardon My Blooper record album.
Von Zell was the vocalist for the first recording session of Charlie Barnet's musical career; a session on October 9, 1933 has Von Zell singing "I Want You, I Need You", as well as "What Is Sweeter ?".