Saturday, December 25, 2010

Darren McGavin who played Ralphie's father in "A Christmas Story"

Darren McGavin was born William Lyle Richardson in the state of Washington in 1922.  He was best known for playing the role of Ralphie Parker's father in the classic Holiday film "A Christmas Story" as well as playing the the role of Kolchak in "Kolchak: The Night Stalker".
Darren McGavin (The Old Man or Mr. Parker) in "A Christmas Story" 1983

McGavin never received any formal training as an actor, yet his acting credits would rival that of any Hollywood legend spanning a number of genres and sharing the screen with some Hollywood greats.  He worked as a painter at Columbia Pictures movie studios in 1945. An opening became available for an uncredited part in "A Song to Remember" starring Paul Muni, Merle Oberon and Cornel Wilde.  Darren applied for and won the role. 

Darren McGavin in his early years

McGavin was off and running with a few other uncredited roles such as "Kiss and Tell" starring Shirley Temple, Jerome Courtland and Walter Abel (1945); and "She Wouldn't Say Yes" Rosalind Russell, Lee Bowman and Adele Jergens (1945).

Darren honed his acting skills got his first credited role in a film in 1949 starring in "I Remember You" with Beryl Davis and Dennis James (1949).  That same year he got his first TV role in the series "Mr. I. Magination" starring Paul Tripp, Robin Morgan and Ted Tiller.  He would continue on a couple of years later and star in shows and movies such as "Queen for a Day" starring Jack Bailey, Jim Morgan and Ford Pearson (1951); an attempted show "Crime Photographer" co-starring Archie Smith and Maxwell Glanville (1951); "Distant Drums" starring Gary Cooper, Mari Aldon and Richard Webb (1951); "Tales of Tomorrow" starring Leslie Nielsen and Cameron Prud'Homme (1952); "Danger" starring Joseph Anthony, Edward Binns and Richard Kiley (2 episodes, 1952-53); "Janet Dean, Registered Nurse" co-starring Ella Raines (2 episodes, 1954); "Campbell Summer Soundstage" starring Parker Fennelly, James Dean and Don Hanmer (1954); "Mama" starring Peggy Wood, Judson Laire, Patty McCormack, and Dick Van Patten (1954);

Darren McGavin in the 1950s

McGavin finished out the reminder of the 1950s by starring in shows and movies such as "Summertime" co-starring Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi and Isa Miranda (1955); "The Man with the Golden Arm" co-starring Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak and Eleanor Parker (1955); "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell" co-starring Gary Cooper, Charles Bickford, Rod Steiger, Elizabeth Montgomery, James Daly, Jack Lord, Peter Graves and Ralph Bellamy (1955); "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1955); "Climax!" starring William Lundigan, Harry Townes and Michael Rennie (1956); "The Delicate Delinquent" co-starring Jerry Lewis and Martha Hyer (1957); "Beau James" co-starring Bob Hope, Vera Miles, Alexis Smith, and Paul Douglas (1957); and the leading role in "The Case Against Brooklyn" co-starring Margaret Hayes, Peggy McCay, and Warren Stevens (1958);

Darren McGavin (2nd from left) with Frank Sinatra (front center) and cast of "The Man with the Golden Arm" 1955

It was in 1958 that McGavin landed his first recurring leading role in a TV series as "Mike Hammer" co-starring Bart Burns and Vito Scotti.  The show ran for two seasons and ended in 1959.  McGavin would move on to star in the series "Riverboat" as Captain Grey Holden co-starring Dick Wessel, Jack Lambert, Michael McGreevey, and Burt Reynolds.  The show would run until 1961.  During this time he also starred in the TV movie "Witchcraft" with John Baragrey, and Robert Middleton (1961).

Darren McGavin as "Mike Hammer" 1958

Darren McGavin and Burt Reynolds in "Riverboat" circa 1960

Until his next big gig, McGavin guest starred on many TV shows such as "The Islanders" (1961); "Death Valley Days"
starring Robert Taylor, Stanley Andrews, Don Haggerty, Jim Davis, and Ronald Reagan (1961); "Stagecoach West" starring Robert Bray, Wayne Rogers and Richard Eyer (1961); "Route 66" starring Martin Milner, George Maharis and Glenn Corbett (1961); "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" (1964); he would star in the film "Bullet for a Badman" co-starring Audie Murphy, Ruta Lee, Beverley Owen, and Alan Hale Jr. (1964).  That same year he would guest star in "The Doctors and the Nurses" starring Shirl Conway, Zina Bethune and Dana Elcar; "The Defenders" starring E.G. Marshall, Robert Reed and Ossie Davis; "Ben Casey" starring Vince Edwards, Sam Jaffe and Franchot Tone.
Darren McGavin in 1964

In 1965, Darren McGavin would star in the film "The Great Sioux Massacre" co-starrng Joseph Cotten, Julie Sommars, Philip Carey, and Michael Pate.  That same year he would have the leading role in "African Gold" co-starring Maria Perschy and Albert Lieven.

For the next few years, Darren would have another string of guest spots on shows such as "Dr. Kildare" starring Richard Chamberlain, Raymond Massey and Leslie Nielsen (1965); "Court Martial" starring Bradford Dillman, Peter Graves and Kenneth J. Warren (1965); "Felony Squad" starring Howard Duff, Vince Howard and Ross Elliott (1966); "Gunsmoke" starring James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, and Ken Curtis (1966); "Cimarron Strip" (1967); "The Virginian" (1967); "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum (1967); "Mission: Impossible" starring Peter Graves, Barbara Bain, Peter Lupus, Martin Landau, and Greg Morris (1967); and "Custer" (1967).

Darren McGavin gust stars in "Gunsmoke" 1966

McGavin would star in film "The Outsider" with Sean Garrison, Shirley Knight, Ann Sothern, Ossie Davis, and Kent McCord (1967); and "Mission Mars" co-starring Nick Adams, Heather Hewitt, Shirley Parker, and George De Vries (1968);

In 1968, Darren would land another TV role as David Ross in the series "The Outsider" co-starring Kathie Browne and Paul Hahn.  During "The Outsider" a script was formed from a couple of episodes to form a TV movie which would star McGavin called "Anatomy of a Crime" co-starring Ted Knight, Simon Scott, Dorothy Green, Ben Murphy, and Gordon Jump (1969);

Darren McGavin (David Ross) in "The Outsider" 1968

McGavin would go on to star in "The Forty-Eight Hour Mile" with Kathie Browne and John Doucette (1970); "The Challenge" co-starring Broderick Crawford, James Whitmore, Sam Elliott, and Mako (1970); "The Challengers" co-starring Sean Garrison, Anne Baxter, and Nico Minardos (1970); "Love, American Style" (1970); "Mannix" starring Mike Connors, Gail Fisher and Ward Wood (1970); "The Name of the Game" starring Gene Barry, Robert Stack and Susan Saint James (1970); "Berlin Affair" co-starring Fritz Weaver and Brian Kelly (1970); "Tribes" co-starring Earl Holliman and Jan-Michael Vincent (1970);

Jan-Michael Vincent and Darren McGavin in "Tribes" 1970

Moving on through the '70s, Darren starred in "Mrs. Pollifax-Spy" co-starring Rosalind Russell, Nehemiah Persoff and Harold Gould (1971); and "The Death of Me Yet" co-starring Doug McClure, Rosemary Forsyth, Richard Basehart, Meg Foster, Dana Elcar, and Jean Allison (1971).

Darren McGavin in "Mrs. Pollifax-Spy" 1971

He would star in the TV movie "The Night Stalker" co-starring Carol Lynley and Simon Oakland (1972).  The movie entailed a reporter chasing after a vampire.  A year later would come a sequel "The Night Strangler" co-starring Jo Ann Pflug, Simon Oakland, Al Lewis, John Carradine, and Margaret Hamilton who was famous for her role as the wicked witch from "The Wizard of Oz". The movie
franchise was so successful that it would later in 1973 spawn a TV show in which he would trail other supernatural creatures of myth and lore and would run until 1975.

Darren McGavin (Carl Kolchak) the night stalker
Darren McGavin (Carl Kolchak) the night stalker

McGavin starred in "Something Evil" with Sandy Dennis and Ralph Bellamy (1972); "The Rookies" starring Georg Stanford Brown, Sam Melville and Kate Jackson (1972); "Here Comes the Judge" co-starring Barbara Feldon and Moosie Drier (1972); "Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole" co-starring Susan Hayward, Michael Constantine, and Richard Anderson (1972); "43: The Richard Petty Story" co-starring Kathie Browne and Noah Beery Jr. (1972); the TV movie "The Six Million Dollar Man" co-starring Lee Majors, Barbara Anderson and Martin Balsam (1973); "Shaft" starring Richard Roundtree, Eddie Barth and Judie Stein (1974); "Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law" with Arthur Hill, Lee Majors and Pat Harrington Jr. (1974); "Police Story" starring Scott Brady, Joe Santos and Dane Clark (1974); "The Evil Touch" (3 episodes, 1973-74);  "Hay que matar a B." co-starring Stéphane Audran, Burgess Meredith, and Patricia Neal (1975); it was in 1975 that McGavin starred in the last episode of "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" which co-starred Simon Oakland and Jack Grinnage.

Jack Grinnage (Ron Updyke), Darren McGavin (Carl Kolchak), Simon Oakland (Tony Vincenzo) in  "The Night Stalker"

Darren would finish out the '70s by starring in shows and films such as the comedy "No Deposit, No Return" co-starring David Niven, Don Knotts, Barbara Feldon, Kim Richards, Vic Tayback, Barney Phillips  (1976); "Brinks: The Great Robbery" Carl Betz, Stephen Collins, Leslie Nielsen, Jenny O'Hara, and Barney Phillips  (1976); "Law and Order" co-starring Keir Dullea, Suzanne Pleshette,Teri Garr, James Olson, and Robert Reed (1976); "Airport '77" co-starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Brenda Vaccaro, Olivia de Havilland, James Stewart, George Kennedy, Joseph Cotten, Christopher Lee, Gil Gerard, and Kathleen Quinlan (1977); he starred in and wrote "Zero to Sixty" co-starring Sylvia Miles, Joan Collins, Lorraine Gary, and Lyle Waggoner (1978); "Hot Lead and Cold Feet" co-starring Jim Dale, Don Knotts, Karen Valentine, and Jack Elam (1978); "The Users" co-starring Jaclyn Smith, Tony Curtis, John Forsythe, George Hamilton, Red Buttons, and Michelle Phillips (1978); "A Bond of Iron" with Brock Peters (1979); "Donovan's Kid" co-starring Mickey Rooney, Shelley Fabares, and Michael Conrad (1979); the mini-series "Ike: The War Years" co-starring Robert Duvall, Lee Remick and Lloyd Alan (1979); followed the next year by the TV movie of the same title.

Darren McGavin in "Airport '77"

McGavin acted on into the '80s by staring in the mini-series "The Martian Chronicles" co-starring Rock Hudson, Gayle Hunnicutt, Nicholas Hammond, Bernie Casey, Bernadette Peters, Joyce Van Patten, and Roddy McDowall (1980);  "Waikiki" co-starring Dack Rambo, Steve Marachuk, Donna Mills, Robert F. Lyons, Branscombe Richmond, Karen Austin, and Tanya Roberts (1980); "Hangar 18" co-starring Robert Vaughn, Joseph Campanella, Gary Collins, Pamela Bellwood, and Tom Hallick (1980); "The Love Boat"
starring Gavin MacLeod, Lauren Tewes, Bernie Kopell, Fred Grandy, Jill Whelan, and Ted Lange (1980); "Nero Wolfe" starring William Conrad, Lee Horsley and George Voskovec (1981);  "Firebird 2015 AD" co-starring Doug McClure and George Touliatos (1981); "Magnum, P.I." starring Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Larry Manetti, and Roger E. Mosley (1981); and "Freedom to Speak" co-starring Mason Adams, Elizabeth Ashley, Henderson Forsythe, Edward Herrmann, John Houseman, James Earl Jones, Nancy Marchand, Leslie Uggams, Sam Waterston (1982).

In 1983, Darren McGavin starred in the TV show "Small & Frye" as Nick Small co-starring with Jack Blessing (Chip Frye) and Dick Wilson (Bar Fly).  The show lasted for only six episodes.  It was that same year however, that McGavin would star in propably one of his most memorable roles in the Holdiay classic "A Christmas Story" as the grumpy father of Ralphie Parker played by Peter Billingsley.  Raplhie referred to him as "The Old Man" and he had a knack for cursing constantly when he didn't think anyone could hear what he was saying.  McGavin also co-starred with Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker), Ian Petrella (Randy Parker), Scott Schwartz (Flick), and Zack Ward (Farkus).  The story involved Ralphie's quest to get a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas which everyone kept telling him "You'll shoot your eye out kid".

The Parker family from "A Christmas Story" Peter Billingsley (Ralphie), top: Ian Petrella (Randy), Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker), and Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker)
Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker) and Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker) with the infamous "leg lamp" in "A Christmas Story"
Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker) and Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker) in the broken "leg lamp" scene  in "A Christmas Story"
 Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker) and Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) in "A Christmas Story" 1983

In 1984, McGavin played an uncredited role in "The Natural" starring Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Glenn Close, Barbara Hershey, Richard Farnsworth, and Joe Don Baker (1984).  He then starred in "The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D." co-starring Bridgette Andersen, Dennis Haysbert, Joanna Kerns, and Nicholas Hormann (1984); "The Baron and the Kid" co-starring Claude Akins, Dan Albright, Johnny Cash, and Harvey Andrews (1984); "Turk 182!" co-starring Timothy Hutton, Robert Urich, Kim Cattrall, Robert Culp, Peter Boyle, and Paul Sorvino (1985); "Raw Deal" co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kathryn Harrold (1986); "From the Hip" co-starring Judd Nelson, Elizabeth Perkins, Nancy Marchand, and John Hurt (1987); "Tales from the Hollywood Hills: A Table at Ciro's" co-starring Lois Chiles, Kenneth McMillan, Stella Stevens, Kim Myers, and Donna Murphy (1987); "Highway to Heaven" starring Michael Landon, Victor French and James Troesh (1988); "Inherit the Wind" Kirk Douglas and Jason Robards (1988); "Dead Heat" co-starring Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Vincent Price, and Lindsay Frost (1988); "The Diamond Trap" co-starring Howard Hesseman, Brooke Shields and Dick O'Neill (1988); and "Around the World in 80 Days" co-starring Pierce Brosnan, Eric Idle and Julia Nickson (mini-series 1989).

McGavin pushed on into the '90s with "Kojak: It's Always Something" co-starring Telly Savalas, Andre Braugher and Kevin Dobson (1990); "By Dawn's Early Light" co-starring Powers Boothe, Rebecca De Mornay, Martin Landau, Rip Torn, Peter MacNicol , and James Earl Jones (1990); "Captain America" co-starring Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Francesca Neri, and a reunion with "A Christmas Story" co-star Melinda Dillon (1990); "Blood and Concrete" co-starring Billy Zane and Jennifer Beals (1991); "Perfect Harmony" co-starring Peter Scolari, Catherine Mary Stewart, Moses Gunn, David Faustino, and Cleavon Little (1991); "Sibs" starring Marsha Mason, Alex Rocco, Margaret Colin, and Jami Gertz (1992); "Civil Wars" starring Mariel Hemingway, Peter Onorati and Debi Mazar (1992); "Murder, She Wrote" starring Angela Lansbury, William Windom and Ron Masak (1992); and "Mastergate" co-starring Tim Reid, Marcia Strassman, Buck Henry, Richard Kiley, Ed Begley Jr., David Ogden Stiers, Pat Morita, Dennis Weaver, and James Coburn (1992).

From 1989 to 1992, McGavin guest starred in four episodes of "Murphy Brown" as Murphy Brown's dad, Bill Brown.  The show co-starred Candice Bergen, Grant Shaud, Robert Pastorelli, and Faith Ford. Desipite his prolific acting career in both film and TV, McGavin was awarded only one Emmy Award in 1990 for his guest appearance on  “Murphy Brown" playing the role of Candice Bergen’s opinionated father.

Adam Sandler and Darren McGavin in "Billy Madison" 1995

McGavin continued his acting with "The American Clock" co-starring David Strathairn, Felton Perry, Mary McDonnell, and Jim Dale (TV 1993);  "A Perfect Stranger" co-starring Robert Urich, Stacy Haiduk, Susan Sullivan, and Marion Ross (1994); "Billy Madison" co-starring Adam Sandler, and Bridgette Wilson (1995); "Sisters" starring Swoosie Kurtz, Patricia Kalember, Sela Ward, Elizabeth Hoffman, Julianne Phillips, and Heather McAdam (1995); "The Commish" starring Michael Chiklis, Theresa Saldana and Kaj-Erik Eriksen (1995); "Grace Under Fire" starring Brett Butler, Casey Sander, Kaitlin Cullum, and Peggy Rea (1996); "Small Time" co-starring Glenn Plummer, Patrick Cupo, Ernie Reyes Jr., Tracey Ross, and Rae Dawn Chong  (1996); "Touched by an Angel" starring Roma Downey, Della Reese and John Dye (1997); "Millennium" starring Lance Henriksen, Megan Gallagher, Terry O'Quinn, and Brittany Tiplady (1997); "Pros & Cons" starring Derek Basco, Andre Rosey Brown and Bill Lee Brown (1999); and "The X-Files" starring David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Mitch Pileggi (2 episodes, 1998-99).

Darren McGavin and Roma Downey in "Touched by an Angel" 1997
Daren McGavin 1997

Darren McGavin in his later years
In addition to his long standing acting career, Darren McGavin also produced four episodes of "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and directed 3 titles as well.

Darren's appearance in "The X-Files" was his last TV role.  In a 2005 remake of "Night Stalker" starring Stuart Townsend, Gabrielle Union and Eric Jungmann, Darren McGavin was digitally placed in the background of one of the scenes. McGavin filmed his last film in 2006 for "Still Waters Burn" co-starring Ian Hart, Claudia Wells and Lina Broydo.  The movie was released in 2008 and McGavin would appear posthumously. Darren McGavin died February 25, 2006 in Los Angeles at the age of 83. 

Rest in Peace Darren McGavin, we'll miss you dearly!

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