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Darren McGavin
Born William Lyle Richardson
May 7, 1922(1922-05-07)
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
Died February 25, 2006 (aged 83)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1940–2006
Spouse(s) Melanie York (March 20, 1944 - 1969) divorced
Kathie Browne (December 31, 1969 - April 8, 2003) her death
Official website

Darren McGavin (May 7, 1922 – February 25, 2006) was an American actor best known for playing the title role in the television horror series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and also his portrayal in the movie A Christmas Story of the grumpy father given to bursts of profanity that he never realizes his son overhears. He also appeared as the tough-talking, funny detective in the TV series Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.


Early life

McGavin was born William Lyle Richardson in Spokane, Washington, a son of Reid Delano Richardson and his wife Grace Bogart.[1] However, some sources list his birthplace as San Joaquin, California. He graduated from Puyallup High School[2]

In magazine interviews in the 1960s, he said his parents divorced when he was very young. His father, not knowing what else to do, put him in an orphanage at the age of 11. McGavin began to run away, sleeping on the docks and in warehouses. He lived in three orphanages. The last was the Dyslin Boys Ranch in Pierce County, Washington, a boys' home, which turned out to be a safe haven. Farm chores were assigned, and he lived with several other boys who had been abandoned as he was. McGavin said the owners of the home helped him develop a sense of pride and responsibility that turned his life around.


Still untrained as an actor, McGavin worked as a painter in the paint crew at the Columbia Pictures movie studios in 1945. When an opening became available for a bit part in A Song to Remember, the movie set on which he was working, McGavin applied for the role. He was hired for it, and that was his first foray into movie acting. (He had spent a year at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.) Shortly afterwards, he moved to New York City and spent a decade learning the acting craft in TV and the plays there. McGavin studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio under the famous teacher Sanford Meisner and began working in live TV drama and on Broadway. A few of the plays in which he starred included The Rainmaker (where he created the title role on Broadway), The King and I and Death of a Salesman.

Darren McGavin-Mike Hammer Diamond Studio City Walk of Fame

McGavin returned to Hollywood and became a busy actor in a wide variety of TV and movie roles; in 1955 he broke through with roles in the films Summertime and The Man with the Golden Arm. Over the course of his career, McGavin starred in seven different TV series and guest-starred in many more; these roles on television increased in the late 1950s and early 1960s with leading parts in series such as Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and Riverboat.

When the comedy team Martin and Lewis broke up as a result of Dean Martin's refusal to play a cop in a movie, McGavin played the role originally earmarked for Martin in The Delicate Delinquent, Jerry Lewis's first solo film. McGavin was also the top contender to replace Larry Hagman as the male lead of the television series I Dream of Jeannie.

McGavin was also known for his role as Sam Parkhill in the miniseries adaptation of The Martian Chronicles. He appeared as a fill-in regular in The Name of the Game in an episode entitled "Goodbye Harry" he was featured as a reporter in one of the Gene Barry segments.

The first of his two best-known roles came in 1972, in the supernatural-themed TV movie The Night Stalker (1972). With McGavin playing a reporter who discovers the activities of a modern-day vampire on the loose in Las Vegas, the film became the highest-rated made-for-TV movie in history at that time; and when the sequel The Night Strangler (1973) also was a strong success, a subsequent television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974) was made. In the series, McGavin played Carl Kolchak, an investigative reporter for a Chicago-based news service who regularly stumbles upon the supernatural or occult basis for a seemingly mundane crime; although his involvement routinely assisted in the dispelment of the otherworldly adversary, his evidence in the case was always destroyed or seized, usually by a public official or major social figure who sought to cover up the incident. He would write his ensuing stories in a sensational, tabloid style which advised readers that the true story was being withheld from them. Although Darren McGavin and the cast were enthusiastic towards their involvement with the series, controversy arose. Whereas McGavin reportedly entered into a verbal agreement with Sid Sheinberg (President of MCA and Universal TV) to produce "The Night Stalker" as a TV series through a coproduction between Universal and McGavin's Taurean Productions, early promises were never fulfilled, with McGavin expressing concern over the calibre of stories and lack of commitment of the network towards promoting the show.[3]

Kolchak is acknowledged as being a main inspiration forThe X-Files, with McGavin being asked to play the role of Arthur Dales (the man who started the X-Files) in three episodes: Season 5's "Travelers" and two episodes from Season 6, "Agua Mala" and "The Unnatural". Unfortunately, failing health forced him to withdraw from the latter, and the script (written and directed by series star David Duchovny) was rewritten to feature M. Emmet Walsh as Dales's brother, also called Arthur.

In 1983, he starred as "Old Man Parker", the narrator's father, in the movie A Christmas Story. Opposite Melinda Dillon as the narrator's mother, he portrayed a middle-class father, in 1940 Hohman, Indiana[4] who was endearing in spite of his being comically oblivious to his own use of profanity and completely unable to recognize his unfortunate taste for kitsch. Blissfully unaware of his family's embarrassment by his behavior, he took pride in his self-assessed ability to fix anything in record time, and carried on a tireless campaign against his neighbor's rampaging bloodhounds. McGavin allegedly received a fee of $2 million to play the role (according to the IMDB) making him one of the highest paid actors of the time.

McGavin made an uncredited appearance in 1984's The Natural as a shady gambler and appeared on a Christmas episode ("Midnight of the Century") of Millennium, playing the long-estranged father of Frank Black (Lance Henriksen); he also appeared as Adam Sandler's hotel-magnate father in the 1995 movie Billy Madison.

During the filming of The Natural, Robert Redford was so pleased with McGavin's portrayal of his character that they began to expand the role. However, after a certain point, union rules dictated that the actor's contract needed to be renegotiated for salary and billing. After haggling on salary, and holding up production of the movie because of it, the billing had to be decided. McGavin became somewhat fed up with the proceedings and instructed his agent to waive his billing entirely so they could get back to filming.

He won a CableACE Award (for the 1991 TV movie Clara) and received a 1990 Emmy Award as an Outstanding Guest Star in a Comedy Series on Murphy Brown, in which he played Murphy's father.

There was a brief and unsuccessful remake of the "Night Stalker" TV series in 2005 starring Stuart Townsend. In the initial episode aired on 9/29/05 McGavin appeared momentarily in the background, digitally cut-and-pasted from his role in the original series.

Personal life

McGavin was married twice. The first was to Melanie York on March 20, 1944. It ended in divorce in 1969, but produced four children: Bogart, York, Megan, and Bridget McGavin. The second was to Kathie Browne on December 31, 1969, ending with her death in 2003.

Darren McGavin died in 2006 at the age of 83 in a Los Angeles hospital.[5] His remains are interred in Hollywood Forever Cemetery.


Television work


External links



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