A Christmas Story, or …

……or Darren McGavin’s finest performance.  Yes, it’s that time of year, again.  It’s the 35th anniversary of our meeting “The Old Man Parker” (AKA Ralphie’s Father; AKA Darren McGavin).  Are you ready to see “A Christmas Story” again?  Of course, you are.  (And, incidentally, Ralphie was portrayed by Peter Billingsley who is now 47 years old. Google his picture today. Wow!)



But this article is about the work of a fine actor:  Darren McGavin(see above).  McGavin’s acting career was long, over 50 years.  It seemed as if he was always working.    www.Imdb.comgives him 183 film credits.  In the beginning of his career,  he was a guest star in a TV series or film (eg, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Route 66, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Love Boat, Magnum, P.I.). And, often, he had  a TV series of his own (eg, The Outsider, Riverboat, Mike Hammer, Crime Photographer).



In the 1970s, he was in 2 TV movies (ie, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler –the ratings for both were high) which led a series of his own: Kolchak:  The Night Stalker.  Remember, the X-Files did not exist at that time.  So when his character (Carl Kolchak)(see above), a reporter, discovered crimes being committed by a vampire, no one believed  him.  It was a sci-fi/horror story a week and for the first TV movie, I remember thinking: “He IS a vampire?!”  That was new.




The 1980s brought my two favorite pieces of McGavin’s work.  1983 = “A Christmas Story.”  Remember the first time you saw it?  (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”)  Well, almost. Which scene was your favorite? For me, it wasn’t a particular scene, but Ralphie’s Old Man’s (see above)cursing was delightful.  I later learned that McGavin’s  streams of “cursing”  were ad-libbed because it was almost impossible for him to not slip into actual profanity.  He decided to stick with the gimmick to ensure a “PG” rating for the movie. (Reportedly, McGavin’s salary for the film was $2,000,000.) (see below; Ralphie’s family) 






1984 = “The Natural.” I love baseball and the film was wonderful.  Yes, the ending of the film was changed from the book.  I enjoyed it.  Check www.Imdb.comagain and read the cast members’ names.  That’s an all-star team.



Notice the lack of Darren McGavin’s name in the cast?  Why?  He was in the film.   Robert Redford liked his character’s portrayal (McGavin was the gambler) (see above)so much his role was expanded.  But, at a certain point, union rules required his contract to be renegotiated for salary and billing.  When Mcgavin became upset with the process, he told his agent to waive his billing completely so filming could resume.



From 1989-92, McGavin portrayed the Father of “Murphy Brown”(see above)in a number of episodes.  His efforts brought him an Emmy.  And in 1998-9, he was seen in the TV drama, “The X-Files.”  His part?  He was Arthur Dales, the agent who started the X-files.  They did not start with Fox Mulder.


To finish up, here are some facts for all you “A Christmas Story” fans.  When the scene in the Chinese restaurant was filmed, Melinda Dillon (Ralphie’s Mom) was purposely given the wrong script, and everyone was in on it.  She had no idea that the duck would still have it’s head when it was served. Her reaction to “losing” his head was what the director wanted.

Jean Shepherd, the film’s writer and narrator, was also the irate man waiting in the Santa line at the department store.

The Parkers’ Oldsmobile was a 1937 Model 6, 4-door sedan.

In 2016, “A Christmas Story” was added to the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.





About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures above...it's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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