……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.