A versatile leading and character actor who is equally adept at comedy as he is with drama, Darren McGavin has spent the bulk of his time on television and only occasionally appears in feature films. He also has extensive stage experience. McGavin attended a year of college and then moved to New York to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actor's Studio. He made his film debut in 1945 playing small supporting roles in such movies as A Song to Remember, Kiss and Tell, and She Wouldn't Say Yes. His film career did not really take flight until he appeared in Otto Preminger's The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, The Man With the Golden Arm, and David Lean's Summertime (all 1955). In 1957, he played the title role in the television detective drama Mike Hammer. In feature films, McGavin averaged a film or two per year; by 1967, he had switched to television movies like The Outsider (1967) and The Challengers (1968). In 1971, he played vampire-hunting investigative reporter Carl Kolchak in The Nightstalker, a popular television movie that successfully blended humor, suspense, and horror. McGavin's wise-cracking character then appeared in a sequel and in 1974 starred in the short-lived television series Kolchak: The Nightstalker. While with the show, McGavin directed a few episodes. He had already directed and produced Happy Mother's Day, Love George (aka Run, Stranger, Run) (1973). In 1983, McGavin played one of his most memorable roles, that of the foul-mouthed, somewhat discombobulated, but well-meaning father in the uproarious A Christmas Story. McGavin earned an Emmy in 1990 for his recurring role as Murphy Brown's father on the popular sitcom Murphy Brown (1988-1998). Throughout the '90s, McGavin slowed down and only occasionally performed.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Was reportedly abandoned by his parents as a child, eventually ending up in the Jessie Dyslin Boys Ranch orphanage in Tacoma, WA
- Trained at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse under actor Sanford Meisner, as well as at the Actors Studio.
- Was working as a set painter for Columbia Studios on the 1945 Frederic Chopin biopic A Song to Remember when he landed his first big-screen appearance, a bit part in the film.
- Starred in the TV Western series Riverboat (1959-61), and later owned and operated a riverboat named La Poursuite du Bonheur (The Pursuit of Happiness).
- His short-lived supernatural drama Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75) was the inspiration for sci-fi series The X-Files, according to creator Chris Carter; McGavin once appeared on the series as Arthur Dales, the man who started the X-Files FBI unit.
- Best-loved big-screen role was Ralphie Parker's grouchy father in the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story.
- Provided the voice for Budweiser's "This Bud's for You" commercials for several years.
- Performed the audio books of Robert Ludlum's Bourne trilogy, which was later made into a successful film franchise.