Darren McGavin was born in San Joaquin, California, on May 7, 1922. He began studying acting and received his training at both New York's Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio, eventually earning his first starring role on TV, as Mickey Spillane's hard-boiled private eye in Mike Hammer (1958)
Darren made the television circuit throughout the 60's appearing on shows like Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible (1966)
and Dr. Kildare
. He landed the role of reporter "Carl Kolchak" in the made for TV movie The Night Stalker
(1972), about a vampire murdering young women in Las Vegas. At the time of its original airing, it was the most widely viewed TV movie, with a 33.2 rating, the highest-rated TV movie of 1972. A sequel, The Night Strangler
(1973), quickly went into production. The second story finds Kolchak in Seattle, after being run out of Vegas, and on the trail of a serial killer seeking the fountain of youth. The second movie was successful enough to spawn the TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker
(1974), which only lasted one season, but would eventually inspire Chris Carter to create the The X-Files
(1993). McGavin guest-starred in several episodes.
He kept quite busy during the 70's, 80's and 90's as he appeared on TV, film and the stage. He came to the attention of a whole new generation of fans as the father in the holiday classic, A Christmas Story
(1983). He also appeared on the big screen in an uncredited role as "Gus Sands" in The Natural
(1984) with Robert Redford, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Raw Deal
(1986) and as Adam Sandler's dad in Billy Madison
(1995). A few of over 140 TV appearances from his long career include several episodes of the series Disneyland, The Love Boat, Magnum, P.I.
., and a recurring role as Candice Bergen's father on Murphy Brown
His first marriage was to Melanie York in 1944; their union produced four children: York, Megan, Graemm Bridget and Bogart. Their marriage ended in 1969, and he later married Kathie Browne, an actress he frequently co-starred with throughout his career. Sadly, Kathie passed away in April of 2003.
On February 25, 2006 Darren died of natural causes in a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 83.