Darren McGavin’s Tribute

  Darren McGavin

May 7, 1922 – February 25, 2006

For those loyal, loving fans unable to attend Darren’s service, I reproduce here a brief description of the sad day.

The service was held March 5, 2006,  in a small chapel in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, just south ofSanta Monica at Gower. The foyer wa s filled with McGavin memorabilia, lobby cards and stills (one touching one of McGavin and Don Knotts), along with family pictures, many of which featured an older, wispy-haired, gray-skinned McGavin; one family picture had an “I Love You Grandpa” frame.  It was an open-casket ceremony and McGavin looked – well, let us say that old age is the only demon darkly powerful enough to defeat humanity’s indomitable defender.  The chapel held about 100 people, and they had to put out extra chairs to hold the 130 or so attendees.  The music offered was vintage:

Sinatra singing “My Way” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” renditions by soloists on “In My Life” and “A Place for Us,” and McGavin, himself, singing “Shall We Dance” and “A Puzzlement” from “The King and I.”

The Speakers included Jack Grinnage, who gave an anecdotal account of his long friendship with McGavin, and read Richard Valley’s valedictory e-mail following McGavin’s death; McGavin’s granddaughter Rhiannon, about 7-years-old, who got one sentence deep into her eulogy before choking up; McGavin’s oldest son, York, who narriated a brief history of his own Life With Father, while hundreds of family photographs flickered past on a memorial DVD.  The mike was left open to the atendees for a few minutes; among the speakers were Carol Ann Susi from “Night Stalker,” and the still-boyish actor, Scott Schwartz, who played Flick in “A Christmas Story.”  Then McGavin’s daughter closed the ceremony with a pair of appropriate quotes from Shakespeare, recited “Good night, sweet prince,” and “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,” and looked toward the coffin one last time.

After the service participants drove the quarter mile to the graveside service.  The funeral director invited attendees to throw initial shovels-ful of earth into the grave and approximately sixteen people participated.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear, the kind of Los Angeles morning that makes you think the night will never come. (Richard Heft)


York, Darren’s oldest son greeted people at the door.  Jack Grinnage spoke about Darren and Kathie and he came with Carol Ann Susi.  Peter Billingsly was there with Scott Schwartz and Scott said some nice things on behalf of himself, Peter and the “Christmas Story” cast.  A lot of other people came up to recite stories about Darren.  One concerned a neighbor who had lost her pet rabbit, Snowball and had gone to Darren for help.

Darren crawled all over this vacant lot next to their houses looking for Snowball, going all the way to neighbor’s houses – and he actually found Snowball for her!

Then the pallbearers wheeled the coffin into the hearse (to the soundtrack from “The King and I” (with Darren singing the song “Shall We Dance?”) and people got into their cars and drove to where he would be interred.  Some more nice things were said by the director of Hollywood Forever and the coffin was lowered.  People took turns throwing a bit of dirt or flowers onto the coffin.  A reception was held afterwards in a nearby building.  The entire affair was very moving and very respectful.


Fan Tribute

One night in 1972 my mother and I had begun to watch a movie called “High-Flying Spy.”  Suddenly, she straightened up and exclaimed, “Why, that’s Darren McGavin!  He’s always been one of my favorites.”  I was just shy of twelve years old, but I can still remember my fascination with this man my mother had so often mentioned, the man who would soon become my favorite actor.  For the firsttime I discovered what so many others already knew – that grand voice, that marvelously mobile face, and that extraordinary presence.  Darren’s presence was a quicksilver thing, as changeable as lightning and impossible to describe – one moment sternly dramatic, the next explosively funny, the next sad or pensive or wonderfully sly – and yet it was always unmistakably his own.  Like the great actors of the “Old Vic,” Darren possessed an equal genius for comedy and drama, but without that famous British reserve.  Darren always brought to his roles a jauntiness and a self-confidence that was peculiarly American.  This dynamic optimism defined almost all of Darren’s characters. In “Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” this most American of actors may have created his most American character.  Certainly Kolchak is one of the three or four most memorable personalities in the history of television.  He is the perfect blend of drama and satire, infused with that unique mixture of realism, high comedy and quirky appeal that only Darren could bring to the role.  Perhaps Kolchak’s most appealing trait, however, his his profound cynicism concerning people in power, and his understanding of the constant need to question motives.  There is nothing more American than that, and nothing more important to a democracy.  In one episode, Tony Vincenzo says to Carl, “The authorities are apparently unconcerned.”  Carl explodes, “What authorities?  Listen, there are no authorities.  The Titanic was full of authorities; look what happened.  Neville Chamberlain was an authority!”  Kolchak may not fully realize it, but he is a great American as well as a great reporter.  It took another great American to bring him to life.

There is much more I could say – that any of us could say, I guess, about our favorite actors and what they have given us over the decades, and how they have haunted our private imaginations and filled the thoughts and dreams of a thousand days.  Suffice it to say that I am personally very grateful for the life and career of Darren McGavin and for what he shared with us, his millions of fans.  Alec Guinness said in his autobiography that an actor is a magician, who, for an hour or two, can call upon all the powers of heaven and hell to mesmerize a group of innocents.  More than most, Darren McGavin wielded such powers.  He was, I firmly believe, one of the greatest practitioners of his art during the second half of the twentieth century.

Gregory J. Magin


We have a very big loss but at the same time, know Darren is with Kathie… right where he would want to be.  83 years old is a full, wonderful life, it was clear to see that Kathie was the light of his eyes, makes one almost happy for him.  The past few years must have been difficult for him…he is now at peace.

We celebrate his life and honor all his accomplishments.  He will always remain a treasure in our hearts and memories of our visits, letters and phone calls, all an amazing experience.  We know, first hand, how down to earth he was.  We will forever keep him in our prayers.

Keith and Sandee Simpson


The media’s response to Darren’s passing is poor, to say the least.  I am extremely disappointed and embarrassed of the whole entertainment industry.  Darren had a vibrancy that you don’t see in other actors. I was always amazed at his risk-taking stunts he did on “Kolchak.”  Especially in “The Zombie,” crawling around in that auto graveyard.  It’s too bad Darren didn’t see the greatness of his work on that show.  It may have been a pain from his standpoint, but to me it was sheer genius.  He was Kolchak, just as Clayton Moore was the Lone Ranger.  We shall not see their likes again.

Howard A. Peretti


My earliest recollection of Darren McGavin wasseein g him as a policeman in the 1957 Jerry Lewis comedy, “The Delicate Delinquent.”  This was on television when I was a kid.  I think by this time Dean Martin and Lewis had broken up their partnership and Darren McGavin played the straight man in lieu of the former.  While I do not have any recollections of it at all, I’m sure I saw Darren McGavin in the space-drama feature “Mission Mars,” with Nick Adams.  However, I do have better memories of Darren McGavin as the Hollywood P.I, David Ross, in his TV series, “The Outsider.”  While I have always been primarily a fan of the horror and science fiction genres, “The Outsider” was one show I would want to watch because I just liked it.  And, on reflection all these years later, it was because of the star’s performance.  I remember that Ross kept his phone inside his refrigerator, I don’t remember why.

Prior to the launch of “The Night Stalker” series in Australia, the TV movie pilot of “The Outsider” was aired. There are two scenes which stand out in my mind.  The first had  Ross/McGavin entering a dark room at night and confronting someone and saying something like, “You didn’t think I would be that stupid to fall for that.”  AND then Ross/McGavin gets coshed from behind!  The second scene I recall is where Ross/McGavin is having a romantic dinner in an apartment with an attractive blonde (played by Shirley Knight) but then the dynamics completely change when the private eye realizes she has poisoned him and is forced to torture her to find out what the poison is.  He is then able to tell the ambulance service over the phone about the poison before he passes out.  Now a lot of stars, leading men, would have probably refused to play a scene like this as beating a woman, even as a character, could be considered a bad career move and bad public relations, but Darren McGavin had the courage to do it.  I actually feel that “The Outsider” is the best private eye series prior to “The Rockford Files,” and perhaps James Garner had been able to get away with playing the sometimes anti-hero Jim Rockford as he did because Darren McGavin had gotten away with it first. The first time I saw Darren McGavin in action as reporter Carl Kolchak was in “The Ripper,” the first episode of the TV series “The Night Stalker.”  His appearance and performance as the loud-mouth, wise-guy newshound just blew my socks off!  There is no doubt in my mind that “The Night Stalker” and “The Night Strangler” are still the best horror films ever made for television and the series, better known these days as “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” is the greatest horror TV show ever (with the classic “Dark Shadows” coming in a very close second).  And the main reason why “Night Stalker” has the cult status it has even after more than thirty years is because of Darren McGavin!  It was Darren McGavin’s voice!  It was Darren McGavin’s interpretation of the role!  And it was Darren McGavin’s perfect choice of the grey and white pinstriped seersucker suit and porkpie straw hat!

In the early 1990’s, I was lucky enough to talk to Kathie Browne (Mrs. McGavin) and Darren McGavin on the phone; I was in New York City and they were in California.  While they had an apartment and staff in a residence on Park Avenue, they were based in Beverly Hills.  The first of these conversations was with Mrs. McGavin and concerned the possibility of Darren reprising the role of Kolchak.  A while later I had the opportunity of actually seeing Darren McGavin starring in a stage play in Manhattan, just around the corner from where I was staying!  Unfortunately, the severe winter weather gave me a cold and the play a short run.  I missed seeing it.

Shortly before I returned to Sydney, I finally landed a phone conversation with Darren and we talked “Night Stalker” for about 45 minutes!  It was terrific!  And Darren gave me a wonderful performance!  He began in the mode of an English country squire, very formal and proper, but as I got him going the REAL Darren, his crass New Yorker self, came crashing to the surface!  Now I know how he can do Kolchak so well!  Carl Kolchak is just another extension of the star.  No wonder he loves the character so much; Kolchak is his way of pointing out just what is wrong with the world.

Darren was great!  Alas, we never met.  He was prepared to meet me but when I was going to be in California, on the way back to Oz, he was going to be in Toronto.  Had I returned to the States any time prior to his stroke in March 1999 I’m sure I would have met both he and Kathie. My impression of the talk I had with Darren McGavin was that he had wanted to accomplish more with juis life.  I’m sure he worked very hard in his life and fought tooth-and-nail to get where he was, but he wanted to achieve more.  It is difficult for anyone to really be objective about their own life and this great, great actor is no exception.  But if he really felt he under-achieved, he was wrong.  What he gave to the world of the performing arts was fifty-plus years of his extraordinary talent, a large part of this preserved forever on videotape and film.

Mr. McGavin, Darren, you are one hell of a person, and I’ll never forget you!  May you Rest in Peace Forever with Kathie.

David Gee, Sydney, Australia, Saturday, 11th March, 2006


… Darren McGavin from my days as a lowly Tour Guide at Universal…. And what I remember is how wonderful a soul Mr. McGavin was.  At least with the poor working stiffs. I’ve worked in the industry almost 40 years and I can count on less than one hand the names of actors that treated others with respect and humor.  Darren McGavin is always counted first.  He was professional to his core and wanted things to be the very best they could be.  And he knew he was good!  But I never saw him forget to treat others with simple respect.

I was at Universal when they were doing “The Night Stalker.”  One afternoon, before the first episode had ever been aired, a cemetery appeared on the back lot.  As we passed it I was relating the premise behind Carl Kolchak and “The Night Stalker” when this voice blurted out from the graveyard, “Yes, indeed!  And let me tell you more!”  The train driver, in his infinite wisdom, knowing Darren would not be denied, stopped the tram beside the cemetery and Darren bounded onto the front car and started talking excitedly about the show in his usual enthusiastic way.  Realizing this could go on for a bit, I tapped his shoulder, handed over my microphone and he talked and shook hands until the tram behind us forced us to move on.  Even at that he hopped off and while we started moving slowly away, he walked the length of the tram as we passed him, shaking hands and telling folks to watch his wonderful new show and wishing them a wonderful day.

The Old Man may still have clouds over Like Michigan but I have memories no less eternal that float through my mind and to this day they make me smile.

What a gift he was.

Susan A. Miller (Sam) Walt Disney Studios


The world is mourning a great actor today. 

He was loved by so many.  Thanks for a beautiful site.



I read with much sadness the passing of Darren.  He was one of my favorites, as was Kathie.  I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful site you both created.  I have visited it for a long time now, and am always amazed by its scope.  It really was, and still will be, an amazing tribute to Mr. and Mrs. McGavin.  I sent a Christmas card to you to pass on to Darren in December.  I do hope he received it.  He really made an impact and I just wanted to send him something to tell him so.  I was actually planning on sending him something for his birthday – it’s a shame.  But like you said, we should celebrate his life.  And his rejoicing with his beloved Kathie for that matter.

Adam Gerace, Adelaide, Australia


It is with tearful regret that I hear of Darren McGavin’s demise.  I have written before of the esteem with which I and my fellow members of the Hobby Talk-Polar Lights model forum have had for “our Nightstalker,” and “Mr. Parker” among other alter egos.  I am sure I speak for all of us when I say he will be greatly missed.

Harry R. Wess, Sr., McKeesport, PA.


When I saw the name Darren McGavin, I was going to E-mail you to see if you were any kin to the actor Darren McGaiin.  Upon seeing the opening pictures, I saw your site dedicated to him and his wife Kathie.  I about went bonkers!  I love his old series, Night Stalker!  So did my roommate and suite-mates!  We did not date on that night when we were in college!  My gang and I would turn off our dorm lights and already have a huge bowl of popcorn ready to eat.  The four of us got snugly under a blanket and were ready to scream in fear!  Something always happened on the show and that popcorn bowl would be all over us when we yelled in terror!

There has never been a television show like it since then.

I always loved his wife, Kathie Browne!  I remember her most from a STAR TREK episode.  She was SO BEAUTIFUL!  When  I read about their marriage, I knew they were old souls reunited in this life again!  She’s beautiful in Heaven now!

I love you, Mr. McGavin!  Thanks for all the years of your acting.  That not only pertains to “Night Stalker.”  I loved you long before that show.  It was better because you were the star.

Janet Deaver Molyneaux, Charlotte, North Carolina


My condolences on the loss of your friend.  I sent Mr. McGavin a sympathy card care of you when Kathie Browne died.  If you believe in an afterlife, then they are together again.  May he rest in peace.

Dennis McCann


I wanted to write and say I that I have enjoyed Mr. McGavin’s work for a long time.  I used to watch every week when it was on T.V. and loved it.  I high school, I was in chorus, and during the Christmas season, Walt Disney World in Orlando would choose schools, based on tapes sent in, to come up and walk in the Christmas procession in Disney.  We would have guest speakers who read the story of the birth of Christ as we would sing.  My school, one of many, was chosen many times and I happened to be there the two years we were selected.  I believe it was 1980 or 1981.  One year they had Perry Como.  Anyway, one year, we, this is when I was attending, they had Rock Hudson.  One year, as well, we had Darren McGavin.  I will never forget that time.  Our high school was McArthur High in Hollywood, Florida, among many high schools that had participated in the procession.  He did a wonderful job narrating the story.  He will be missed.

Tina Rene’e Bourassa


I offer this as a tribute on the passing of a truly gifted and under-appreciated actor – and a great guy.  It may seem silly for a grown man to view a television character as a role model, but among all of Darren McGavin’s prolific and varied career in stage, film and television, it is his portrayal of feisty, cynical newspaper reported Carl Kolchak in “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” that has become a daily influence on my life.  Kolchak was for us a champion of the underdog, the working slob endlessly scraping and clawing against a cold-hearted establishment to do one thing – get the truth out there.  Kolchak’s enemies included zombies, were wolves, vampires, headless motorcyclists, and even a dinosaur, but those adversaries were vanquished.

It was his other adversaries – a narrow-minded editor and strong-armed law enforcement officials that were the real threat.  No matter how deadly the monsters, it was the system that was the true villain.  Yet it was Kolchak, an ordinary looking, middle-aged guy with a cheat suit, who was out there fighting for us, at the risk of his own life and livelihood, to tell us the truth and to save us chickens from the boogie men, both human and otherwise.  He never gave up, and neither should we.  The world could use a lot more Kolchaks, now more than ever.  The truth is out there as the “X-Files” says, but without Carl Kolchak, there would have been no Fox Mulder.  Is it silly to derive inspiration from a fictional character?  Maybe, but it’s a silliness I’m proud of.

I’m not sure what Kolchak’s favorite drink was, but I can imagine it was something strong and unapologetic – like a good Scotch.  So I will raise a glass of the finest in memory of Carl – and of Darren.


Dave J. Lawrence


I am almost at a loss for words to try and express my sorrow.  Darren has many timeless classic movies and TV shows to carry on his legacy.  Like many of his fans, each and every Christmas is and will always be filled with many laughs as we watch the “Christmas Story.”  I’m sure many tears will be shed amongst us all this Christmas when we see “the old man’s” face on the screen.  When I watch it, the story reminds me so much of my own family and how my Dad was much like Darren’s character, to a certain extent.  Much of the same can be said for his portrayal of Carl Kolchak.  The character that best described a lot of what I did with my own life… doing what you feel is right for one reason or another and end up with no faith in what you’ve done or what you’re trying to do or say.  I’m sure there are other ways of looking at that character, but that’s how I generally see it.  Things certainly will never be the same again without Darren in our lives, but his legacy will live on and will be a constant inspiration to us all.  May the spirit of Kathie guide you through the gates of heaven for your eternal life.

Tim Abramis


Anyone that has talked to me for a minimum of ten minutes knows that my favorite TV show of all time is “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.”  In the 1974/75 show, Darren McGavin portrayed reporter Carl Kolcha, who each week jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire as he relentlessly encountered every kind of creature, monster, and supernatural force while never losing sight of his quest to tell the truth.  I can’t tell you how many countless hours of joy I’ve spent watching and re-watching Darren as Carl Kolchak.  First I had to buy the show and TV movies on expensive Columbia House VHS tapes.  Then, I replaced them with the DVD sets.  Why?  Two words: Darren McGavin.

As a kid, I wanted to BE Carl Kolchak.  As an adult, I still do.  I also loved McGavin as the father in “A Christmas Story,” as the owner of Robert Redford’s baseball team in “The Natural,” as an aging actor in the great episode of “Tales from the Darkside” and everything else I’ve ever had the pleasure to see him in. Darren McGavin is such a part of my childhood (and now adulthood), that I feel as if I’ve lost a close friend.  Rest in peace, Darren, and thank you for inspiring me never to give up.

Doug Kennedy, Wyckoff, NJ


Thank you for the lovely fan site for Darren McGavin and his wife, Kathie Browne.  I adored Mr. McGavin’s performance and truly believe I became a writer because of Carl Kolchak.  I was glued to the television set in my youth, watching as Kolchak managed to both solve mysterious crimes of the paranormal and churn out good copy.  Who wouldn’t want to live a life like that?  Who wouldn’t want to be Carl Kolchak — the Night Stalker?

Carl Kolchak was the epitome of cool.

And so was Darren McGavin.

Anne De’Ath


As I sit here in my new apartment, in warm, exciting Las Vegas, I am so glad that my children (24 and 25 respectively) and I were able to spend our last Christmas together in frigid Cleveland, this Christmas, just past, as our former home there.  As we opened up our gifts with them laughing at “their old man,” ’cause my daughter had gotten him (me) something I had REALLY wanted; while, all the while, in the background, the TBS marathon showing of “A Christmas Story” was playing, just as “the Old Man,” Darren McGavin was about to utter, summoning up every bit of dignity, as the Bumpass’ dogs had just ruined their Christmas dinner, everyone ceased; unwrapping, cajoling each other; shhh, shhh, “here it comes,” “everybody, upstairs, get dressed, we’re going out to eat!”  Yeahhh, yesss, “see, I told you that’s what he says.”

Of course, “notafingah” has become part of the everyday lexicon for those os us who, although having seen the film countless times, watch it as if we’re seeing it for the first time.  What a great movie, what a great, indelible character.

Thank you Ralphie, Randy, Flick, Scott Farkas, Brian Dell (Scutt’s ‘toadie’), “Mom,” but most of all, thank you “Old Man”for showing that even you, ya’ ol’ curmudgeon, can have a heart of gold.

Sleep well, and thank you for bringing my children and me together, one more time.

Carl Giaimo


Darren McGavin was, for me, a lot of things.  An amazing actor, a true personality, a noble man.  His work enriched me and his love story with Kathie inspired me.  I am so sad about his passing – to think we won’t have this wonderful man with us.

We must celebrate his life (as this site will continue to do) and his reunion with Kathie, for that matter.  Kathie was a beautiful, talented, vivacious soul.  Two very special people that touched our lives and who, I can only hope, knew how much we loved and respected them.

Adam Gerace


As one of my favorite actors, Mr. McGavin will be truly missed but not forgotten, as he will continue to “live on” in film and in the hearts of his many fans.

As Ralphie’s “Old Man,” I will always remember those immortal words of his, “F-R-A-G-I-L-E… that must be Italian.” which he uttered upon receipt of his “major award” in the now cult classic “A Christmas Story.”  Like many other fans, I, too, have that movie of DVD, and continually make it a point to watch it each and every Christmas without fail.  My most memorable parts of the movie, aside from Flick freezing his tongue to the schoolyard flag pole, were all those scenes in which Mr. McGavin appeared.  His “wheeling-dealing” for the family Christmas tree, his receipt of a bowling ball and a can of Simonize for Christmas, and, of course, the entire scene involving his receipt and subsequent demise of his “major award” all bring a smile to my face as I run those images through my mind… I almost have each line memorized.

I’m also fortunate enough to possess the entire “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” series on video, which was once offered through Columbia House several years ago.  I have yet to purchase the subsequent DVD release, but I will eventually do so.  Fortunately, one might still be lucky enough to catch Mr. McGavin as Carl Kolchak in a few of the “Night Stalker” episodes which periodically air on the SciFi channel.  I’ll never forget that suspenseful moment in “The Zombie” when the Zombie wakes up as Kolchak is pouring salt into his mouth.  That scene is truly a classic, and one which just never seems to grow old.

Although these were Mr. McGavin’s better known works, I’ll also remember him for his role as the compassionate “beat cop” (police officer) playing opposite Jerry Lewis in “The Delicate Delinquent.”  This was the first time that I had ever seen Mr. McGavin on the “big screen,” and even then, at such an early age, I knew that Mr. McGavin was definitely a special person.  My sincere condolences to Mr.

McGavin’s friends and to the rest of his fans who allowed me to share my admiration and love for this wonderful actor and man.

Antoine Michel


I was surprised to see Mr. McGavin’s long list of credits.  I remember seeing him on TV starting in the 60’s…. Mannix, the TV movies, “The Challenge,” and “Tribes,” then later in “Magnum PI” and the “Night Stalker” series.  I thought he was an excellent actor and brought something out of the ordinary to the craft.  I admired him as the Marine Corps DI in “Tribes,” and based on his performance, thought he might have had military experience.  I will miss him.

David Jansen


I avoided writing to you good folks until later today.  I simply didn’t know what to say.  My bride avoided telling me about Mr. McGavin’s death, since I was at a convention in Orlando.  She didn’t want me to be upset since I was such a big fan.  I did cry a bit this afternoon even though I never met the man behind so many wonderful characters but I felt as though I knew him.  And tonight I turned my grief around and told myself to cut it out and celebrate the great man’s life and try to see as many of his works as possible and embrace what he left behind.  Again, thanks for keeping the flame lit for us fans, and hopefully, for a long time to come.  We’ve got a job to do to pass down Mr. McGavin’s body of work to future generations to come.

Carl Booth


Just a note to say it was a joy to watch Mr. McGavin in all his work – especially “A Christmas Story.”  He and his co-star Melinda Dillon looked so natural together you couldn’t tell they were acting.  I will remember him fondly each Christmas season.

Gerry Widmer


We are so sorry about your loss.

John and Carrie Sallach, Ann Arbor, Michigan


Mr. McGavin is so much fun to watch and so entertaining.  No one can hold a wooden stake to Mr. McGavin’s Kolchak or can do what he did exactly the way he did it.  He was an original and a force unto himself.  He juggled Comedy, Horror, Tragedy and Character in perfect balance and made it look easy!  RIP, Mr. McGavin!  I love your work.  You’ll live in my heart.

Betsy Manning, Pottstown, PA


I was deeply saddened by the passing of Darren McGavin.  I cannot believe the world will be without this great talent.  Everything I saw that he starred in was truly a joy to watch.  He brought out so much in his characters.  I always felt a little of his own personality was coming through.  My deepest sympathy is extended to his friends and all the other fans like myself who will miss him forever.

Donna Rainwater


I am sorry to hear about the passing of Darren.  He was truly a gifted actor, who, in my opinion, made the movie, “A Christmas Story,” the Christmas tradition it is today.  His humor was so subtle and he played that character to a tee.  He made his character so real that I shed a tear, feeling, for a moment, as if my own father had passed.

Betsy Tramo


So sorry to hear the sad news about Darren McGavin.  He brought such great memories to so many people.  This great actor will live on in most all our lives and generations to come.

The Bokor Family


There will never be another Carl Kolchak!  I can watch the original episodes over and over again…. more for Carl’s (Darren’s) hilarious antics mixed in with convincing fear.  Hopefully, he and Tony V. will have a lot of arguing to do in Heaven!  May he rest in peace!

Eric Aagesen


I am so sorry for your loss.  He will be missed.  Every year I will think of him as “A Christmas Story” is the best Christmas movie ever.

Mel Gidcumb


As any Darren McGavin fan can tell you, McGavin was one hell of an actor.  His roles were numerous and everyone has their favorite McGavin character.  I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed him as Gallery in “The Challenge” (made-for-TV, 1970).  Rough,tough, and jungle-savvy, McGavin’s character was clear in his intent and purpose, even when there were no lines in the scene to be spoken.  That was thanks to McGavin’s talent.  He had the ability to not simply allow us to experience the character but to share the character’s emotions and attitude, to be with the character as the story unfolded.  One of the best examples I can site from memory is perhaps my favorite McGavin vehicle:  “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.”

I was 11 years old when the Made-for-TV movie, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” first aired in 1972.  Almost  a year later there followed “Kolchak: The Night Strangler,” and after that, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” television series premiered.  It seemed the show ran (at least in kid years) longer than the single season it actually did, but what a memorable season it was.  “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” delivered similar chills I had experienced from some of the great Universal horror films of the 30’s and 40’s: spooky, scary, and so fun to watch!

Darren McGavin played Carl Kolchak, a bloodhound reporter with a nose for news.  McGavin was not a slick, smooth talking, no fear type of hero.  He was an “Everyman” kind of hero: one which we could relate to.  Sporting a straw hat and tennis shoes, Carl Kolchak covered stories that always resulted in the discovery of some type of monster.  McGavin’s Kolchak was thrust into highly unordinary circumstances, facing creatures out of a madman’s nightmare.  Instead of simply running away, however, Kolchak (although as scared as any of us would be), confronted the supernatural and vanquished it.  In fact, we vanquished it with him.  He was scared; we were scared.  Kolchak stood up, however, and saved the day.  “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” was a 60 minute trip with a guy who we liked because he was friendly, inquisitive, and when the chips were down, dependable.  As a kid, though, one other aspect of McGavin’s Kolchak was memorable…. he was a friend because he believed in monsters, too!

As a kid, if we told an adult there were monsters under our bed, they would chuckle warmly at our silly thoughts and wish us good night.  If we told Carl Kolchak however, he would look down, then slowly back away from the bed saying, “OK, I’m going to turn on the light and when I do, RUN!”  Unlike other adults, he knew (as did we when we were kids) some things that go bump in the night really DO have claws and razor-sharp teeth.

Kolchak knew there was a monster in the city.  We knew a monster was loose in the city.  Everybody else didn’t have a clue and when told about it, they scoffed.  McGavin’s co-star, Simon Oakland played Tony Vincenzo, the headheaded editor of the paper Kolchak worked for.  Vincenzo was chief Cheese in charge of admonishing Kolchak for his “insane” monster theories.  By the end of the show, Kolchak knew there had been a monster loose in the city, we know a monster had been loose in the city, but everybody else still didn’t believe him.  That’s OK, Carl.  We know what the truth is!  We believe you.  It will be our secret…. at least until next weeks’ episode.

I personally believe the character of Carl Kolchak was so memorable to me because of McGavin and his skill as a n actor.  Of course at the age of 11, I didn’t understand all the nuances of acting; I just knew I liked the guy.  As an adult, I grew to understand his wry delivery, clever inflection and the overall natural manner breathed life not only into Carl Kolchak, but into hundreds of characters, as well.  The entertainment legacy Darren McGavin has left fans is extensive, admirable, memorable and appreciated perhaps more than he knew.  I know I certainly won’t forget him, nor those wonderfully frightening times I tagged along with him, stalking monsters in the night.

Ty Klein


When the “Night Stalker” series ran with Darren McGavin, I never missed an episode.  I have enjoyed him so much in every film I have ever watched with him in it.  But the “Night Stalker” was the best, since I love scary/horror movies.  I tried to watch the new “Night Stalker” series that aired this year, but could not get on with the series, since my mind knew only one person could be Carl Kolchak.

You are correct, this man left his impression on me and many of my friends, and he will be deeply missed.  God rest his soul and may he now enjoy being reunited with Kathie.

Melba Cochran, Addison, TX


Heard the sad and tragic news early this morning of the passing of perhaps America’s most prolific character actors of the last sixty years.  Beloved actor Darren McGavin has gone home to be re-united with his wife Kathie.

For me, it all began on the night of January 11th, 1972 – Tuesday, when a “has been big time city reporter” working in Las Vegas comes upon a real live vampire, who seems unstoppable.  I am nearly 80 million Americans saw one of the greatest cult films ever made for television on ABC that night.  And though only 74-minutes without commercials, it has become vintage classic and made Darren McGavin a household name for many, these last 34-years of his career.

With McGavin there was this chemistry in watching him portray different characters since and before, especially David Ross in “The Outsider” TV series in the late 1960’s.  McGavin seemed to know what he was doing and his fans continued to watch his wonderful and unique portrayals.  He was believable in what he was gifted with – acting – and he helped make the stories come to life with great fruition and dignity.  For me, he was easy to mimic; his nuances and facial mannerisms and his unique ability to play the dramatic with undertones of tactful comedic variances.

McGavin could make one laugh without realizing it.  I think that was a large part of his personae of talent and magic which seemed to captivate his fans no end….  Darren McGavin was an original and that kind of actor is hard to find in films today with few exceptions as well as television….  His legacy will continue to live for generations because his character was that kind of actor.  I think I see a lot of ourselves in how he defined and played his roles.  Thank God Darren McGavin helped make our lives more meaningful….  Bless him, always.  With thanks  foryour web site, a fellow Darren McGavin fan,

Roger M. Angress


When I was a kid, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” was my favorite TV show, and Darren McGavin was my favorite actor.  I met him twice after performances off Broadway, in “The Hank Williams Story” and “Greetings.”  At our first meeting I requested a TV interview.  I received a lovely letter from his wife, Kathie Browne, who died a couple of years ago.  They said they had watched a tape of my show and liked it and wanted to do it.

Kathie explained that Darren was off to Europe to film “Captain America” and would do the interview when he returned.

My friend, Joe Simon, the creator of “Captain America,” drew an original of his famous hero and I sent it to Darren as a gift.

The interview never happened.  I wanted Darren to come to my studio in Westchester where I did the show with three cameras.  I was going to hire a limo for him.  With a hearty laugh, Darren said, “I’m not going to Westchester.”  We were planning to do it with one camera in the City, but shortly thereafter my father died and I let things lapse.

I had a long phone call with him once, as we were trying to work things out to do the show.  We talked about acting and working.

He said, “Russ, you have what we called in my day ‘stick-to-it-iveness.”

I still consider it one of the best compliments I’ve received, right up there with Dick Cavett’s famous line, “You know, Russ, you remind me of me.”

Around the time I first met Darren I was studying acting at HB studio with Sandy Dennis,  In fact, one of the characters I explored in scene study was Starbuck, from “The Rainmaker,” which Darren originated on TV and on Broadway (later played by Burt Lancaster in the film).  Sandy and I discussed her work with Darren in a TV movie, “Something Evil.”  Sandy noted that DArren was “a very nice man.”  (No mention was made at the time about the director of that film, Steven Spielberg, fresh off “Duel.”)

A couple of years back I tried to make contact again, to photograph and interview Darren for my book on actors, writers and directors of world cinema.  But Darren had suffered a very bad stroke and Kathie had already passed away, and it was never to be.

I still try to have “stick-to-it-iveness.”

But right now I am in “keep-my-head-above-water-iveness.”  As a struggling artist, you can’t help but be inspired by Darren’s work ethic, which he stated, from time to time, in press interviews, alternatively as “if you’re not acting, you’re not an actor,” or, “if you’re not working, you’re not an actor.”

Darren was a helluvan actor, and a helluva worker, and a helluva guy!

  Russel Harvey


I heard of Darren’s passing late Saturday and again another era has passed, never to return.  It is very touching that at least he lived long enough to see the “Night Stalker” released in the medium it has so long deserved, and the irony that the miserable remake of his classic role was so poorly received.  He must be up there with that Kolchak smile looking down on us….



I’d like to express my condolences on the loss of Darren McGavin.  In a way it feels like we’ve all lost a family member because as the Dad in “A Christmas Story,” he didn’t represent the Dad we remember as kids – he WAS the Dad we remembered as kids!  I’m sure like many, my siblings and I thought FOR SURE they patterned that role on our Dad.  He was EXACTLY the way we fondly remembered our own Dad who passed away in 1977.  We all thank Darren for bringing someone to life we all loved so much – our Dads.


Mark Besand


God bless Darren McGavin for all that he gave to us.  Thanks for the Old Man at Christmas and Kolchak at Halloween and all the other characters you invented for us to enjoy.  Rest easy!

Paige, Ellery, all our family and our pup, Darren McGavin (alias “the Old Man”)


What a sad day it is when you lose someone you love!  I feel like this dear man is a relative of mine or a neighbor or a friend that drops in just before Christmas to bring joy and laughter into our home.  A movie like “A Christmas Story” will live on for generations to come.  My two little granddaughters are as much in love with this movie as I was when it first came out.  It is our tradition to show this film beginning the day of Thanksgiving and up to and sometimes following Christmas Day.  I know Darren deserves credit for so much more, but for our family, “A Christmas Story” will always be our tradition and Mr. McGavin will continue to live in our hearts and minds.  He will be sadly missed by so many.

Gramma Judy and little Emily and Madison


I was sorry to hear about the loss of Darren McGavin.  Personally, Mr. McGavin will always hold a special and warm place in my heart for his portrayal ‘f “The Old Man” in “A Christmas Story.”  That iconic representation of all that is “Dad” to so many millions of men and women out there, and especially to all those boys dreaming of Red Ryder BB guns will always live on through the holiday season, both on TV and in our hearts.  It’s amazing to me how hard it can be to lose someone you’ve never even known, when you enjoyed and admired their work so much.  I guess we just internalize so much of what we see, hear and enjoy that it becomes a part of us, so when we lost the artist who creates those things, it’s like losing a member of the family, or even a part of ourselves.  Please know that I share your pain.

Sgt. A. J. Merrifield, Tikrit, Iraq


I want to say I really missed this year is to all the great actors I remembered watching as I grew up.  I remember seeing Mr. McGavin not from his early works, but as a young kid seeing him in GUNSMOKE, to being the first doctor to Steve Austin on “The Six Million Dollar Man,” then to Carl Kolchak.  Which I, as so many devoted fans, were upset when they cancelled it.  It may have been a short run, but I felt it went long in seasons.  Since its release, I’ve watched it several times.  And then, his “A Christmas Story,” which every Christmas I watch as a holiday favorite next to other traditional classics.  He was funny and entertaining as the father who won that special lamp.  Darren McGavin was witty, moving and had a feel when you watched him perform.  And that is talent.

Seeing the relationship with his wife Kathie and the love they had for the performing arts was special and will be truly missed.  He came in an era of new frontiers of television and technologies with great script writers and open ideas.  And his talent made us feel the characters he was portraying.

As almost we were standing right next to Carl as the Swamp monster was moving in on him.  Well, I know he is in a good place with Kathie, and at least he has company going with him through the gates: Dennis Weaver and Don Knotts.

They will be missed, as well!

Gary D


Thank the Lord for Mr. McGavin, for his life and his work.  He has enriched the world greatly with his talents and portrayals.  When our family watches “A Christmas Story,” especially over and over again at Christmas, I always like to point out Mr. McGavin’s facial expressions in amazement.  I don’t think there is another actor that could convey a mood or a thought with more visible expression than Mr. McGavin.

God bless Mr. McGavin and his friends.

The Trower Family, Bob, Cindy and Caroline, Cape Charles, Virginia


My dad, also 83 years recently passed and so I was especially saddened to hear of the passing of Darren McGavin.  How fortunate you were to have had him for so many years.  You knew the real man, we only the actor.  I should think that he was a lot like the characters he played with a wry sense of humor and also a kind man.  He will certainly live on in the hearts and minds of his many fans.

Janie Attina


I am heartbroken over the loss of Mr. McGavin.  While I am old enough to admit that I watched “The Night Stalker” series on its original run, I have spent the last 20 Christmas eves with the “Old Man” and hope to spend my remaining Christmas eves with him, also.  I enjoyed Mr. McGavin’s acting on “Murphy Brown” and on many of his movie and television roles but Mr. McGavin was my “old man” and I will sincerely miss him.

Mike Verstraete, North Kansas City, MO


I was so sad to hear about the passing of Darren McGavin.  “A Christmas Story” is one of my favorite holiday movies.  Darren will be sadly missed.  I will watch that movie tonight just to be reminded of how he brought so many smiles to kids at Christmas.

Pamela Williams, Summerville, S.C.


You asked for tributes to Darren McGavin.  I think he saved my life. In 1972 I was a fat, unpopular, miserable bookwork of a kid.  I was different in every possible way from those around me. Predictably, I was a horror movie fan with all the trappings: posters of Lugosi and Karloff above my bed, a worn copy of Dick Smith’s monster make-up booklet and my nose in a Ray Bradbury book most of the time.  I remember a P.E. coach in middle school shaking his head and growling, “You’re pathetic.”  And by all the standards of small-town American culture, he was right. Then, by some lucky chance I happened to be up past bedtime watching TV when Darren McGavin sauntered onto the screen as Carl Kolchak.

He was more pathetic than me!  Yet, here he was, fighting monsters on the streets and in City Hall and he was winning.  Amazing!  I know it sounds ridiculous, but I cannot tell you what a personal connection I felt with this odd, insistent man in the straw hat and ice-cream suit.  Damn, but he was tenacious.  He held on.  In some unexpected way, he clicked with me and inspired me to be as tough and good-humored in the fight against monsters of my own little world as he was against those in his.  It is not too much to say that I loved the man.  Kolchak, that is.  Or was it Darren McGavin?  I never made a distinction between the two, and from that day on, I followed him in anything he did, with admiration and respect.

I’m almost as old now as Mr. McGavin was when he played Kolchak and I’m a working actor, myself.  I wonder, sometimes, if he ever knew the impact that a 4-week shoot could have on the misfits of this world for 30 years to come.  I wish I had written to tell him.  But now, I have told you.  Thank you for allowing us to speak.

Bill Oberst, Jr.


Thanks so much for the laughs you brought to me and my family.  Rest in peace, rise on glory.

Trina Dunbar


Hello!  I plan to watch “A Christmas Story” yet again in honor of a great actor and human being.  My husband and I were such fans of all his work.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you.  He will be missed.  Take care,

Sharon and Gary Green, Texarkana, Arkansas


Our sincerest condolences to those who loved Darren McGavin and the fictional family in “A Christmas Story.”  I’ve been watching Mr. McGavin ever since WTBS started playing 24-hours of “A Christmas Story.”  My parents watched “The Night Stalker” religiously.  I loved Darren’s famous line, “that son of a bitch would freeze up in the middle of a summer on the equator.”  God, I love that.  He really will be missed and will be remembered for his great acting.  What a GREAT actor and

HUMAN BEING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Regina Kamm


 We wept after hearing of Darren’s passing.  To us, he was the cantankerous old man in “A Christmas Story” or that zany pesky reporter Cark Kolchak sporting a ruffled seersucker suit.  Darren provided us with laughs and chills as he battled the bizarre, outsmarted authorities to his misfortune, teased Ron Updyke, bonded with Miss Emily or gave Tony Vincenzo more Acid Reflux Disease in “Kolchak: the Night Stalker.”  We later realized how diversified of a talent he truly was by watching him in many roles.  God bless you, Mr. and Mrs. McGavin.

Love, Jon and Lise Thorson.


Darren is with God, now, and so must be with his beloved Kathie.  I will remember him….  Darren’s loss is the nation’s loss.  In film, or television there is no one like him.  He brought to his profession what I feel he must have brought to his life… Dignity.  In the truest sense of the word, he is now and shall ever be a Star.

Donald J. Baker


Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. McGavin, I’ve had, since January 13, 1972, the deep down feeling that I’ve always known him.  Most younger people will probably remember him fondly as “The Old Man” from the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story.”  To me, though, he’ll always be Carl Kolchak.  The sheer zest, energy and yeasty good humor of that dogged INS reporter must have been at least 90% of the real Darren McGavin.  After the “Night Stalker” series prematurely ended in 1975, I still made it a habit to go out of my way to watch anything in which he subsequently appeared – “Law and Order” – “Inherit the Wind” – even a villainous turn in “Captain America” brought forth a bit of the old McGavin impishness with that droll twinkle in his eye masquerading as mere cynicism.  When he turned 80 in 2002, it occurred to me that he probably wouldn’t be around much longer.  That’s when I started writing a little birthday greeting to him via e-mail over the next three years.  Like so many, many other fans and personal friends, I’ll always remember him – and his beautiful wife, Kathie.

Robert Tobin


I’m greatly saddened by Darren’s death.  I worked closely with him and Kathie for one week of my life.  It was a great, great week.  He optioned one of my plays for Broadway.  It never got staged but I was honored he thought it was good enough to produce.

“A Little Love and Affection” was the title and I don’t know how Darren got a hold of a script, but when he did, he called to say he was sending me a $2,000 check for a B’way option.  I returned the check to him with thanks, saying I would have to go through Dramatist Guild procedures, and he said okay and to let him know when I was ready to let him have it.  That same week I got word from San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre that they wanted to produce it there.  Darren said it would be ideal because he knew the director of ACT and could arrange for a joint venture.

Thus it was that “Love and Affection” was staged for a two week run at ACT, and Darren and Kathie came up from L.A., took a room at a downtown hotel, and each night following the performance, the three of us would talk about structure & characters in the play, audience reaction and revisions.  It was great for me, working with a guy and his wife who had theatre savvy and who liked me and my willingness to change things for the better.  That’s always been a character trait of mine – even when others resist change for the sake of something they call integrity which simply means digging in one’s heels, right or wrong.

At the conclusion of out time together, Darren said good-bye to me on a downtown street and hugged and lifted me up off the ground and planted a kiss on my forehead.  I’m sure nobody placed a historical marker on the site, but that gesture is stuck in my heart forever.

A year later, the McGavins renewed the option for half a year.  Then I got a letter from Kathie saying a B’way production looked doubtful.  And that was the last I ever heard from them.  But that was enough.  A song I wrote for the show says it best: “A little love and affection is all I require/And an occasional helping hand/ Just promise you’ll give me the love and affection I need/And a hug and a kiss on demand/For a little love and affection is just about all I can stand.

I miss them both.

Ramon Carver


Please know that Darren McGavin was my favorite actor.  I greatly admired and marveled at his various character portrayals. He was someone who grabbed my attention as a youngster and I enjoyed him being teamed with Simon Oakland in the original “Night Stalker” series.  As naive as this may sound, so many of us often dream of meeting famous individuals and celebrities; and such was the case with myself as I often thought of how it would be to know such an actor as Mr. McGavin.

I am sad.  America has lost one of it’s finest actors….

Charlie Smith, Lawrenceville, GA


As a fan of the “Night Stalker” growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it was a thrill to think that Carl Kolchak was nosing around my city looking for “Jack the Ripper,” in one one the series’ episodes.  Of course at the age of twelve, we never knew what “Exterior shots” were, or that Darren/Carl Kolchak was not really here in person.  The “Voom Voom Room” mentioned in that episode was actually a real Go-Go Joint in the 70’s where our Federal Building now stands!  This was the story I had to sadly relate this past weekend with the passing of Darren McGavin.

The last several Christmases and Christmas Eves did not go by without “24-Hours of ‘A Christmas Story'” on the TV and this tradition will continue, as thanks to all his great movies, he’ll always be around our house….

John Lombard, Milwaukee


Please allow me to express my sincere condolences.  Hollywood has lost a truly class act… one, the likes may not come again in a long time.  I think all of us know the end will come for all of us sooner or later, however, this may be of little solace to his fans.  I have mentioned in past notes to Darren’s web site that I consider myself to be a ‘Cool’ character but the mold was certainly broken with Mr. McGavin.  We are so fortunate to have the archives of television to continue to know Darren and his body of work.  I know in my heart that right at this minute he and Kathie are strolling along, her in perhaps a flowing summer dress and Darren with an “Aw Schucks” expression on his face…. and a certain straw hat cocked back on his head, saying, “Well, life was pretty good… do you think Tony (Simon Oakland) will give me some time off?”

All our prayers, Anne & John Bowman, Seal Beach, CA


I just wanted to express my sincere condolences on the recent passing of Darren McGavin. Like most of his fans, the only glimpse of Darren that I got to see was through the many characters that he played in numerous TV shows and films.  Darren was virtually a member of our family during the Christmas season (and pretty much all year long for that matter) because for years and years one of our family traditions was to watch “A Christmas Story.”  The way he portrayed the father in that movie reminded me so much of my own father… right down to the words he used and his facial expressions.  I was deeply upset to hear of his passing!  So on behalf of my entire family, I would once again like to express my condolences.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.  The world has lost a star.

Brian Kelley, Chicago, IL


I got to see Mr. McGavin in “The Music Man” in summer stock in Buffalo, NY.  After the show, he signed my program and was very nice to me and my friends.  I have always been a fan of his talent and I’m old enough to remember “Mike Hammer” and “Riverboat” on TV.

Hopefully, TVLAND will give the great gift of his programs to future generations.

Sue Trzaska, San Diego


It is with sincere sympathy that I am sending this message.  I was saddened to hear of the death of Mr. McGavin this past weekend.  “A Christmas Story” has been a long time favorite of mine since the time it made its debut in the movie theatres in 1983-4.  Mr. McGavin performed the part of the unyielding/stern father with great finesse.

Laughter is truly the best medicine and thanks to him, many generations will be able to benefit from this comedy that has brought joy to me for all these years!  It is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.  Thanks to Mr.McGavin and his dedication to playing his part in “A Christmas Story.”

Pam Burleson


I remember my earliest exposure to Darren McGavin was his auspicious role as “the Old Man” in “A Christmas Story.”  Afterwards, one late summer night during my school recess, I was introduced to “The Night Stalker.”  It was no surprise that I later learned that the ABC presentation of “The Night Stalker” won the highest ratings up to that time for a television movie.  This was a testament to the quality production and above-board acting that Darren was committed to.  I do not believe there was ever a production that I did not enjoy, that Darren McGavin was a part of.

“The Night Stalker” series is especially loved by a strong following of fans and myself that recognize Darren’s range as an actor, and his unique mannerisms.  He brought such believability and likeability to the scruffy reporter in the straw hat and seersucker suit.  Darren’s class truly emanated via Kolchak’s best qualities, while he delivered some very humorous and also dramatic moments in the series.  He was a hero to all the “truth seekers” and to those who will not waver to uncover the “truth.”

I can still see him driving his Mustang and tossing his hat in the opening credits. I like to think that I learned something from Darren’s work and I believe that I have.  I like Carl Kolchak and I believe there was some of Darren in him and vice versa.  There had to be.

However, it is most regretful that I did not share my thoughts with Mr. McGavin while he was still with us.  I have recently learned that one of his pleasures in his declining years was reading letters from his fans.  Now, I will have missed out on conveying to him what a  cognitive and classy gentleman he was.  I have missed a chance to share my appreciation to him for the contributions he has made to the stage, movies and television and yes, even to my life.

He will be missed but not forgotten by me or his many fans.

Goodbye for now…Mr. McGavin

T Camarda