Darren McGavin

Darren McGavin was one of my favorite character actors especially in his big starring role as Carl Kolchak. He was also a great narrator – he did a number of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books on tape. His gravelly voice was wonderful for those long car rides. In addition to the below Instant Netflix, Darren McGavin also appears in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents season 1 (1955), one episode of Magnum P.I. season 2 (1981) and one episode of Murder She Wrote season 8 (1991).

Kolchak the Night Stalker

1. Kolchak the Night Stalker (1974) – “Independent News Service reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) investigates the supernatural in this 1970s series. Kolchak has his work cut out for him as he tracks down Jack the Ripper, aliens, zombies, werewolves, vengeful spooks, Satanic dogs and a boogeyman from the Louisiana bogs. Guest stars include Richard Kiel, Phil Silvers, Keenan Wynn, Jamie Farr, Bernie Kopell, Tom Skerritt, Scatman Crothers, Dick Van Patten and Erik Estrada”

This was my favorite TV series growing up and I find it to be great campy fun now. The monsters are laughable and the plots are half-baked but Darren McGavin is simply delightful as Kolchak. This does not include the 2 TV movies that preceded the series – The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler (both of which are more serious than the series). I loved the series so much that one evening as a child I cut short trick or treating to watch Kolchak. While this is Darren McGavin’s signature role, most people nowadays remember him for…

A Christmas Story

2. A Christmas Story (1983) – “Humorist Jean Shepard’s nostalgic view of Christmastime in Indiana during the 1940s is a holiday classic. Nine-year-old Ralphie desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas and wages an all-out campaign to convince his reluctant parents (Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon) that the toy is safe. Meanwhile, as Ralphie prepares for the big day, his brother has a strange relationship with food, and his dad fights the never-ending furnace battle”

I generally try to avoid this film 364 days of the year as every year I look forward to one of the Turner stations playing “24 hours of A Christmas Story”. I’ll have that on in the background all day. This film is an absolute classic. If you haven’t seen it yet – why haven’t you?

The Natural

3. The Natural (1984) – “A bat made from a tree struck by lightning and a passion for baseball define Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford). But when he’s shot and severely wounded, his career gets cut short. Years later, Hobbs tries out for a struggling team. He steps to the plate and knocks the ball out of the park in this mythic film that’s as epic as America’s national pastime”

I don’t care for sports so I really don’t care for sports movies. Having written that, this is the best baseball movie I’ve ever seen. It is not really a Darren McGavin film – he’s only in a tiny portion of the movie but this a truly poetic film.