Stephen M. Silverman
February 27, 2006 08:00 AM

Versatile movie and TV actor Darren McGavin – whose hundreds of roles included that of the grumpy dad in the 1983 holiday perennial A Christmas Story – died Saturday of natural causes at a Los Angeles-area hospital with his family at his side. He was 83.

Among his many TV roles, he starred in Mike Hammer, Riverboat and the cult favorite Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also won an Emmy, in 1990, for playing leading lady Candice Bergen’s opinionated father in an episode of Murphy Brown.

On the big screen, he was memorable as the young artist in the Venice hotel also occupied by Katharine Hepburn, in David Lean’s 1955 Summertime; as Frank Sinatra’s crafty drug supplier in that same year’s The Man with the Golden Arm; and as the gambler in 1984’s The Natural.

Born in Spokane, Wash., McGavin was never precise about his background. He told TV Guide in 1973 that he was a constant runaway at 10 and 11, and as a teen lived in warehouses in Tacoma, Wash., and dodged the police and welfare workers. His parents disappeared, he said.

Getting to New York, McGavin studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio and began working in live TV drama and on Broadway – appearing with Charlton Heston in a TV Macbeth and acting the role of son Happy in Death of a Salesman in New York and on the road, reports Reuters.

McGavin is survived by his four children – York, Megan, Bridget and Bogart – from a previous marriage to Melanie York McGavin, said Bogart McGavin. His second wife, Kathie Browne, died in 2003.

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