Whenever an actor becomes an iconic character, it’s difficult to reconcile them playing other parts. Sometimes it’s even impossible to realize that they’re the ones in other movies. That’s what fans are figuring out about Darren McGavin, the man who played the family patriarch in both A Christmas Story and Billy Madison.
The roles had quite a few commonalities but even more differences. And now looking back, it’s impossible to picture anyone but him as those characters.
‘A Christmas Story’ is a holiday treasure
Many movie watchers consider A Christmas Story (1983) the greatest holiday movie ever made. The narrative follows Ralphie, a young boy growing up in the 1940s who wants nothing more than to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Meanwhile, all the adults in his life insist that he’ll “shoot his eye out” if he gets his wish, according to IMDb.
A Christmas Story is about Ralphie and his Christmas wish, but it’s also about family. And one of the most memorable characters of all is his father, The Old Man Parker, who’s brought to life by McGavin. Some of the best one-liners and most culturally significant moments come from him.
For example, The Old Man receives a “major award” in the form of that iconic leg lamp, which must be Italian because it’s “frah-GEE-lay” (that’s fragile). When Ralphie receives a bunny suit as a gift, his dad bluntly says he “looks like a pink nightmare” and “a deranged Easter bunny.”
In short, A Christmas Story wouldn’t be the same without McGavin.
Darren McGavin played a father figure again in ‘Billy Madison’
A little over a decade later, McGavin signed on to play a father again, only this time it was for an adult-sized adolescent named Billy Madison.
The 1995 comedy about an immature adult son who’s poised to inherit his father’s hotel empire but must repeat grades 1 through 12 and prove his worth first is some of Sandler’s finest work, according to IMDb.
Again, McGavin plays a supporting yet crucial role as Brian Madison. He’s pragmatic yet hilarious because of his deadpan deliveries. There’s no doubt that casting agents for Billy Madison saw his work on A Christmas Story and used it to inform their decision.
Fans can’t believe McGavin is the father in both movies
The internet was abuzz with people figuring out the random bit of trivia that McGavin starred as the father in both cult classic movies. Even though the films were made 12 years apart many decades ago, they remain treasured movies that fans still watch to this day.
But the actor has some other film credits to his name as well. McGavin, whose real name is William Lyle Richardson, began his film career as a set painter for Columbia Pictures and later as a Broadway actor. He has several supporting role credits to his name on both the big screen and television.
McGavin was nominated for an Emmy for his recurring work on the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown. The comedy Billy Madison was one of his final projects before the actor’s death in 2006 at the age of 83.
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