Remembering Director Bob Clark, 67, Who Made the Classic A Christmas Story

Film director Bob Clark, 67, and his 22 year old son Ariel were tragically killed when a drunk driver crashed into their car head on in the early morning hours of April 4th in Pacific Palisades, California.

Clark will never be remembered as one of the best directors to ever come out of Hollywood, but he will be remembered as a man who created three distinctive films that changed the genres they represented. You may not be able to name a Bob Clark film but you have certainly been exposed to his work at some point, especially if you have your television set turned on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

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Bob Clark Director Profile Part Four – Black Christmas (1974) – THE MASTER CYLINDER

Clark is the director of the now classic “A Christmas Story,” the humorous story of a young boy named Ralphie whose only Christmas wish is to get the toy gun he has been dreaming of but is always getting rebuffed with the warning “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Through the witty writing of humorist Jean Shepard, who also narrated the film as the adult Ralphie, Clark translated the lyrical piece to film without losing any of Shepard’s signature witticisms. Clark also added his own brand of humor to the film including giving Darren McGavin the now immortal pronunciation of the word ‘fragile’ (fra-gee-lay). He also can be spotted in a cameo as the man who walks up to McGavin on the street while McGavin admires the infamous leg lamp in his living room window.

At the time of its November 1983 release “A Christmas Story” was a critical hit but only a mild financial success. The film started to catch on but had to be removed from first run theaters as the big Christmas pictures were being ushered in. By the time the Christmas films had played themselves out, “A Christmas Story” had played itself out in second run theaters and was soon headed for home video. It was there that the film began to catch on and the rest is history. For the last several years the film has been shown on a 24-hour schedule from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.

Clark will also be remembered for helping to create the mad slasher genre with his 1974 cult classic “Black Christmas” starring Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea and John Saxon. The film, which many believe to be the inspiration for John Carpenter’s 1978 classic “Halloween” tells the story of a killer stalking sorority girls at a college over the Christmas holidays. Much like “A Christmas Story,” this film did not do well in its initial release but later grew cult status and was poorly remade just a few months back.

Clark’s biggest financial success was “Porky’s,” which has become known as the king of all the teen sex romp comedies of the 1980’s. So successful was “Porky’s” that Clark would also write and direct two sequels, “Porky’s II: The Next Day,” (1983) and “Porky’s Revenge,” (1985). Neither film lived up to the original and each was less financially successful then its predecessor. Clark gave credit to “Porky’s” for being the reason “A Christmas Story” ever saw the light of day. Clark had tried for a few years to get it made but no studio would give him the chance. Once “Porky’s” took off he was given free reign to make any project he wished and jumped at the opportunity to bring his pet project to the screen.

PORKY'S - 'Porky's II: The Next Day' Movie Poster (Posters, Regular Sizes) | Rare Records

Some of Clark’s other films include 1979’s “Murder By Decree,” considered by many to be one of the best of the modern Sherlock Holmes movies. With a terrific cast headed by Christopher Plummer (as Holmes), James Mason (as Watson), Donald Sutherland, Genevieve Bujold and John Gielgud, the film tells the involving story of Holmes becoming part of the investigative team trying to track down Jack the Ripper.

In 1980 Clark directed the film version of the Broadway play “Tribute” starring Jack Lemmon as an actor dying of cancer who wants to mend fences with his estranged son (Robby Benson) before it is too late. Though the film was a critical dud it did fairly well at the box office and earned Lemmon an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. It would be the only nomination a Bob Clark film would receive.

Clark was also known for making some high profile flops including 1984’s “Rhinestone,” with an improbably cast Sylvester Stallone as a cab driver who falls in love with Dolly Parton as she strives to turn him into a country music star. The next year he directed “Turk 182,” a dramatic comedy about a young man’s attempt to expose the lack of support from New York officials over an injury to his fireman brother. “From The Hip,” and “Loose Cannons” followed and disappeared almost as quickly as they opened.

Файл:Loose Cannons (1990).jpg — Википедия

In 1994 Clark and Shepard returned to familiar territory with a sequel to their classic Christmas film called “It Runs In the Family,” which was originally titled “A Summer Story.” The studio deemed the film, which casts Charles Grodin in the lead as the old man, unreleaseable and demanded Clark re-edit the film. When Clark refused the studio released it on a limited number of screens with no pre-release publicity and the film flopped. The film never saw a wider release around the country and was quietly released on video. To watch the film is to see a film that lacks the wit and charm (not to mention the original cast) of the classic original. It is not without a few laughs but definitely falls short – especially to the legions of fans of the original.

1999’s “Baby Geniuses,” the story of super intelligent babies, was Clark’s last financial hit. Much like “Porky’s” 17 years earlier, “Baby Geniuses” was destroyed by critics but appealed to its intended audience that made the film a surprise success. Sadly, Clark’s last film was a 2004 sequel, “Super Babies: Baby Geniuses 2” which was as equally derided by critics as the original but this time failed to attract its intended audience.

At the time of his death Clark was preparing to work on no less then three new films. There was no work whether the films would move forward without him or not.

Bob Clark may never be mentioned in the same breath with Scorsese, Spielberg and the like but he did create at least one film that will be forever remembered as a classic. Perhaps this Christmas when we are all sitting down to view that classic we can take a minute to reflect on the career of a man who may not have always hit a home run but still created a work that most directors can only dream of that will live on. And we should give thanks to Bob Clark and hope that wherever he is now he has found his own Red Ryder BB Gun.

Written by Jane Smith – expert.