Thursday, March 02, 2006

Dennis Weaver, Darren McGavin and Don Knots

Between my trip down to Atlantic City to catch Frankie Valli (discussed over at Parting Shots) and my 24+ hours suffering a stomach virus, I haven’t had a chance to write anything about the passing of three long time favorite actors. They do say these things come in threes but not this damn close, huh?

Of course, I remember Dennis Weaver most from his days as Chester Goode, opposite James Arness’ Marshall Matt Dillon on GUNSMOKE. He did tons of cameo roles in later TV shows before and after that, along with starring in one of the best made-for-TV movies ever, DUEL, directed by pre-JAWS Steven Spielberg. Younger folks probably remember him as the cowboy in the Big Apple McCLOUD from the early 1970s.

Darren McGavin is probably better remembered by folks of my generation as Carl Kolchak, THE NIGHT STALKER from that great television show. Back before Scully & Fox Mulder joined the FBI, Carl was working on his own “x-files”. Stories which his editor Tony Vincenzo (played excellently by Simon Oakley) never let Carl get into print. While I don’t recall if I ever saw him playing Mike Hammer, but my father mentioned it a few times so I’m sure he did.

Many of you probably recall him as the father in my all-time favorite ‘family comedy’, A CHRISTMAS STORY. If you were wondering who it was that was watching 18+ hours straight of the film on TNT it was me! I also have it on DVD, though sadly it has no bonus material. McGavin was also a popular ‘reader’ on audiobooks doing a number of adaptations of “Travis McGee” novels by John D. MacDonald, among others.

There is nothing I can say about Don Knotts which hasn’t been said at length already in blogs, newspapers and on television & radio. He created one of the most beloved and imitated characters on television, with his portrayal of Barney Fife on the old Andy Griffith show. I actually remember him playing one of Steve Allen’s “man in the street” characters, along with Louis Nye and Tom Poston. My father, who never called me Steverino, was a huge fan of all of Allen’s shows and it seems I grew up watching them.

My most sincere condolences and sympathy go to the families, friends and millions of fans these three men left behind. You will be remembered long after most of us are but dust.
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