Darren McGavin, a prolific actor who starred in five television series and played many memorable supporting roles in the movies, died in Los Angeles yesterday of natural causes. Among his best-known television roles were a run in the 1950s in the title role of Mike Hammer (an absurdly macho, hyper-patriotic character McGavin later referred to as "an idiot" who he played as "camp" - this makes me like him very much) and a starring role in the cult favorite, Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In addition, McGavin received an Emmy nomination for his work as Candice Bergen's father on Murphy Brown.

To movie audiences, McGavin is immediately recognizable as The Old Man (aka Dad) in A Christmas Story. Other notable film roles include Gus Sands, the manipulative gambler in The Natural, and Louie, Frank Sinatra's dealer in The Man with the Golden Arm.