Director Bob Clark, best known for the holiday classic A Christmas Story, and his son, Ariel Hanrath-Clark, were killed Wednesday when a SUV driven by a drunk drive collided with their vehicle. Bob Clark was 67. His son was only 22.
Clark was born Benjamin Robert Clark in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on August 5, 1941. He attended Catawba College in North Carolina, where he majored in philosophy, before winning a football scholarship to Hillsdale College in Michigan. Eventually, he attended the University of Miami where he majored in theatre. He could have a professional football career, but turned down all offers for such.
Bob Clark began his film career with a low budget exploitation film called She-Man released in 1967. Clark switched gears and started directing in the horror genre, with the films Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (hippies battle the undead) in 1972, Dead of Night (AKA Deathdream) in 1974, and Black Christmas released that same year. It was in the latter two films that Clark began to display some talent. In fact, Black Christmas (a pre-Halloween holiday themed, slasher movie) is considered by some a classic by some.
Over the next several years Clark's talent would not always be obvious in the movies he directed. Some, such as Murder by Decree (in which Sherlock Holmes matches wits with Jack the Ripper), were quite so good. Others, such as Porky's and its sequel Porky's II: the Next Day, were low points in movie making. Regardless, Clark directed an unabashed classic with A Christmas Story, released in 1983. While it did not perform well in its initial release at the box office, A Christmas Story became a holiday favourite after repeated showing on HBO and other premium channels. Sadly, Clark would never match the quality he achieved with A Christmas Story again. Indeed, many of his films would be closer to Porky's in quality. From the Hip, Rhinestone, Loose Cannons, and Baby Geninuses were as abominably bad as A Christmas Story was amazingly good. This is not to say Bob Clark was no longer capable of making good movies. I'll Remember April, released in 1999, was a touching portrait of young boys who find a Japanese soldier in the days of World War II. His film adaptation of Arthur Miller's The American Clock was enjoyable. Clark was capable of making truly great films and even simply good films, despite what many critics might have sometimes otherwise believed.
Bob Clark certainly had a chequered career. Few directors could be attributed with having made unabashed classics and near classics (Black Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Murder by Decree) and movies generally considered abominably bad (Loose Cannons, Baby Geninuses, and Rhinestone). It was the truly good films he made that I would like to remember Clark for. While he did direct those awful Porky's movies, he also directed two of my favourite movies of all time: A Christmas Story and Murder by Decree. There are many directors who cannot say this (Michael Bay is one of them). If Clark is remembered, then, in my mind it should be as the director of A Christmas Story and not the many bad movies he made.