bclark.jpgBenjamin “Bob” Clark, the Hollywood film director behind “Porky’s” and “A Christmas Story,” died on April 4 in a car crash. He was 67.
Clark was born in New Orleans and raised in Birmingham, Ala., and South Florida. He won a football scholarship to Hillsdale College in Michigan, but turned down offers to play professional football in order to study theatre and creative writing at the University of Miami. Clark worked as an actor and stage director in several Miami playhouses after college, then entered the movie business as a low-budget filmmaker.
Clark originally specialized in horror movies and thrillers, directing pictures such as “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things,” “Deathdream,” “Black Christmas” and “Murder by Decree.” He switched to comedies in the 1980s, a move that brought him both fame and fortune.
In 1982, Clark directed and produced the sex farce, “Porky’s,” a film based on his experiences with five high school buddies in the 1950s. “Porky’s” earned an estimated $150 million domestically and spawned two sequels: “Porky’s II: The Next Day” and “Porky’s Revenge.”
The following year Clark co-wrote, produced and directed “A Christmas Story,” a coming-of-age film about a young boy’s quest for a Red Ryder air rifle. The picture only earned $19.3 million at the box office, but Generation X loved it. Today, “A Christmas Story” is considered a holiday classic, one that airs for 24 hours straight on TNT every Christmas Eve.
After the huge success of the “Porky’s” franchise and “A Christmas Story,” Clark’s career took a left turn. He spent the next two decades directing nearly a dozen feature films and TV movies, most of which were flops with critics and audiences. He also earned two Golden Raspberry Award nominations for worst director for the films “Rhinestone” and “SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2.”
In the early morning hours of April 4, Clark and his youngest son Ariel were traveling in a 1997 Infiniti Q30 on the Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, Calif., when they were hit head on by a 2007 GMC Yukon that steered into their lane. Ariel, a 22-year-old college student, musician, juggler, gymnast, actor and part-time card dealer, was also killed in the crash. Both men died at the scene. The driver of the SUV, Hector Velazquez-Nava, and a female passenger were transported to UCLA Medical Center with minor injuries.
“I had the extreme pleasure of working under Bob Clark early in my career,” said producer Peter Billingsley, who starred in “A Christmas Story.” “From that memorable experience, Bob became a great friend and mentor whose influence has guided me both personally and professionally. He will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”
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Watch Clips From “A Christmas Story”
[Update – April 19, 2007: Hector Velazquez-Nava, the 24-year-old illegal immigrant who crashed into Clark and his son, killing them both, was arrested and booked on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, operating a motor vehicle without a driver’s license and gross vehicular manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.]
[Update – April 20, 2007: Clark was slated to receive the 2007 Golden State Award on April 21 for excellence in directing at The California Independent Film Festival. Officials at the festival say they plan to honor Clark’s career by turning the event into a celebration of his film work.]