'A Christmas Story' Director, Son Killed In Crash - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/05/07 - Los Angeles, California

'A Christmas Story' Director, Son Killed In Crash

Film director Bob Clark, best known for the holiday classic "A Christmas Story," was killed with his son Wednesday in a head-on crash with a vehicle that a drunken driver steered into the wrong lane, police and the filmmaker's assistant said.

Clark, 67, and son Ariel Hanrath-Clark, 22, were killed in the accident in Pacific Palisades, said Lyne Leavy, Clark's personal assistant.

The two men were in an Infiniti that collided head-on with a GMC Yukon around 2:30 a.m. PDT, said Lt. Paul Vernon, a police spokesman.

The driver of the other vehicle, Hector Velazquez-Nava, 24, of Los Angeles and his passenger, described as a 29-year-old woman, were taken to UCLA Medical Center with minor injuries.

Velazquez-Nava was arrested Wednesday afternoon and booked for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol and gross vehicular manslaughter. He was being held on $100,000 bail.

"The initial investigation has concluded that Nava was driving without a license northbound in the southbound lanes while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage," Vernon said.

In Clark's most famous film, all 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle.

His mother, teacher and Santa Claus all warn: "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

A school bully named Scut Farkus, a leg lamp, a freezing flagpole mishap and some four-letter defiance helped the movie become a seasonal fixture with "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street."

Scott Schwartz, who played Flick in "A Christmas Story" and kept in touch with Clark, called Clark one of the "nicest, sweetest guys that you'd ever want to come in contact with."

"It's a tragic day for all of us who knew and loved Bob Clark," Schwartz said. "Bob was a fun-loving, jelly-roll kind of guy who will be sorely missed."

The director of The Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio, which was used for several exterior shots in the film, said Clark had been planning to visit in August.

"We were all very excited about meeting him," said executive director Steve Siedlecki. "It's very sad to think that that will never happen."

The house started a condolence book for Clark's family that fans who visit the house can sign, he said. Renovated to look like Ralphie's movie home, the house opened in November and has welcomed about 30,000 visitors.

Clark specialized in horror movies and thrillers early in his career, directing such 1970s flicks as "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things," "Murder by Decree," "Breaking Point" and "Black Christmas," which was remade last year.

His breakout success came with 1981's sex farce "Porky's," a coming-of-age romp that he followed two years later with "Porky's II: The Next Day."

In 1983, "A Christmas Story" marked a career high for Clark. Darrin McGavin, Melinda Dillon and Peter Billingsley starred in the adaptation of Jean Shepard's childhood memoir of a boy in the 1940s.

The film was a modest theatrical success, but critics loved it.

In 1994, Clark directed a forgettable sequel, "It Runs in the Family," featuring Charles Grodin, Mary Steenburgen and Kieran Culkin in a continuation of Shepard's memoirs.

In recent years, Clark made family comedies that were savaged by critics, including "Karate Dog," "Baby Geniuses" and its sequel, "Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2."

Among Clark's other movies were Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton's "Rhinestone," Timothy Hutton's "Turk 182!", and Gene Hackman and Dan Aykroyd's "Loose Cannons."

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.

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