'Christmas' helmer, son killed

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Bob Clark, best known as the director of the seasonal favorite "A Christmas Story," was killed along with his son Ariel early Wednesday when their car was struck by a vehicle whose driver was suspected of being intoxicated.

Clark was 67.

In addition to his 1983 classic, Clark directed about two dozen movies, including the "Porky's" comedies.

The crash was reported at about 2:20 a.m. on Southern California's Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, authorities said. The road was closed for several hours afterward.

Clark lived in the Palisades, and his 22-year-old son resided in Santa Monica. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

Los Angeles police investigators said Clark was driving a 1997 Infiniti Q-30 sedan south on PCH when the driver of a GMC Yukon allegedly swerved and hit the Clark vehicle head-on.

The driver, Hector Velazquez-Nava, 24, of Los Angeles, remained hospitalized and will be booked for investigation of gross vehicular manslaughter after being treated, police Lt. Paul Vernon said. A female passenger in his car also was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, police said.

"Christmas Story" tells the tale of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, who dreams of getting a Red Ryder air rifle from Santa Claus. He ignores, then nearly fulfills, warnings from a series of adults who tell him, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid." The sappily sweet comedy has become a Christmas staple on the order of "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."

Clark specialized in horror movies and thrillers early in his career, directing "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things," "Murder by Decree," "Breaking Point" and "Black Christmas" in the 1970s.

He enjoyed major success with 1981's "Porky's," which spawned the sequel "Porky's II: The Next Day" two years later.

"Christmas Story" — starring Darrin McGavin, Melinda Dillon and Peter Billingsley and based on Jean Shepard's childhood memoir of a boy in the 1940s — produced the 1994 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 such family comedies as "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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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