LOS ANGELES -- Darren McGavin, the husky, tough-talking actor who starred in the TV series ''Mike Hammer,"played a grouchy dad in the holiday classic ''A Christmas Story"and had other strong roles in such films as ''The Man with the Golden Arm" and ''The Natural," died yesterday. He was 83
Mr. McGavin died of natural causes at an area hospital with his family at his side, said his son Bogart McGavin.
Mr. McGavin made his film debut in 1945 when he switched from painter of movie sets to bit actor in '' Song to Remember." After a decade of learning his craft in New York, he returned to Hollywood and became one of the busiest actors in television and films. He starred in five series, including cult favorite ''Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and ''Riverboat," and became a prolific actor in TV movies. Among his memorable portrayals was Gen. George Patton in the 1979 TV biography ''Ike."
Despite his busy career in television, Mr. McGavin was awarded only one Emmy: in 1990 for an appearance as Candice Bergen's opinionated father in an episode of ''Murphy Brown."
Mr. McGavin may be best recognized for his role as the hot-tempered father of a boy yearning for the gift of a BB gun in the 1983 comedy ''A Christmas Story."
He lacked the prominence in films he enjoyed in television, but he registered strongly in featured roles such as the young artist in Venice in ''Summertime," David Lean's 1955 film with Katharine Hepburn and Rosanno Brazzi; Frank Sinatra's crafty drug supplier in ''The Man with the Golden Arm" (1955); and Jerry Lewis's parole officer in ''The Delicate Delinquent." His other films include ''The Court-martial of Billy Mitchell," ''Airport '77," and ''Billy Madison."
Throughout his television career, Mr. McGavin gained a reputation as a curmudgeon willing to bad-mouth his series and combat studio bosses.
His other series were ''Crime Photographer," ''The Outsider,"''The Night Prowler," and a short-lived sitcom, ''Small & Frye."
Born in Spokane, Wash., Mr. McGavin was sketchy in interviews about his childhood. He told TV Guide in 1973 that he was a constant runaway at 10 and 11, and as a teen lived in warehouses in Tacoma, Wash., and dodged the police and welfare workers. His parents disappeared, he said.He spent a year at College of the Pacific in Stockton, taking part in dramatics, then landed in Los Angeles. He washed dishes and was hired to paint sets at Columbia studio. He was working on ''Song to Remember" when an agent told him of an opening for a small role.