Benjamin Robert Clark
August 5, 1939
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||April 4, 2007 (aged 67)|
Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Film director, film producer, screenwriter|
Benjamin Robert Clark (August 5, 1939 – April 4, 2007) was an American film director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. He is best known for his work in the Canadian film industry throughout the 1970s and 1980s, where he was responsible for some of the most successful films in Canadian film history such as Black Christmas (1974), Murder by Decree (1979), Tribute (1980), Porky's (1981), and A Christmas Story (1983). He won three Genie Awards (two Best Direction and one Best Screenplay) with two additional nominations.
Early life and education
Clark was born in New Orleans in 1939, but grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and later moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He grew up poor, as his father died during his childhood and his mother was a barmaid. After attending Catawba College majoring in philosophy, Clark won a football scholarship to Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he played quarterback. Eventually he studied theater at the University of Miami, turning down offers to play professional football. He did briefly play semi-pro for the Fort Lauderdale Black Knights.
Clark and his collaborator for this film, screenwriter and makeup artist Alan Ormsby, would revisit the zombie subgenre in 1972's Deathdream, also known by its alternative title, Dead of Night, a Vietnam War allegory that takes its cue from the classic short story "The Monkey's Paw". The slasher film Black Christmas (1974) was one of his most successful films in this period, and is remembered today as an influential precursor to the modern slasher film genre. Clark had moved to Canada, then a tax haven for Americans, and these productions were small by Hollywood standards but made Clark a big fish in the small pond of the Canadian film industry of that era.
Clark executive-produced the moonshine movie Moonrunners, which was used as source material for the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. Clark later produced the 2000 TV movie The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood. Clark and others sued Warner Bros. over the studio's 2005 movie The Dukes of Hazzard, winning a $17.5 million settlement just prior to the movie's release.
Turning toward more serious fare, Clark scored a critical success with the Sherlock Holmes film Murder by Decree, starring Christopher Plummer and Geneviève Bujold, which won five Genie Awards including Best Achievement in Direction and Best Performance for both leads. He followed this with a movie of the Bernard Slade play Tribute, starring Jack Lemmon reprising his Broadway role, for which Lemmon was nominated for an Academy Award and 11 Genies including a win for Lemmon's performance.
Clark returned to his B-movie roots, though, co-writing, producing, and directing Porky's, a longtime personal project. Clark had a detailed outline based on his own youth in Florida, which he dictated into a cassette recorder due to illness, and collaborator Roger Swaybill said of listening to the tapes, "I became convinced that I was sharing in the birth of a major moment in movie history. It was the funniest film story I had ever heard." Though set in the United States, the film would go on to gross more than any other English-language Canadian film. The film was the third most successful release of 1982 and by the end of the film's lengthy initial release, in 1983, Porky's had secured itself a spot, albeit short-lived, as one of the top-25 highest-grossing films of all time in the US. The film was (also briefly) the most successful comedy in film history. The overwhelming success of Porky's is credited as launching the genre of the teen sex comedy so prevalent throughout the 1980s, and which continued into the millennium in such films as the American Pie series. Clark wrote, produced, and directed the film's first sequel, Porky's II: The Next Day (1983), which did not feature the title character, and introduced two new antagonists with perhaps greater relevance, a blustering fundamentalist preacher, and a sleazy local politician who cynically caters to his influence, while seducing a teenage girl. Clark refused involvement with a third film, Porky's Revenge!, which brought Porky and the sexual exploits of the cast back front and center as in the first installment, as well as bringing everything full-circle and bringing the gang's high school rowdy escapades to a close.
He instead collaborated with Jean Shepherd on A Christmas Story, which critic Leonard Maltin described as "one of those rare movies you can say is perfect in every way". Although not a box-office smash in its theatrical release, A Christmas Story would go on to become a perennial holiday favorite via repeated TV airings and home video. A joint effort at a sequel in 1994, My Summer Story, did not fare as well; Maltin said that the studio waited too long, and Clark was forced to recast almost the entire film. Three other film versions of the Parker family had been produced for television by PBS with Shepherd's involvement during the late 1980s, also with a different cast, but without Clark's participation.
Clark continued to stay active in the film industry until his death, with lower-budget fare mixed in with brief runs at higher targets. A The Hollywood Reporter critic, speaking after his death, described his career as "a very unusual mix of films", because he "at times was a director-for-hire and would do films that, to say the least, aren't stellar". Some of his last output included Baby Geniuses and SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2.
Clark was nominated twice for the Razzie Awards as "Worst Director", for Rhinestone and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. At the end of his life, he was working with Howard Stern on a remake of Porky's, and, with Black Christmas having been remade, two of his other early horror films were slated for expensive remakes: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things and Deathdream.
Clark was divorced, and had two sons, Michael and Ariel.
Clark and his youngest son, Ariel Hanrath-Clark, 22, were killed in a head-on car crash on the Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles on the morning of April 4, 2007. The crash occurred when an SUV crossed the median and struck Clark's Infiniti I30, causing the closure of the highway for eight hours. Police determined that the SUV's driver had a blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit and was driving without a license. The driver initially pleaded not guilty to two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, but changed his plea to no contest in August, and was sentenced to six years in prison under the terms of a plea agreement on October 12, 2007.
|2006||Black Christmas||Glen Morgan||Remake of 1974 film of the same name|
|1979, 2000||The Dukes of Hazzard||No||Yes||Episodes: ''Repo Men'', ''Hazzard in Hollywood''|
|1985||Amazing Stories||Yes||No||Episode: ''Remote Control Man''|
|1993||The American Clock||Yes||No||Television film|
|1996||Stolen Memories: Secrets from the Rose Garden||Yes||No|
|1998||The Ransom of Red Chief||Yes||No|
|2000||Catch a Falling Star||Yes||No|
|2004||The Karate Dog||Yes||No|
- Garrett, Diane (April 5, 2007). "Bob Clark, 67, director". Variety. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
- "Canuxploitation Interview: Bob Clark". www.canuxploitation.com. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
- Bergan, Ronald (April 11, 2007). "Obituary: Bob Clark". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
- Reuters reported on the day of his death, "Clark was 67, according to police, although some reference sites list him as 65."
- theodin.co.uk, Philip Beel. "Canuxploitation Interview: Bob Clark". www.canuxploitation.com.
- Canuxploitation.com (July 29, 2005). "Interview: Bob Clark". Canuxploitation. Retrieved April 6, 2007.
- Lamkin, Elaine (January 2006). "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things: Bob Clark". Bloody-Disgusting.com. Archived from the original on October 30, 2006. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
- "Bob Clark". Canadian Film Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on January 16, 2009. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
- Valerie Reitman and Andrew Blankstein (April 5, 2007). "'A Christmas Story' director dies in crash". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 6, 2007. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
- Lippman, John (July 15, 2005). "How a lingering legal issue threatened 'Dukes of Hazzard'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
- Dana Harris (June 19, 2001). "At 20, 'Risky' is still frisky". Variety. Archived from the original on December 15, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
- Greg Hernandez (April 5, 2007). "Film director Clark and son die in crash". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007. Typographical error fixed.
- Brendan Kelly (December 3, 2006). "'Porky's' helmer is back: Clark prepping re-makes of his early horror films, teen sex romp". Variety. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
- "'A Christmas Story' director dies in crash". Los Angeles Times. April 5, 2007. Archived from the original on April 6, 2007. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
- Valerie Reitman and Andrew Blankstein (April 6, 2007). "Driver was drunk in PCH crash that killed 2". L.A. Times.
- archived copy of LA Times Article: Driver accused of DUI in crash that killed director pleads not guilty Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine by Valerie Reitman and Andrew Blankstein, Times Staff Writers 3:19 PM PDT, April 6, 2007. Accessed May 11, 2007
- Finn, Natalia (October 12, 2007). "Prison for Driver in Fatal Director Crash". E! News. Retrieved December 30, 2017.