By Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofer
June 19, 2011
From "King Lear" to "Leave it to Beaver," works of fiction have featured memorable dads. Here's a Father's Day sampler:
1. Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold in four "Vacation" feature films, but Clark's two kids are played by different actors in each. In the fourth movie, "Vegas Vacation," Griswold declares: "You guys are growing up so fast, I hardly recognize you anymore!"
2. Among the most admired fictional fathers is Atticus Finch, the widower lawyer in Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird." The character, played by Gregory Peck in the film, was based on Lee's father, Amasa Lee. One day on the set, Peck saw the novelist crying as she watched a scene. Thinking "we just got to her something terrific," Peck stopped to talk. She told him: "Oh, Gregory, you've got a little pot belly just like my daddy!"
3. Imagine Gene Hackman as the father in "The Brady Bunch." Impossible? Lucky for him, he lacked celebrity, so he was passed over for the role. In stepped Robert Reed, who considered himself a real actor and feared being typecast as a sitcom dad. The show was so silly, Reed said, "I do not want it on my tombstone."
4. Pat Conroy's abusive character Lt. Col. "Bull" Meecham in the novel "The Great Santini" was based on his own fighter-pilot father. But Conroy said the truth was even worse — he toned down the depiction because he was afraid readers would find it incredible. Yet when the book came out, Don Conroy reformed himself. "My father may be the only person in the history of the world who changed himself because he despised a character in literature who struck chords of horror in himself that he could not face," the novelist wrote.
5 One of the most popular TV dads was Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, better known as Cliff. He was played by a philosopher of fatherhood, Bill Cosby, whose advice included: "Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry."
6 Some commonly quoted movie lines never really appeared in films. Among them is "Luke, I am your father," supposedly said by the evil Darth Vader in "The Empire Strikes Back." The actual line is "No, I am your father."
7 Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr. played father and son in the 1991 film "Boyz N the Hood" even though they're only six and a half years apart in age.
8 Before he was Howard Cunningham, everybody's favorite dad on "Happy Days," Tom Bosley acted with a Paul Newman at the Woodstock Opera House in Woodstock, Ill. Bosley, who was born in Chicago and grew up in Glencoe, served in the Navy during World War II.
9 In John Irving's novel "The World According to Garp," the protagonist is conceived when his mother, a nurse, has sex with a dying, brain-damaged patient named Technical Sergeant Garp. In real life, Irving did not know his biological father and told his mother that if she did not tell him the circumstances of his conception, he would make them up. "Go ahead, dear," she said.
10 "Father Knows Best" started as a radio sitcom in 1949 as "Father Knows Best?" When it moved to TV in 1954, the producers were apparently more confident in dad's wisdom and the question mark was left behind.
Mark Jacob is a deputy metro editor for the Tribune; Stephan Benzkofer is the weekend editor.
Sources: "My Losing Season: A Memoir," by Pat Conroy; "Glued to the Set: The 60 Television Shows and Events that Made Us Who We are Today," by Steven D. Stark; "Gregory Peck: A Biography" by Gary Fishgall; "Fatherhood" by Bill Cosby; "Television Characters" by Vincent Terrace; "Encyclopedia of Television," by Horace Newcomb; Chicago Tribune; timesonline.co.uk; imdb.com.
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