I was immensely saddened to learn today of the tragic death of Bob Clark, the film director who gave me my first break as a producer, and a man who became a very close friend for many years back in the 1970s.

Bob and I worked together on the late stages of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things but it was really the wonderful screenplay of Death Dream (originally titled The Veteran and then The Night Andy Came Home) that I read and fell in love with as a young film school graduate back in 1971. We raised the money and made the film, which became immensely successful, after a slow start, and then went on to collaborate on many other films together, including in the incredibly horrific Deranged (Necromania), based on the true life story of Ed Gein, the skinner in Silence Of The Lambs.

The irony of yesterday’s accident is that Bob, who did not drink, refused to fly, being scared of planes. A big, tubby guy, with a huge heart, we recently met up in LA, after many years, to discuss collaborating on a remake of Children. I was delighted to see he was unchanged, still just as brimful of enthusiasm as ever, with that wonderful Southern accent still just as youthful.

There is a strange thing I have noticed about phobias. Something you don’t expect gets you, not the thing you are most scared of. My other really close friend from the early 1970s, the film director John Trent, one of my partners in Quadrant Films for many years, was paranoid about smoking. So he worked out a system in which he smoked heavily for 6 months every year, then stopped for 6 months, thinking that would clear his lungs. For the 6 months every year that he had stopped he felt lousy, was bad tempered and found it hard to concentrate. He carried on this routine for all the years that I knew him. Then tragically, after delivering his son, who was the Ontario Under 16 show-jumping champion to an event, John was tragically killed by a police car which came around a bend on the wrong side, and hit his compact Cadillac head-on.

I couldn’t help thinking how ironic it was that John had spent so much of his life being scared of smoking and then had died in this way. It was also very strange that John had been at my home in Sussex only days before he died. We had dinner and then, over brandy and cigars, discussed our views on life after death. John was firmly of the opinion there was nothing. “We just fade to black”, he said.

Neither John Trent nor Bob Clark will ever fade to black in my mind. They are as vivid today as all those years back when we worked and created so much together.

I feel desperately sorry for Bob’s family, to have lost both him and his son, Ariel, in this horrendous accident. I have lost a friend and one of my mentors, and the world of movies has lost a massive talent. Luckily his films will live on and continue to give scares and pleasures to millions of people for generations to come.

Today’s press ran the following information:
Thu, April 5, 2007
Canadian director Bob Clark killed
Car crash claims Christmas Story, Porky’s filmmaker
LOS ANGELES — Film director Robert Clark, best known for the beloved holiday classic A Christmas Story, was killed with his son yesterday in a car wreck, the filmmaker’s assistant and police said.
Clark, 67, and son Ariel Hanrath-Clark, 22, were killed in the accident in Pacific Palisades, Calif., 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., said Lt. Paul Vernon, a police spokesman. The driver of the other car was under the influence of alcohol and driving without a licence, Vernon said.