04/21/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT
"Alec was here for the whole 'Santy Claus' bit," Kim Basinger's father, Don, 77, a retired loan manager, told PEOPLE about his son-in-law, Alec Baldwin. As described by the elder Basinger, last month's holidays around the house were equal to the Oscar-caliber performance his daughter gave in 1997's "L.A. Confidential" -- considering that Basinger, 47, and Baldwin, 42, had in fact been separated for weeks. But on Jan. 12, the role-playing came to an abrupt end when Basinger, after seven years of marriage to Baldwin, filed for divorce in Los Angeles superior court, citing irreconcilable differences with Baldwin and seeking physical custody of their five-year-old daughter, Ireland. Friends characterized the split as "amicable," but as Don Basinger, who has mixed feelings about Alec, told PEOPLE: "I've known for a year and a half that she was thinking about this . . . I love Alec. He's the most kind and generous man I've ever known in my life, and he's overcome some very difficult things." All, that is, "but one: his anger. Alec has this kind of anger where he reaches down for something that hurts, something that may have happened a year or two ago, and then abuses Kim with it. This has happened publicly. But it's when it started happening in front of Ireland that Kim finally said, 'Well, I'm not going to put up with that.' " The senior Basinger added that neither physical abuse nor a third party played any part in the breakup.