All Ralphie wants under the tree on Christmas morning is an official Red Ryder carbon-action, 200-shot range model air rifle BB gun. Unfortunately, his mother, his father, his teacher and even Santa Claus himself downplay the idea with the infamous tagline, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
Released in 1983, “A Christmas Story” has become a seasonal classic. The story of how this raucous adventure came to the screen is almost as unbelievable as the path Ralphie takes to get his cherished gun.
In Ralphie We Trust
“A Christmas Story” is based on Jean Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.” The book was comprised of a collection of short stories originally published in Playboy in the 1960s. The stories dealt with Shepherd’s childhood, growing up in Indiana in the 1940s.
Director Bob Clark heard Shepherd telling the story on the radio and set out to collaborate with the author to make a film version. Clark, who directed the teen comedy “Porky’s,” would only agree to do a sequel of that film if the studio allowed him to make “A Christmas Story.”
The cast of “A Christmas Story” has become synonymous with the film. The faces are so etched in our memories that we can barely think of a line from the film without picturing them. While the cast seems perfectly assembled, it definitely wasn’t that simple. Some fans might be surprised to know who had been considered for roles, and who was in the film that you probably have never noticed.
· The role of The Old Man, immortalized by the late great Darren McGavin, was originally offered to Jack Nicholson.
· Author Jean Shepherd is the voice of the adult Ralphie and narrator of the film. He also plays an irate man who tells Ralphie to go to the end of the Santa line when the family visits the department store.
. Director Bob Clark also makes an appearance in the film. He played Swede, the neighbor who asks The Old Man about the proudly displayed leg lamp in the window.
· A little known sequel of “A Christmas Story” was distributed in 1994. “My Summer Story” featured the same characters though only one actor from the original film – Ralphie’s teacher, Miss Shields, played by Tedde Moore. Charles Grodin took over the famous role of The Old Man from McGavin, and Kieran Culkin (Macaulay’s brother) played Ralphie.
Little Known Facts
“A Christmas Story” premiered around Thanksgiving of 1983 and was actually pulled from theaters by Christmas as the studio felt it was “played out.” Thanks to an outpouring of protest from moviegoers, the film was re-released and played through the start of 1984. Fans of the movie not only watched it in theaters but also make it a holiday tradition, viewing it every season. Try to see if you picked up any of these little known facts in your viewings.
· The infamous tongue vs. flagpole scene wasn’t quite as difficult to film as it looked. The crew used a hidden suction tube to safely create the illusion that Flick’s tongue was stuck to the metal flagpole. Please note: We still don’t recommend you try it, even if you are triple dog-dared.
· Much of the snow that the child actors sloshed around in was actually firefighters foam and soap flakes, making for a very slippery set.
· How much did Ralphie actually want that BB gun? He mentions his desire for the gift 28 times in the film.
· Did you know that Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) was the only child to receive the Daisy Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass and sundial for Christmas in 1983? This was because the Red Ryder BB gun with a compass and sundial was created specifically for the film and was not available prior to its release.
Given its childlike charm and hilarious adventures, it’s no wonder that the film has been treasured by its fans. What may be surprising is how much of an impact the film had after its release.
· In addition to the 1994 sequel, the creators of the sitcom “The Wonder Years” explained that they got their inspiration for their show from “A Christmas Story.”
· “A Christmas Story” is one of the favorite films of “South Park” creator Trey Parker. Parker used the inspiration of notorious bully Scut Farkus to create Scott Tenorman, the bully from “South Park.”
· New fans of the classic are added every year as TBS airs its 24-hour marathon of the film starting at 8 p.m. Eastern on Christmas Eve. In 2006, more than 45.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the film.
. In 2007, TBS reported record-setting viewership. The 8 p.m. Christmas Eve airing drew the most viewers in a single showing with 4.4 million viewers.
Where Are They Now?
The stars of “A Christmas Story” have gone in many different directions following their time on Cleveland Street. Here is a look at what some of the stars have been up to.
· Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) has continued to work in Hollywood. He was executive producer of the 2008 hit “Iron Man” that starred Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard. He has had roles in recent films including “Elf” with Will Ferrell and the 2006 comedy hit “The Break-Up” with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, for which he was also a producer.
· Ian Petrella (Randy) attended puppeteering school and has a passion for puppets and animation, which he hopes to continue professionally.
· Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker) has appeared in more than 50 films and television series following her work on “A Christmas Story.” Most recently, she had a role in the 2007 film “Reign Over Me” with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle.
. Zack Ward (Scut Farkus) has continued acting and has roles in a variety of upcoming and recently released films. In 2007, he appeared in the summer blockbuster “Transformers” and the hit show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
Do you remember the classic lines from “A Christmas Story?” The lasting effect of the film is most often seen in the hilarious quotes that fans of the film can rattle off to this day.
· “Only I didn’t say ‘Fudge.’ I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!” – Adult Ralphie narrating the event which led to his “blindness.”
· “Fra-GEE-lay. That must be Italian.” – The Old Man upon receiving his “major award.”
· “Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.” – Adult Ralphie explaining why he finally stepped away from the major award.
· “Now I know that some of you put Flick up to this, but he has refused to say who. But those who did it know their blame, and I’m sure that the guilt you must feel would be far worse than any punishment you might receive. Now, don’t you feel terrible? Don’t you feel remorse for what you have done? Well, that’s all I’m going to say about poor Flick.” – Miss Shields following the triple dog-dare incident.
· Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.” – Randy discussing his distaste for the menu just before showing his mother how a little piggy eats.
· “He looks like a deranged Easter bunny.” – The Old Man after seeing Ralphie wearing his Christmas gift from Aunt Clara.
# # #