A Christmas Story House, now restored to its movie splendor, is open year round to the public for tours. Directly across the street from the house is the official A Christmas Story House Museum, which features original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, as well as hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes photos. Among the props and costumes are the toys from the Higbee’s window, Randy’s snowsuit and zeppelin, the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom and the family car. After reliving A Christmas Story at Ralphie’s house don’t forget to visit the museum gift shop for your own Major Award Leg Lamp and other great movie memorabilia.
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A Christmas Story cast reunion
Around the leg lamp in A Christmas Story House living room at the Grand Opening. From left to right Zack Ward (Scut Farkus), Yano Anaya (Grover Dill), Tedde Moore (Miss Shields), Ian Petrella (Randy), Scott Schwartz (Flick), Patty Lafontaine (Elf) and Drew Hocevear (Elf).
Ralphie in A Christmas Story
Titles: A Christmas Story Names: Peter Billingsley Characters: Ralph 'Ralphie' Parker
A Christmas Story
(novel "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash")
Cast (in credits order) verified as complete
The Old Man - Mr. Parker
Ming the Merciless (scenes deleted)
Flash Gordon (scenes deleted)
Tree Man (as Les Carlson)
Helen E. Kaider
Chop Suey Palace Owner
Johan Sebastian Wong
Boy in School
Narrator / Adult Ralphie / Man in Line for Santa / Santa (voice)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Little girl at parade (uncredited)
Boy Visiting Santa (uncredited)
Screaming Girl On Slide After Ralphie (uncredited)
A Christmas Story is a 1983 American/Canadian comedy film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. It was directed by Bob Clark. The film has since become a holiday classic and is known to be shown numerous times on television during the Christmas season.
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The film is set in the fictional city of Hohman (based on real-life city of Hammond, Indiana). 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants only one thing for Christmas: "an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time." Between run-ins with his younger brother Randy and having to handle school bully Scut Farkus, and his sidekick Grover Dill, Ralphie does not know how he will ever survive long enough to get the BB gun for Christmas.
The plot revolves around Ralphie's overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to his owning the precious Red Ryder BB gun: the fear that he will shoot his eye out. In each of the film's three acts, Ralphie makes his case to another individual; each time he is met by the same retort. When Ralphie asks his mother for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, she says, "No, you'll shoot your eye out." Next, when Ralphie writes a theme about wanting the BB gun for Mrs. Shields, his teacher at Harding Elementary School, Ralphie gets a C+, and Mrs. Shields writes "P.S. You'll shoot your eye out" on it. Finally, Ralphie asks an obnoxious department store Santa Claus for a Red Ryder BB gun, and Santa responds, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas! Ho, ho, ho!", before pushing Ralphie down a long slide with his boot.
One day after he gets the C+ on his composition, Ralphie is struck in the face with a snowball thrown at him by the bully Scut Farkus who then begins to tease and taunt Ralphie. Ralphie finally reaches his breaking point and then charges at Farkus knocking him down, and after knocking down Grover Dill, who tries to intervene for his pal, proceeds to beat Scut's face bloody. During the fight, Ralphie begins to swear non-stop as he lands blow after blow to the squealing Farkus. Ralphie's mother shows up and pulls her son off the bully, and takes him home. This part of the film occurs shortly after a scene where Ralphie gets into trouble for swearing while helping his father fix a flat tire. Ralphie is worried about the swearing and is sure he will be in big trouble when his father gets home from work. Instead, Ralphie's mother tells his father about the fight casually at the dinner table. She then changes the subject of the conversation to an upcoming football game, distracting his father and getting Ralphie off the hook in the process.
On Christmas morning, Ralphie looks frantically for a box that would hold the BB gun to no avail. He and his brother have quite a few presents, but he is disappointed because he did not get the gun. His disappointment turns to joy as his father points out one last half-hidden present, ostensibly from Santa. As Ralphie unwraps the BB gun, Mr. Parker explains the purchase to his none-too-thrilled wife, stating that he had one himself when he was 8 years old.
Ralphie goes out to test his new gun, shooting at a paper target perched on top of a metal sign, and predictably gets a ricochet from the metal sign. This ricochet ends up hitting just below his eye, which causes him to flinch and lose his glasses. While searching for the glasses, Ralphie ends up stepping on them, breaking them. However, he concocts a story to his mother about an icicle falling on him and breaking his glasses, which she believes. Suddenly, a horde of the next door neighbor's dogs, which frequently bother Ralphie's father, manages to get into the house and eat the turkey that was prepared for that evening's meal. Making a last-minute decision, Ralphie's father takes everyone out to a Chinese restaurant where they eat what the narrator calls "Chinese Turkey".
At the end of the story, we see Ralphie lying in bed on Christmas night with his gun by his side. Randy is holding the toy zeppelin he received. The voiceover states that this was the best present he received or would ever receive.
Several subplots are incorporated in the body of the film, based on other separate short stories by Shepherd. The most notable involves the Old Man winning a "major award." He entered a trivia contest out of the newspaper, which asked for the name of The Lone Ranger's nephew's horse (thanks to his wife, who supplied the answer: Victor). A large crate arrived and inside was a lamp shaped like a woman's leg wearing fishnet stockings, much to Mrs. Parker's displeasure. Just two days later, Mrs. Parker broke the lamp, infuriating the Old Man. The leg was the logo of the contest's sponsor, the Nehi bottling company (the details of the contest were not necessarily made clear in the film).
Other vignettes include:
Ralphie's friends Flick and Schwartz disputing over whether a person's tongue will stick to a frozen flagpole. Schwartz ultimately issues Flick a "triple dog dare" (the most serious of those used by the kids; he bypasses a "triple dare" from a "double dog dare", a serious boyhood protocol breach), and Flick's tongue gets stuck to the pole, much to his terror. A suction tube within the flagpole was used to simulate the freezing of Flick's tongue to the pole.
Ralphie receiving his Secret Society decoder pin, and learning a lesson about being ripped off (his first secret message with the pin turned out to be an Ovaltine radio commercial) to which he simply replied "son of a bitch".
Ralphie and his friends dealing with the neighborhood bully, Scut Farkus (Zack Ward).
The Old Man's legendary battles with the aging and malfunctioning furnace.
Ralphie letting slip the dreaded "Queen Mother of Dirty Words", the F-dash-dash-dash word (after his father knocks a hubcap from his hands, spilling its contents, the lug nuts from a flat tire) and later, when asked where he'd heard the bad word, falsely blaming his friend, Schwartz, and not pointing out that his father utters the word daily. After Ralphie's mother telephones Schwartz's mother to inform her that her son had been responsible for passing along the bad word to Ralphie, we hear Schwartz getting what appears to be the thrashing of his life at the hands of his hysterical mother. To keep it censored, Billingsly says "fudge" on camera.
The numerous smelly and bothersome hound dogs of the next door neighbors, the Bumpuses, including the dogs destroying the Christmas turkey (prompting the family to go out and have Peking duck instead, resulting in a giggling fit by the mother and the boys).
Several fantasy sequences depict Ralphie's daydreams of glory and vindication, including the vanquishing of a small army of villains dressed in stereotypical burglar costume of flat caps, black masks and striped shirts with his Red Ryder BB gun obtaining his parents gratitude, an extremely good grade for his written theme about the BB gun, and parental remorse over a case of "soap poisoning" (related to his cursing).
Mrs. Parker's misadventures in overly bundling Randy up for the winter weather by wrapping him in sweaters and a jacket so tightly he is unable to put his arms down, then Randy getting inadvertently knocked down and unable to get up under his own power (his only defense when they are confronted by Scut Farkus.)
Randy's refusal to eat a meal on his own incites hilarity between him and his mother at the dinner table.
Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker - the film's protagonist, a nine-year-old imaginative dreamer.
Jean Shepherd as adult Ralphie - the narrator (also has an on-screen cameo; see below).
Ian Petrella as Randy Parker - Ralphie's younger brother, who hasn't voluntarially eaten in over three years.
Darren McGavin as Mr. Parker (The Old Man) - Ralphie's dad is at the center of the Major Award vignette, and is depicted using colorful nonsensical invective.
Melinda Dillon as Mrs. Parker - Ralphie's mom is the primary dispenser of the oft-repeated phrase, "You'll shoot your eye out." Her first name is never revealed either.
Scott Schwartz as Flick - Ralphie's friend, who learns about tongues and cold metal the hard way.
R.D. Robb as Schwartz - Ralphie's other friend, on whom Ralphie pins the blame for his knowing "the 4-letter word beginning with F".
Zack Ward as Scut Farkus - the neighborhood bully, who torments Ralphie and his friends en route to and from school.
Yano Anaya as Grover Dill - Scut's toadie, who is promoted to main bully in My Summer Story.
Tedde Moore as Miss Shields - Ralphie's fourth grade teacher, the only onscreen character played by the same actor in the sequel, My Summer Story.
Jeff Gillen as Santa Claus - the rather frightening and cranky department store incarnation of "the Head Honcho," who delivers the last blow to Ralphie's hope for a BB gun.
David Svoboda as Botox Boy - weird little boy in line waiting to see Santa Claus, wearing aviation goggles.
Drew Hocevar as one of the two Christmas elfs - He is the one paired with the Department Store Santa.
In the DVD commentary, director Bob Clark mentions that Jack Nicholson was considered for the role of the Old Man; Clark expresses gratitude that he ended up with Darren McGavin instead, who also appeared in several other Clark films. He cast Melinda Dillon on the basis of her similar role in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Peter Billingsley was already a minor star from co-hosting the TV series Real People; Clark initially wanted him for the role of Ralphie, but decided he was "too obvious" a choice and auditioned many other young actors before realizing that Billingsley was the right one after all. Ian Petrella was cast immediately before filming began. Tedde Moore had previously appeared in Clark's film Murder by Decree, and Jeff Gillen was an old friend of Clark's who had been in one of his earliest films.
The film was written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark. Shepherd provides the movie's narration from the perspective of an adult Ralphie, a narrative style later used in the dramedy The Wonder Years. Both Shepherd and Clark have cameo appearances in the film; Shepherd plays the man who directed Ralphie and Randy to the back of the Santa line and Clark plays Swede, the neighbor the Old Man was talking to outside during the Leg Lamp scene.
History and related works
Three of the semi-autobiographical short stories on which the film is based were originally published in Playboy magazine between 1964 and 1966. Shepherd later read "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder nails the Cleveland Street Kid" and told the otherwise unpublished story "Flick's Tongue" on his WOR Radio talk show, as can be heard in one of the DVD extras. Bob Clark states on the DVD commentary that he became interested in Shepherd's work when he heard "Flick's Tongue" on the radio in 1968. Additional source material for the film, according to Clark, came from unpublished anecdotes Shepherd told live audiences "on the college circuit."
Initially overlooked as a sleeper film, A Christmas Story was released a week before Thanksgiving 1983 to moderate success, earning about $2 million in its first weekend. Critics were severely divided on the film, with the majority of reviews on the negative side. Leonard Maltin proclaimed it a "Top screen comedy," while Roger Ebert proclaimed it "Funny and satirical . . . a sort of Norman Rockwell crossed with MAD magazine," but Vincent Canby's mostly negative New York Times review echoed the more common response. Critics seemed focused on the fact that Bob Clark, director of the critically reviled "Porky's," was the man behind the camera, and couldn't get their heads around the concept of Clark coming up with an instant classic like "A Christmas Story." The film would go on to win two Genie Awards, for Bob Clark's screenplay and direction. Years later, Ebert would re-evaluate the film, this time more favorably, writing that "some of the movie sequences stand as classic." On December 24, 2007, AOL ranked the film their #1 Christmas movie of all time.
By Christmas 1983, however, the film was no longer playing at most venues, but remained in about a hundred theaters until January 1984. Gross earnings were just over $19.2 million. In the years since, due to television airings and home video release, A Christmas Story has become widely popular and is now a perennial Christmas special. Originally released by MGM, Warner Bros. (through Turner Entertainment Co.) now has ownership of the film due to Ted Turner's purchase of MGM's pre-1986 library and Time Warner's subsequent purchase of Turner Entertainment.
The film first aired on television on HBO during the mid-eighties and quickly attracted a growing following. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the film began airing quietly on SuperStation WTBS and Superstation WGN. From 1988-1992, the film had a short-lived tradition of airing on the American Thanksgiving night (or the night after Thanksgiving) to open the holiday television season. In 1988, then-fledgling FOX aired the movie the night after Thanksgiving.In 1989-1990, TBS showed it Thanksgiving night, while in 1991-1992, they aired it the night after.
Turner broadcasting, now a part of the TimeWarner umbrella of cable networks, has maintained ownership of the broadcast rights, and since the mid-1990s, airing the movie increasingly on TBS, TNT and TCM. By 1995, it was aired on those networks a combined six times over December 24-25-26,and in 1996, it was aired eight times over those three days.
Due to the increasing popularity of the film, in 1997 TNT began airing a 24-hour marathon dubbed "24 Hours of A Christmas Story," consisting of the film shown twelve consecutive times beginning at 7 or 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve and ending Christmas Day. This was in addition to various other airings earlier in the month of December. In 2004, after TNT switched to a predominantly drama format, sister network TBS, under its comedy-based "Very Funny" moniker, took over the marathon. Clark stated that in 2002, an estimated 38.4 million people tuned into the marathon at one point or another, nearly one sixth of the country.TBS reported 45.4 million viewers in 2005,[and 45.5 million in 2006.In 2007, new all-time ratings records were set,with the highest single showing (8 p.m. Christmas Eve) drawing 4.4 million viewers.Viewership increased again in 2008, with 8 p.m. Christmas Eve drawing 4.5 million viewers, and 10 p.m. drawing 4.3 million.
In 2007 the marathon continued, and the original tradition was revived. TNT also aired the film twice the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend (November 25). In 2008, the 24-hour marathon continued, on TBS, for the 12th overall year, starting at 8 p.m. eastern on Christmas Eve.
A sequel involving Ralphie and his family, titled My Summer Story (alternate title It Runs in the Family) was made in 1994. With the exceptions of Tedde Moore as Ralphie's teacher (Miss Shields) and Jean Shepherd as the narrator (the voice of the adult Ralphie), it features an entirely different cast. A series of television movies involving the Parker family, also from Shepherd stories, was made by PBS, including Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters, and The Phantom of the Open Hearth.
In the year 2000, an authorized stage play adaptation of A Christmas Story was written by Philip Grecian and is produced widely each Christmas season. In 2003, Broadway Books published the five Jean Shepherd short stories from which the movie and stage play were adapted in a single volume under the title A Christmas Story (ISBN 0-7679-1622-0), with stories including: "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder nails the Cleveland Street Kid", "The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again", "My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art", "Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil", and "The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds". This collection was also released as an audio book (ISBN 0-7393-1674-5), read by Dick Cavett.
The book Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd (2005, ISBN 978-1-55783-600-7), has several sections which comment on the movie A Christmas Story.
VHS (1984, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2000)
Laserdisc (1985): pan & scan
Laserdisc (1993): Delux letterbox edition
DVD (1997, reissued by Warner Home Video in 1999): fullscreen, includes original theatrical trailer
DVD (2003) 20th Anniversary 2-Disc Special Edition DVD (2003): Widescreen; includes cast interviews, audio commentary, and featurettes.
HD DVD (2006)
DVD (2008) Ultimate Collector's Edition: Features the same 2003 2-disc special edition, but includes special memorabilia
Main article: A Christmas Story House
The front of the Parkers' house where 'A Christmas Story' was filmed, in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland's west side.
The movie is set in a fictional town in Indiana, strongly resembling Hammond, Indiana where writer Jean Shepherd grew up. Local references in the film include Warren G. Harding Elementary School, and Cleveland Street (where Shepherd spent his childhood years). Other Indiana references in the dialogue include a mention of a person "swallowing a yo-yo" in nearby Griffith, Indiana, the Old Man being one of the fiercest "furnace fighters in northern Indiana" and that his obscenities were "hanging in space over Lake Michigan," a mention of the Indianapolis 500, and the line to Santa Claus "stretching all the way to Terre Haute." The Old Man is also revealed to be a fan of the Bears (who he jokingly calls the "Chicago Chipmunks") and White Sox, consistent with living in northwest Indiana.
The school scenes were shot at the Victoria School in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. The school was sold to developers in 2005 and has been remodeled into a women's shelter. The Christmas tree purchasing scene was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, as it was the only location that still used red PCC streetcars - in fact, TTC streetcars can be seen during the scene. Ralphie beating up the neighborhood bully was also filmed in Toronto, as was the soundstage filming of interior shots of the Parker home. The St. Catharines' Museum owns some props used in the film, including two pairs of Ralphie's glasses (one of which is the smashed pair), and two scripts.
Director Bob Clark reportedly sent location scouts to twenty cities before selecting Cleveland, Ohio, as the principal site for filming. Higbee's department store in downtown Cleveland was the stage for three scenes in A Christmas Story. The first is the opening scene in which Ralphie first spies the Red Ryder BB Gun. The second is the parade scene, filmed just outside Higbee’s, on Public Square, at 3 AM. The final scene is Ralphie and Randy’s visit to see Santa which was filmed inside Higbee’s. Higbee’s kept the Santa slide that was made for the movie and used it for several years after the movie’s release. Higbee's was known for decades as a cornerstone of Public Square, as well as for its elaborate child-centered Christmas themes and decorations (e.g. the Twigbee Shop), with Santa as the centerpiece, until the store, which became Dillard's in 1992, closed for good in 2002. Higbee's was exclusive to Northeast Ohio—there were no Higbee's stores in Shepherd's hometown. As such, he was most likely referring to Goldblatts in downtown Hammond (with the Cam-Lan Chinese Restaurant three doors down on Sibley Ave.) The parade was filmed at night for one reason. The Producers of A Christmas Story wanted to film during day, but at this time, the BP Tower was under construction and during the daytime you could see the 1960s Erieview Tower and Federal Building from the Public Square.
The exterior shots (and select interior shots, including the opening of the leg lamp) of the house and neighborhood where Ralphie lived were filmed in the Tremont section of Cleveland's West Side. The house used as the Parker home in these scenes has been restored, reconfigured inside to match the soundstage interiors, and opened to the public as A Christmas Story House. The "...only I didn't say fudge" scene was filmed at the foot of Cherry Street in Toronto.
In 2008, two fans from Canada released a fan film documentary that visits every location used in the movie. Their film, Road Trip for Ralphie, was shot over two years and includes footage of the film makers saving Miss Shields's black board from the dumpster on the day the old Victoria School was gutted for renovation, discovering the antique fire truck that saved Flick, locating all the original costumes from the movie and tracking down the real-life location of the movie's Chop Suey Palace in Toronto. Their fan film is for sale online.
Cleveland car buffs donated the use of a number of vintage vehicles for the film, which helped to enhance the authenticity of the production despite a limited budget. During filming in downtown Cleveland, members of a local antique automobile club, following a preset route, repeatedly circled the square. At the end of filming each day, the cars were thoroughly washed to remove road salt, and parked underground beneath the Terminal Tower.
The Parker family car was a 1937 Oldsmobile Model F-37 four-door trunkback sedan. It is made clear early on the Old Man's bittersweet relationship with his car, as revealed in the lines: "Some men are Catholics, others Baptist; my father was an Oldsmobile man;" "That hot damn Olds has froze up again;" "That son of a bitch would freeze up in the middle of summer on the equator!!!"
Transit fans will notice several Toronto PCC streetcars in a couple scenes.
Ralphie's Red Ryder BB Gun
The Red Ryder BB gun was available beginning in 1938 and for many years afterward, (and indeed, still is) but never in the exact configuration mentioned in the film. The Daisy "Buck Jones" model did have a compass and a sundial in the stock, but these features were not included in the Red Ryder model. The compass and sundial were placed on Ralphie's BB gun but on the opposite side of the stock due to the actor playing Ralphie being left-handed.
Dating the story
Director Bob Clark stated in the film's commentary CD that he and author Shepherd wished for the movie to be seen as "amorphously late 30's, early 40's." The film is not specifically about a given year, it is about a particular time in American family life. The film appears to be set roughly around the tail end of the Great Depression but before the United States involvement in World War II. There are references throughout the film that viewers enjoy linking to particular years, and if one connects a reference to a particular year, the movie can be "dated" as being as early as 1937 or as late as 1947. Some of the other "year clues" include - but are by no means limited to - the following:
1937: Reference in the newspaper quiz to Snow White, released by Disney that year. Snow White can also be seen in the Higbee's window.
1937: The Parker family car.
1938: The color comics on Christmas Day - implying a Sunday. Christmas fell on a Sunday in 1938.
1939: Characters from The Wizard of Oz, released that year, appear in the Christmas parade.
1940: The license plates on the cars are silver (white) on a black field. Those were the colors of the Indiana license plates that year.
1940: Each year, Ovaltine brought out a different model for this decoder ring. The Radio Orphan Annie secret decoder model used in the movie is the 1940 model.
1943: The Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters recordings of "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" are both very clearly heard on the living room radio (both recorded on September 27, 1943).
1946: Ralphie's father complains in the movie that "the Sox traded Bullfrog!" which is a reference to Chicago White Sox pitcher Bill Dietrich, who was in fact released from the Sox, not traded, in 1946.
1947: The police car in the schoolyard scene.
Many other "year specific" references can be found in the film.
1939-40 is slightly later than author Jean Shepherd's own childhood (he was 19 years old in 1940) but earlier than that of director Bob Clark (who was born in 1939). While Shepherd was age 10 in 1931, Clark was age 10 in 1949 - a separation of 18 years. If the consensus between Shepherd and Clark was to find a "middle-ground" for their youths, they may well have divided the difference in half (9), then added that amount of years to the earliest date (1931), thereby arriving at 1940.
These minor contradictory items only indicate what director Bob Clark said in his commentary, as previously stated above: The film is set in the "amorphously later Thirties, early Forties." The movie is intended as a credible, warm and thoroughly inviting memory of an innocent American Christmas around the World War II era. The individual viewer can elect to "date" the film to any year they wish, but for whatever year they choose, many contradictions occur within the film, and this fits exactly with the writer and directors idea of "around 1940".
The mock heroic tone of the narration, filled with such hyperbole as "the legendary battle of the lamp", is matched by the extensive use of familiar classical music themes. For example, when the character Scut Farkus appears, the Wolf's theme from Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf plays in the background. ("Farkas" is a Hungarian name, but literally means "Wolf") The leitmotifs from Peter and the Wolf are used quite extensively. The piece that plays after Ralphie says "fudge", after the lamp breaks for the second time, and after Ralphie breaks his glasses is the opening of Hamlet by Tchaikovsky. The Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé is featured prominently in the movie. Movement 3 [On The Trail] provides a suitable Western feeling to a Red Ryder rifle fantasy sequence, and bits of Movement 1 [Sunrise] and Movement 4 [Sunset] were also freely arranged and adapted throughout the score. The music in the dream sequence with Ralphie in a cowboy outfit shooting at bandits and later when he finally plays with his BB gun outside of the house is based on the main theme from the classic John Ford western Stagecoach (1939). The harp solo from Benjamin Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols" is briefly excerpted for the scene in which Ralphie observes a snowy Christmas morning from his bedroom window, which follows a segment of celeste music which comes, again, from the latter half of Movement 3 [On The Trail] of Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite which plays as Ralphie awakens on Christmas morning. The classroom fantasy scene where Mrs. Shields is grading Ralph's paper features two excerpts from Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture." Whenever the scene involves the hounds belonging to the Bumpus family, "our hillbilly neighbors", snatches of the American folk tune "Chicken Reel" are heard. During the dream sequence when Ralphie goes blind from soap poisoning, excerpts from Robert Schumann's Kinderszenen can be heard.
Popular music of the time was also used, ostensibly as coming from the radio. This included three Christmas songs sung by Bing Crosby, two of them in conjunction with the Andrews Sisters.
Original music for the film's score was by Carl Zittrer, who worked with director Bob Clark on at least ten films between 1972 and 1998; and by Paul Zaza, who has worked with Clark on at least sixteen films, including Murder by Decree and My Summer Story.
12 Things You Might Not Know About A Christmas Story (even though you’ve seen it 90 times)
Which Oscar-winning star wanted to play Ralphie’s dad? Which actor went on to a seedy career in the adult film industry? Can you really get your tongue stuck to a metal pole? Here are a few tidbits to tide you over until the 24-hour Christmas Eve marathon on TBS.
1. Jack Nicholson was very interested in playing Ralphie’s dad. But casting (and paying) Jack would have meant doubling the budget, so he was removed from consideration. Director Bob Clark – who didn’t know Nicholson was interested at the time – says Darrin McGavin was the perfect choice, and I’d have to agree. I think Jack would have been too much of a scene-stealer.
2. What does Porky’s, the raunchy ’80s teen sex movie, have to do with a wholesome film like A Christmas Story? Bob Clark directed both – Porky’s in 1982 and A Christmas Story in 1983. If Porky’s hadn’t given him the professional and financial success he needed, he wouldn’t have been able to bring A Christmas Story to the big screen.
3. For anyone keeping count, Ralphie says he wants the Red Ryder BB Gun 28 times throughout the course of the movie. That’s approximately once every three minutes and 20 seconds.
4. Peter Billingsley, AKA Ralphie, has been good friends with Vince Vaughn since they both appeared in the CBS Schoolbreak Special (their version of the after-school special) in the early ’90s. He doesn’t do much acting these days, but he did make a surprise appearance on the “Vince Vaughn Wild West Comedy Show” in Memphis, Tenn., in 2005. Peter’s doing quite well for himself, though. He was the executive producer of Iron Man and had a brief bit as William Ginter Riva – I’ve seen Iron Man twice, but I can’t place his character. I’ll have to go back and look. Peter also executive produced Vince’s latest movie, Four Christmases (which he also had a cameo in), as well as 2006’s The Break-Up .
5.Mythbusters tested whether it was possible to get your tongue truly stuck on a piece of cold metal. Guess what? It is. So don’t triple dog dare your best friend to try it.
6. Scott Schwartz, who played Flick (who stuck his tongue to the frozen flagpole), was submerged in the adult film industry for a number of years. He got out in 2000 to try to become a mainstream actor again, but I can’t say he’s done much of note: Community College (“A love story between four dudes and their ability to get free drinks”) and Skinwalker, which starred ex-MTV veejay Jesse Camp, if that tells you anything. Joey Buttafuoco is in it, too, and gets billing over our poor Flick. Sad.
7. Next time you’re in Cleveland, you can visit the original house from the movie for only $7.50. It was sold on eBay in 2004 for $150,000. Collector Brian Jones bought the house and restored it to its movie glory and stocked it up with some of the original props from the film, including Randy’s snowsuit.
8. Director Bob Clark got the idea for the movie when he was driving in the car with a date. He heard Jean Shepherd on the radio doing a reading of his short story collection, “In God We Trust… All Others Pay Cash,” which included some bits that eventually ended up in A Christmas Story. Clark said he drove around the block for an hour until the program ended, which his date was not too happy about.
9. The Wonder Years was inspired by A Christmas Story. In fact, in one of the last few episodes, Peter Billingsley appeared as one of Kevin Arnold’s roommates.
10. The real Red Ryder BB Gun was first made in 1938 and was named after a comic strip cowboy. You can still buy it today for the low, low price of $44.99. But the original wasn’t quite the same as the one in the movie – it lacked the compass and sundial that both the Jean Shepard story and the movie call for. Special versions had to be made just for A Christmas Story.
11. While we’re talking shopping – you know you want the leg lamp. Put it in your window! Be the envy of your neighbors! It’s a Major Award! You can buy it here, but if you’re not feeling quite so flamboyant you can get a replica that serves as a nightlight for $14.99. The people who own the house also run a gift shop, and they sell pretty much everything you could possibly want from the movie – the decoder pin ($7.99), Lifebuoy soap ($3.99), the leg lamp variants mentioned above, and even pieces of the original house.
12. There are two little-talked about sequels. The first one was a 1988 made-for-TV movie, Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss. Jerry O’Connell played 14-year-old Ralphie, who is excited about his first job – a furniture mover. Of course, it ends up being awful, and it might make him miss the annual family vacation at Mr. Hopnoodle’s lakeside cabins.
My Summer Story, AKA It Runs in the Family, debuted on the big screen in 1994. Kieran Culkin plays Ralphie, Mary Steenburgen is his mom, and Charles Grodin is his dad. I’m not sure if it’s because of this movie or A Christmas Story, but whenever our trio of dogs are running around in a pack, my husband always yells, “It’s the Bumpus Hounds!”
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Don’t shoot your eye out (kid).
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