We’ve all come to know — and love — the Parker family over the years. They almost feel like extended family at this point. After all, A Christmas Story (which plays for a whopping 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve on TBS and, you know, basically just all December long) is a bonafide holiday classic. No matter how many times you’ve seen it (who’s counting?!), there are probably a few movie facts you don’t know. Keep reading if you want to bring a few interesting nuggets to your annual viewing this year.
It’s based on a book by Jean Shepherd.
In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash is the foundation for this family favorite. The author, Jean Shepherd, even narrates the film and makes a brief appearance in the department store scene when Ralphie and Randy wait to see Santa. Unfortunately, reports say Jean was a nuisance on set, constantly second-guessing director Bob Clark’s work — but thankfully everything worked out in the end.
Jean Shepherd made another movie that sounds … familiar.
In 1976, Jean released and narrated The Phantom of the Open Hearth, about a boy named Ralph Parker (not Ralphie this time around) preparing for his prom, his brother Randy, and — what do you know? — even a leg lamp that ends up shattered.
Peter Billingsley was the first kid to audition for the role of Ralphie.
Although he was the first kid to audition, director Bob Clark insisted on seeing other actors — actually thousands. As we all know, Peter ultimately got the job, and he claims Bob pushed him to act out of his comfort zone. You know the scene where Ralphie is shooting bandits and chewing tobacco? According to Peter, the tobacco he chewed in the movie was as real as it gets. He even said that the tobacco caused him to feel “really dizzy” and his “lips started burning.”
The leg lamp didn’t have an electrical cord.
How have we never noticed this before?! When it’s first taken out of the “fragile” box, there’s no electrical cord or lightbulb to be found. It’s only after the lampshade is discovered that the leg magically lights up.
The furnace fight scene was completely ad-libbed.
Melinda Dillon’s reaction in the restaurant scene is real.
There’s a secret deleted scene with an ’80s superhero.
The deleted scene featured Ralphie rescuing Flash Gordon from Ming the Merciless on planet Mongo. The Christmas Story Museum in Ohio has the pages from the script, and even a picture of the character in space. Interestingly, both Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless are in the end credits of the film.
Ralphie doesn’t know how to spell Christmas.
Look closely and you’ll spot his assignment from Mrs. Shields comes back with a very noticeable “Chistmas.” Despite giving him a C+, the teacher doesn’t seem to notice or correct the missing “r.” Of all words!
Jack Nicholson was almost cast as Old Man Parker.
It’s unclear exactly when the movie is supposed to take place.
There are many clues that hint at what era the Parkers are living in throughout the film — except they bizarrely all suggest different years. First, Mrs. Parker mentions a Bears vs. Packers game, which happened in 1941. Then the Orphan Annie decoder pin shown on screen is the same model that came out in 1940. And the calendar in the kitchen has December 1st on a Friday, which took place in 1939.
‘A Christmas Story’ wasn’t in theaters on Christmas.
Director Bob Clark explained that after premiering a week before Thanksgiving, the movie sat in theaters during “the two slowest weeks of the year.” As a result, it was pulled from theaters before Christmas, except for a few select screens. If it played in late December, he predicted it would have tripled or quadrupled its earnings.
You can stay at the Parker family house.
The Schwartz shuffle will leave you very, very confused.
Ralphie’s two best friends in the film are Schwartz (played by R.D. Robb) and Flick (played by a real Schwartz: Scott Schwartz). When Ralphie tells his mom it was “Schwartz” who taught him how to say “fudge,” the voice you hear over the phone in the following scene — which is supposed to be R.D.’s fictional friend, Schwartz — is actually the voice of Scott Schwartz. Got it?
Old Man Parker goes the entire film without revealing his name.
Some fans swear the character’s name is Hal, because of a brief conversation he has with a neighbor in one of the smaller scenes. But the screenplay says the word that was used was “hell,” not “Hal.”
You can thank Ralphie for Kevin Arnold.
Once you see the similarities, you can’t unsee them. A Christmas Story inspired the creation of The Wonder Years, which premiered a few years later in 1988. The premise, a coming-of-age tale set alongside an adult narrator, was so heavily influenced by the film that Peter Billingsley appeared as a roommate of Kevin Arnold’s in the final episodes.
‘A Christmas Story’ wasn’t Peter Billingsley’s last holiday film.
If the lead toymaker in 2003’s Elf, Ming Ming, looks familiar, that’s because it’s Ralphie all grown up. Peter starred opposite Will Ferrell in the classic Christmas movie.
The actor who played Randy temporarily lived in the Parker house.
In 2010, Ian Petrella moved into the house from the movie in Cleveland. After quitting acting to pursue graphic design, he befriended the owner of the home and asked if he could reside there for a few months. He ended up moving into the third floor and gave tours and hosted meet-and-greets with visitors.
Two superfans went on an unforgettable ‘A Christmas Story’ adventure — and filmed the whole thing.
In 2008, Jordie and Tyler Schwartz took their love of A Christmas Story to two countries over the course of two years to track down every shooting location in the movie. The documentary, Road Trip for Ralphie, uncovered long lost memorabilia, little known facts and set secrets.
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