"This is one of my
favorite Chirstmas movies.
I like it so much I watch
it in July to avoid the rush."
- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium
Christmas Story is a 1983 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 and is one of my favorite all time Christmas movies! The
film relates the tale of Ralphie Parker (played by Peter
Billingsley), who wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas
(specifically, "an official Red Ryder, carbine action,
two-hundred shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock
and 'this thing', which tells time") and will go to any lengths
to get it despite the numerous adult admonitions of "you'll
shoot your eye out."
The movie 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. Shepherd
also has a cameo appearance in the department store scene, as the man
who directs Ralphie and Randy to the end of the line. Director Clark
has a cameo as Swede, the neighbor who questions the Old Man about
the Leg Lamp.
Three of the
semi-autobiographical short stories on which the film is based were
originally published by Playboy magazine in 1964 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Cleveland Street Kid" and told the otherwise unpublished story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material for the film, according to Clark, came from unpublished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 to moderate success. By Christmas, however, the movie
was no longer playing at most venues, but remained in about a hundred
theaters until January 1984. In the years since, A Christmas Story
has become widely popular and is now a perennial Christmas special.
movie sequel involving Ralphie and his family, called My Summer
Story (alternate title It Runs in the Family) was made in 1994,
featuring an almost 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
In 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, 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".
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. McGavin was well known in the cult TV universe for playing
Carl Kolchak in the The Night Stalker TV movie and follow up
television series. Kolchak was the inspiration for the successful
series The X-Files and because of this, McGavin was asked to play the
role of Arthur Dales, the man who started the X-Files, in three
episodes: Season 5's "Travelers" and two episodes from
Season 6, "Agua Mala" and "The Unnatural".
Unfortunately, failing health forced him to withdraw from the latter,
and the script (written and directed by series star David Duchovny)
was rewritten to feature M. Emmet Walsh as Dales' brother.
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. As he grew
older, his acting career lost momentum but Billingsley never
completely gave up his acting career, appearing in various TV and
film projects but also focused on projects behind the camera with
much success including work on The Discovery Channel's A.R.K., The
Adventures of Animal Rescue Kids, Patriot
Son, The X Show, Made, and Elf. In 2001, he was nominated for an
Emmy Award as co-executive producer for the show Dinner for Five. In
2005, he helped produce the movie Zathura (2005). He recently served
as an executive producer for the Universal Pictures production The
Break-Up starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in which he also
plays the supporting character Andrew.