It’s a film that many of us watch every year, and sometimes we even watch it more than once. Released in 1983, A Christmas Story is a firm piece of the holiday tradition. It didn’t make much at the box office, but it’s a cult classic that has found its way into many family’s hearts. Here’s 20 facts you didn’t know about this classic holiday film.
20. The Film’s Backstory
The movie is inspired by a book, which was inspired by a collection of stories told on a radio show by broadcast personality of Jean Shepherd. Shepherd was sharing his own experiences growing up as a child in Indiana in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The stories appeared in the Playboy magazine in the 1960’s, and eventually became the book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. Bob Clark heard the stories broadcast in the 1960’s, and was obsessed with them.
19. Come Home for Christmas
You can really stay in the house used in the movie for Christmas. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the home has been restored to match the movie. Each year, the home’s owner offers a chance for a lucky fan and guests to stay at the property. The charity auction includes two nights in the house, a copy of the beloved movie on DVD, your own “Major Award” lamp delivered while you’re in the house, a decoder ring, and other experiences related to the movie. Throughout the rest of the year, the house is a museum.
18. Ralph is All Grown Up
Ralph, aka Peter Billingsley is now a director of films such as Iron Man and The Break Up. He also makes small appearances in films, such as the also-beloved Christmas movie Elf. He recently produced the Broadway smash A Christmas Story Musical.
17. The Narrator is Who?
Jean Shepherd narrates the movie, and also appears in a scene where Ralph and Randy wait to see Santa. His wife appears in the same scene. Shepherd also narrates in the Walt Disney World attraction The Carousel of Progress.
16. That Wouldn’t Be Right!
Sharp-eyed fans have found over 100 historical inaccuracies in the movie. For instance, the toy store has 1980’s versions of the Radio Flyer wagon, though the movie takes place in the 1940’s. A student also wears a digital watch, and the Davey Crockett hat worn by Scut didn’t actually come into fashion until the 1950’s.
During taping, Peter Billingsley, aka Ralph, was actually saying the “f word” and not fudge. You know, for authenticity’s sake! He also chewed real tobacco in another scene.
14. Director Cameo
The neighbor who admires the “major award” leg lamp from outside the Parker’s home is actually played by the film’s director, Bob Clark. Clark had to agree to direct a horror movie for the studio to take on this project. He died in 2007 in a car accident.
13. The Real Locations
The movie is set in Indiana, but was filmed in Cleveland, Ohio and Toronto, Canada. Ralph’s school exterior was shot in Ontario, Canada. You can see indicators of these shooting locations throughout the film, such as a street named “Cleveland Street” and the appearance of a Toronto trolley.
12. The 24 Hour Marathon
TNT first aired the 24 hour broadcast of A Christmas Story in 1988, 5 years after the film was released, and it soon became a Christmas tradition. TBS now has the honor. In 2013, the film’s showing at 8:00 p.m. Christmas Eve attracted 5.2 million viewers, then the following day, at 10: a.m., the movie pulled in 4.2 million viewers.
11. Restoring the Home
Brian Jones, the current owner of the A Christmas Story House, spent $240,000 to fix and restore it to resemble the movie exactly.
10. You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid
Ralph asks for the Red Ryder BB gun 28 times in the movie.
9. Small Lines for a Big Part
Watching the movie, you may think that Ralph has a great deal of dialogue, but most of his scenes feature small lines. He only has about 93 lines, a small number by most movie’s standards.
8. Using the Locals
Ralph encounters some kooky and weird characters at the department store, meeting Santa, the elf, and the boy with goggles. All of these people were played by local extras, not professional actors. They certainly made an impression though! The goggles kid was actually a boy who happened to be in the department store when the movie was shooting.
7. Faa la la la la la la
The scene with the Chinese restaurant staff singing was added by Bob Clark. The actors weren’t told that the singing would occur, so their reactions on film are genuine, because they were surprised to hear it.
6. It’s a Major Award!
The leg lamp “major award” is based off a design of a Nehi soda advertisement author Jean Shepherd saw. The story of the leg lamp was published in 1966, and is titled “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art.”
5. Flash Gordon
Clark planned and filmed a weird sequence with Ralph helping out the superhero Flash Gordon, but the scene was cut from the final print of the film.
4. The Famous Leg Lamp Legacy
Three leg lamps were created for the movie, and none of them survived filming. I guess they were really fra-gee-lay! In their gift shop, A Christmas Story House sells over 20 pieces of merchandise depicting the famous lamp, with mugs, scarves, and of course, replicas of the lamp. For the 30th anniversary of the movie, Cleveland’s Terminal Tower was lit up with the lamp’s design, even with a red garter made of lights.
3. We Owe Our Thanks to Porky’s
It took 10 years for the studio to be convinced that making A Christmas Story was a good bet. They took a chance on the film based on Clark’s success with the comedy smash Porky’s. When asked to do Porky’s 2, Clark agreed, if they would let him make A Christmas Story.
2. Big on Broadway
A Christmas Story: The Musical opened in Seattle in 2010, and then headed to Broadway November 2012. Billingsley served as one of the musical’s producers during its stint on Broadway. It earned six Drama Desk awards and three Tony Award Nominations. The musical is currently on a national tour.
1. Box Office History
The movie made $19.3 million at the box office, which is a modest take, but reached cult status after its release on video and network television airing. MGM had sold the broadcast rights to Warner Brothers along with 49 other movies. The movie had been pushed out of theatres by the Scarface and Christine.