Today’s installment of the “obscure facts about my favorite Christmas movies” series covers A Christmas Story. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I don’t own this one on DVD, but I guess I don’t need to when TBS runs it for 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve. Here are a few tidbits to tide you over until the marathon.
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’s a sequel of sorts, My Summer Story, which came out 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 dogs are running around together 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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