A Christmas Story
|A Christmas Story|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bob Clark|
|Produced by||Rene Dupont
|Screenplay by||Jean Shepherd
|Based on||In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash
by Jean Shepherd
|Narrated by||Jean Shepherd|
|Music by||Carl Zittrer
|Cinematography||Reginald H. Morris|
|Edited by||Stan Cole|
|Running time||93 minutes|
(adjusted by inflation: $9,471,433)
(adjusted by inflation: $45,685,800)
A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Christmas comedy film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, based on his book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, with some elements derived from Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. It was directed by Bob Clark. The film has since become a holiday classic and is shown numerous times on television during the Christmas season on the American network TBS, often in a 24-hour marathon.
The film earned director Clark two Genie Awards. In 2012, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Music
- 5 Release and reception
- 6 Broadcasting and home video release
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker wants only one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and "this thing which tells time". Ralphie's desire is refuted with his mother, his teacher Miss Shields, and even a department store Santa Claus, all giving him the same warning: "you'll shoot your eye out".
Christmas morning arrives and Ralphie dives into his presents. Although he does receive some presents he enjoys, Ralphie ultimately is disappointed that he did not receive the one thing he wanted more than anything. After it appears all of the presents have been opened, Ralphie's father, who is referred to throughout the film as "The Old Man", directs Ralphie to look at one last present that he had hidden. Ralphie opens it to reveal the Red Ryder gun he wanted.
Ralphie takes the gun outside and fires it at a target perched on a metal sign in the backyard. However, the BB ricochets back at Ralphie and knocks his glasses off. While searching for them, thinking he has indeed shot his eye out, Ralphie steps on his glasses and breaks them. In order to cover for the fact that he broke his glasses, Ralphie tells his mother that a falling icicle was responsible for the accident. His mother, not having seen what actually happened, believes him.
The film ends with Ralphie lying in bed on Christmas night with his gun by his side. A voiceover by an adult Ralphie states that this was the best present he had ever received or would ever receive.
Although Ralphie's BB gun desire is the main plot point of the film, there are many other significant plot points in A Christmas Story. Among them:
- Ralphie's father wins a "major award" in a contest, but does not know what it is until it is delivered to the Parker home one night. The prize is a lamp in the shape of a leg wearing a fishnet stocking, resembling the logo of the Nehi Beverage Company. The Old Man is overjoyed by the lamp, but Mrs. Parker does not like it and a feud over it — referred to by adult Ralphie as "The Battle of the Lamp" — develops and results in the lamp's "accidental" destruction.
- The Old Man also fights a never ending battle with the malfunctioning furnace in the Parker home. His frustrations cause him to swear quite often, including one profanity-laden rant that the adult Ralphie says "is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan."
- Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz fight what seems to be a neverending struggle against neighborhood bullies Scut Farkus and Grover Dill. Ralphie eventually snaps and beats up Farkus.
- Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker
- Jean Shepherd as adult Ralphie (voice)
- Ian Petrella as Randy Parker
- Melinda Dillon as Mrs. Parker
- Darren McGavin as Mr. Parker (The Old Man)
- Scott Schwartz as Flick
- R. D. Robb as Schwartz
- Zack Ward as Scut Farkus
- Yano Anaya as Grover Dill
- Tedde Moore as Miss Shields
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 later 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 was the only onscreen character from A Christmas Story who was played by the same actor in the sequel, My Summer Story. Jeff Gillen was an old friend of Clark's who had been in one of his earliest films.
The screenplay was written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark. Several subplots are incorporated into the body of the film, based on other separate short stories by Shepherd. Shepherd provides the film's narration from the perspective of an adult Ralphie, a narrative style later used in the dramedy television series 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.
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."
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2013)|
The movie is set in the fictional Indiana town of Hohman, a fictionalized version of Shepherd's hometown of Hammond, Indiana. Local references in the film include Warren G. Harding Elementary School and Cleveland Street (where Shepherd spent his childhood). Other local references include mention of a person "swallowing a yo-yo" in nearby Griffith, 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, Indiana." The Old Man is also revealed to be a fan of the Bears (whom he jokingly calls the "Chicago Chipmunks") and White Sox, consistent with living in northwest Indiana.
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 the film. 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. The store 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 its elaborate, child-centered Christmas themes and decorations, 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. 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 because, during the daytime, the 1960s Erieview Tower and Federal Building were visible from the Public Square, as was the BP Tower, which was under construction at the time.
The exterior shots (and select interior shots, including the opening of the leg lamp) of the house and neighborhood 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 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 filmmakers saving Miss Shields' black board from the garbage bin 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.
Red Ryder BB gun
The Red Ryder BB gun was available beginning in 1938 and remains available today, 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 Peter Billingsley being left-handed.
Dating the story
Director Bob Clark stated in the film's DVD commentary that he and author Shepherd wished for the movie to be seen as "amorphously late 30s, early 40s". A specific year is never mentioned.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2013)|
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 and 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 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 Miss 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, Alphons Czibulka's "Wintermärchen" can be heard. The music when Ralph uses the Orphan Annie decoder is actually a stock music piece from the Bruton Music library called "Footsteps of Horror" by W. Merrick Farran.
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. While waiting in line for Santa, the music in the background are parts of "Jingle Bells" by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians from the "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" album on Decca Records. The breakfast scene features Sammy Kaye's version of The Hut-Sut Song quite extensively. Spiritual Christmas songs that appear in the film include "Go Tell It on the Mountain", which is sung by carolers during the opening scene, and "Silent Night," which is heard during the final scene.
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.
|A Christmas Story|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||November 10, 2009|
In 2009 Rhino Records released a soundtrack album for the film on CD. This release contains no spoken dialogue from the movie, only clips from the original score by Carl Zittrer and Paul Zaza, a version of "Silent Night" by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the music for the deleted Flash Gordon sequence. The tracklisting is as follows:
- "Bob's Major Award" (title card music)
- "Jogging to School"
- "Black Bart Bites the Dust"
- "Meeting of the Minds"
- "And They're Off!"
- "Truth or (Triple Dog) Dare"
- "Jingle Bells"
- "He Had Yellow Eyes"
- "A Chip Off the Old Block"
- "When Things Seem Hopeless..."
- "Feet, Do Your Stuff!"
- "Ralphie's Brilliant Idea"
- "Ming the Merciless"
- "Don't Look Back"
- "Sleigh Bells"
- "Ralphie's Revenge & the "F" Word"
- "Joy to the World & Silent Night"
- "The Bumpus Hounds Make Their Rounds"
- "Glorious, Beautiful Christmas" (closing credits music)
- "Silent Night" - Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Release and reception
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. Vincent Canby's mostly negative New York Times review echoed the more common response. Roger Ebert suggested the film had only modest success because holiday themed films were not popular at the time. The film would go on to win two Genie Awards, for Bob Clark's screenplay and direction.
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 an annual Christmas special. The film was originally released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The rights to the film were acquired by Turner Entertainment Co. after Ted Turner's purchase of MGM's pre-1986 film library. Subsequently, Time Warner purchased Turner Entertainment, and currently holds rights to the film.
Over the years, the film's critical reputation has grown considerably and it is considered by many to be one of the best films of 1983. Based on 52 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 88%, with an average score of 8.4/10. The site's consensus reads: "Both warmly nostalgic and darkly humorous, A Christmas Story deserves its status as a holiday perennial." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 77 out of 100, based on 7 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
On December 24, 2007, AOL ranked the film their #1 Christmas movie of all time. IGN ranked the film the top holiday-themed movie of all time. In 2012, a Marist Poll named the film the most favorite holiday film in the U.S.
American Film Institute lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "You'll shoot your eye out." - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) - Nominated
Broadcasting and home video release
The film first aired on television on HBO in 1985, 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 to 1992, the film had a short-lived tradition of airing on Thanksgiving night (or the night after Thanksgiving) to open the holiday television season. In 1988, then-fledgling Fox aired the film the night after Thanksgiving. In 1989–1990, TBS showed it Thanksgiving night, while in 1991–1992, they aired it the night after.
24 Hours of A Christmas Story
Turner Broadcasting has maintained ownership of the broadcast rights, and since the mid-1990s, aired the film increasingly on TBS, TNT, and TCM. By 1995, it was aired on those networks a combined six times on December 24–26, 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, and 54.4 million total. As of 2009, the film had been shown 250 times on the Turner family of networks.
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 2009, the 24-hour marathon continued on TBS, for the 13th overall year, starting at 8 p.m. eastern on Christmas Eve.
In 2009, the film aired on TBS during a 24-hour marathon on Christmas Eve. The first viewing at 8 p.m. Eastern on December 24 earned a 1.6 rating (18-49) and beat the major broadcast networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox). In 2010, the marathon averaged 3 million viewers, up 2% from the previous year, ranking TBS as the top cable network for the 24-hour period. The 10 a.m. airing on December 25 was seen by 4.4 million viewers, and the 8 p.m. airing on December 24 was close behind with 4.3 million viewers. The marathons in 2011 and 2012  continued to see increases in ratings.
Subsequent and earlier works
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 films involving the Parker family, also from Shepherd stories, were made by PBS, including Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss (1988), The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski (1985), The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters (1982), and The Phantom of the Open Hearth (1976).
In 2000, a stage play adaptation of A Christmas Story was written by Philip Grecian.
In November 2012, A Christmas Story: The Musical, based on the film, opened on Broadway. Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (music and lyrics) and Joseph Robinette (book), the musical opened to positive reviews. The run ended December 30, 2012. The musical was directed by John Rando with choreography by Warren Carlyle and featured Dan Lauria as Jean Shepherd. The musical received Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Robinette), and Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre.
Home video releases
- Betamax (1985)
- VHS (1984, 1985, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2000)
- Laserdisc (1985): pan and scan
- Laserdisc (1993): deluxe 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)
- Blu-ray (2006)
- DVD (2008) Ultimate Collector's Edition: Metal tin case features the same 2003 two-disc special edition, but includes special memorabilia.
- Blu-ray (2008) Ultimate Collector's Edition: Metal tin which features the same 2006 Blu-ray disc, but also includes a strand of Leg Lamp Christmas lights.
- Blu-ray (2013) 30th Anniversary Edition: Steelbook with Blu-ray in 1080p (like the previous Blu-ray and HD-DVD) with a DTS-HD Master Audio mono track (whereas the previous releases had Dolby Digital mono), and more special features than the previous Blu-ray and HD-DVD.
- King, Susan. "National Film Registry selects 25 films for preservation " Los Angeles Times (December 19, 2012)
- Shepherd, Jean (1966). "My Old Man And The Lascivious Special Award That Heralded The Birth Of Pop Art". In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash (Mass Market Paperback). Bantam Books. p. 63.
- "Trivia - A Christmas Story House". Turner Entertainment Co. Retrieved December 25, 2012.
- "Movie Facts & Trivia: A Christmas Story". achristmasstoryhouse.com. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
- Clark, Bob; Billingsley, Peter (2003). Audio Commentary: A Christmas Story (DVD special feature). MGM.
- Shepherd, Jean (2003). A Christmas Story. New York: Broadway Books. indicia. ISBN 0-7679-1622-0.
- Warner Home Video (2003). Radio Readings by Jean Shepherd (DVD extra). Warner Video.
- "Famous Hammond Personalities: Jean Shepherd". HammondIndiana.com. Archived from the original on December 5, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
- "Warren G. Harding". achristmasstoryhouse.com. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
- "Higbees". achristmasstoryhouse.com. Archived from the original on November 23, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2006.
- "Road Trip for Ralphie". roadtripforralphie.com. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2008.
- Daisy Red Ryder: A History (DVD extra). Warner Video. 2003.
- "Air Guns: Pyramyd Air Report". pyramydair.com. March 4, 2005. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
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- "IMDb Box Office/Business". IMDb. 2007. Archived from the original on December 9, 2007. Retrieved November 14, 2007.
- Canby, Vincent (November 18, 1983). "FILM: 'CHRISTMAS STORY,' INDIANA TALE". The New York Times. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
- Ebert, Roger (December 24, 2000). "A Christmas Story (1983)". rogerebert.com. Retrieved December 23, 2013. "'A Christmas Story' was released in the Christmas season of 1983, and did modest business at first (people don't often go to movies with specific holiday themes)."
- Ebert, Roger (December 24, 2000). "A Christmas Story (1983)". rogerebert.com. Retrieved December 23, 2013. "It got warm reviews and two Genie Awards (the Canadian Oscars) for Bob Clark's direction and for the screenplay."
- "Box Office Information for A Christmas Story". Box Office Mojo.com. Archived from the original on December 19, 2008. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
- "The Best Movies of 1983 by Rank". Films101.com. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
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- "A Christmas Story Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on October 23, 2009. Retrieved December 5, 2009.
- "Best Christmas Movies: Top 25 of All Time". AOL. December 24, 2007. Retrieved December 24, 2007.
- "'A Christmas Story' and 'It’s a Wonderful Life' Top List of Favorite Holiday Films". Marist University. 2012-12-21. Retrieved 2012-12-25.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
- "Orlando Sentinel Television Listings - Researched from original microfilm at The Orlando Public Library on November 17, 2007". Orlando Sentinel. 1987–2001.
- West-Volland, Patricia A. (December 9, 2007). "House that appeared in classic film 'A Christmas Story' open to public". Coshocton Tribune. Archived from the original on December 16, 2007. Retrieved December 27, 2007.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: A Christmas Story|
- Official DVD site
- TBS.com's A Christmas Story website
- A Christmas Story at the Internet Movie Database
- A Christmas Story at AllMovie
- A Christmas Story at the TCM Movie Database
- A Christmas Story at Box Office Mojo
- A Christmas Story at Rotten Tomatoes
- "The Man Who Told A Christmas Story: What I learned from Jean Shepherd" by Donald Fagen - Monday, Dec. 21, 2009, at 3:35 PM ET - Slate