"A Christmas Story" has become a Christmas tradition in itself. TBS airs the film over and over during 24 hours at Christmastime each year as fans can't get enough of watching Ralphie's quest for his Red Ryder BB Gun! Here are some facts about the movie you might not know!
Director Bob Clark got the idea for the movie in 1968 after hearing a broadcast of radio personality Jean Shepard's memories of growing up in Indiana in the late 30s and early 40s. Many of the stories were included in Shepard's 1966 book, "In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash." Shepard grew up in Hammond, Indiana, on Cleveland Street, and went to Warren G. Harding Elementary School, just like Ralphie.
For years, Clark, a low budget B-movie director wanted to make the film, but no movie studios were interested.
In 1981, Clark had a "hit" with the raunchy B-movie, "Porky's." MGM wanted a sequel to "Porky's" but Clark only agreed to do the sequel if the studio would let him make "A Christmas Story." As a result, the studio got their sequel to Porky and Clark got to make "A Christmas Story." Since the studio had no interest in making "A Christmas Story," Clark had total freedom to make the movie exactly as he wanted, with no studio interference.
The low budget film opened around Thanksgiving in 1983 on only 900 screens nationwide and made $6 million it's first 2 weeks. MGM didn't count on the movie's modest success and great word of mouth so it never scheduled additional distribution for it and it disappeared from theaters. It later became popular through strong "word of mouth" advertising and home video sales, along with plays on cable television.
TNT began showing the movie 12 times consecutively in 1988 as a stunt, but it quickly became a popular tradition!
The producers original choice to play "The Old Man" was Jack Nicholson, but they couldn't afford him and settled on Darrin McGavin, who was Clark's first choice all along. Clark said McGavin was the best choice because he WAS The Old Man.
Prior to being cast as Ralphie, Peter Billingsly was a correspondent on the variety show, Real People. He is now a producer in Hollywood and works a lot with his close friend, Vince Vaughn. Among the movies Billingsly has produced are "Iron Man" and "The Break Up."
Clark cast Melinda Dillon as the mom after seeing her in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
The character, Scut Farkus was created for the movie and never appeared in the book by Shepard. The movie character was played by actor Zack Ward, who claimed he was only paid $5,000 for the role and later sued a company which created a board game based on the movie for using his image without his permission. The suit was settled out of court.
The movie itself was filmed in Cleveland, Ohio and Toronto, Canada. The house used in the movie is just outside downtown Cleveland. Many of the interior shots of the house, though, were filmed in Toronto. The exterior scenes of the school were filmed at Victoria School in St. Catherines, Ontario.
The department store scenes were filmed at Higbee's, a real department store in Cleveland.
Jean Shepard makes a cameo in the department scene as a grouchy customer who tells Ralphie to get to the back of the line to see Santa.
Director Bob Clark makes a cameo as Swede, the family's neighbor who stops by to gawk at the leg lamp.
The leg lamp is based on a real lamp, an illuminated Nehi logo. Three were custom made for the movie and all were broken on the set during filming.
A hidden suction cup was used to used to give the illusion Flick's tongue got stuck to the flagpole.
The Little Orphan Annie decoder pin was the real McCoy! It was the 1940 Speedomatic model.
In a "daydream" scene which was cut from the movie, Ralphie joined Flash Gordon to defeat the villian, Ming the Merciless. Other scenes which were cut from the final version involved a fantasy scene involving Ralphie rescuing Santa Claus from Black Bart's men.
The weird kid in the goggles was found by Clark in the department store where they filmed, Higbee's. Both Clark and Billingsley said the kid was truly weird. Santa, the witch and the elves were played by local actors.
Jean Shepard spent the first part of the filming on the set but was asked to leave after he began telling actors how to play their parts.
Many of the items in the film are actually from the time period of the late 30s to early 40s, such as the Little Orphan Annie Decoder ring, cars, radios and phones, however they had to use a substitute wax prop for Lifebuoy soap, as none could be found.
The neighbor's dogs were not trained performers. In face, they had no control over them running wild in the film. The scene where they ran through the house and ate the turkey were 100% real and unrehearsed.
The scene at the Chinese restaurant was not in the book, but rather Clark's idea. The actors were not told the wait staff would be singing to them. They were taken completely off guard by it! Their laughing hysterically and uncontrollably was completely natural!
in 2007, Bob Clark, along with his son were killed by a drunk driver in a head on collision.
The house used in the movie was purchased by a private developer in 2004 and turned into a museum. Check it out, here!