30 Things You Never Knew About 'A Christmas Story'

Many Christmas films of our parents' childhoods focused on classic Christmas myths like those of Frosty the Snowman, Santa Clause, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

In 1983, however, there came a film that focused on one boy's dream of the perfect Christmas gift. Even though it is set in the late 1930s/early 1940s, the movie still feels timeless. Many of us grew up watching it a couple of times each Christmas, thanks to the annual 24-hour marathon sessions by TNT and TBS.


We all relate to the desire for that one thing — that one gift that we knew would make our Christmases and subsequent lives perfect. In celebration of the film's 30th Anniversary, here are 30 things you may not have known about A Christmas Story.

 

1. 'The Wonder Years' was inspired by 'A Christmas Story.'

Peter Billingsley (aka Ralphie) even made an appearance in one of the final episodes. 

2. The Film Takes Place in Hohman, Indiana.

Hohman does not exist, but it is based on creator/narrator Jean Shepherd's own hometown of Hammond, Indiana. Shepherd, like Ralphie, attended Warren G. Harding Elementary School and grew up on Cleveland Street

3. Parts of the original story appeared in Playboy.

The movie is based on Jean Shepherd's memoir, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. The book collected tales of his childhood, some of which appeared in Playboy and on Shepherd's radio program in the 1960s. So when your Grandpa said he was only reading it for the articles, this is what he was reading.

4. Much of the Movie was Filmed in Cleveland, OH.

Director Bob Clark felt that Cleveland best resembled a town in 1940s Indiana. Cleveland residents donated many of the film's antique vehicles. Other parts of the film were made in Toronto, Ontario.

5. You Can Visit the Christmas Story House.

The house, used for external shots of Ralphie's home, was purchased in 2005 on eBay by an avid fan. The house interior was renovated to look more like the interior on film. The house is now known as A Christmas Story House and Museum and is located in the Tremont neighborhood on Cleveland's West Side.

6. This family movie would not have been possible without an R-rated sex comedy.

If Bob Clark's earlier film Porky's had not had such success, A Christmas Story might not have gotten the green light. Porky's $111,289,673 U.S. box office gross allowed Clark the freedom to make A Christmas Story. The studio wanted a sequel for Porky's; Clark agreed to it only if he had permission to make this film. 

7. The film’s annual 24-hour showing began in 1988.

As part of a 50-movie deal with Warner Bros., MGM sold the rights of A Christmas Story in 1986. TNT first aired the film in 1988 for 24 hours beginning on Christmas Eve as a stunt, but popular support quickly turned it into an annual tradition. Today, TBS hosts the annual showing. 

8. Ralphie says he wants the Red Ryder BB Gun 28 times.

The "Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred shot range model air rifle BB gun with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time" is not an actual product, but the Red Ryder BB gun did in fact exist and continues to be in production today.

9. Director Bob Clark had a cameo in the film.

Clark appears as the neighbor Swede, the man who comments on the infamous leg lamp when it first lights up in the window. 

10. Jean Shepherd also has a cameo.

Shepherd appears in the line for Santa as the angry man who tells Ralphie to get to the back of the line. 

11. Actor Wil Wheaton auditioned for the role of Ralphie.

Sheldon Cooper would not be impressed.

12. The film took 10 years to complete.

On the 2003 DVD's commentary, Clark mentions that he worked with Shepherd on the script for nearly 10 years before it was finally made.

13. Flick did not actually freeze his tongue to a flagpole.

In order to create the illusion, a hidden suction tube was used to make it appear that he had frozen his tongue to the pole. 

14. The Chinese restaurant is named Bo Ling Chop Suey Palace.

A neon sign above the door reads "Bowling" but the "W" is not lit. 

15. Ralphie was supposed to be nine years old.

But Billingsley was actually 12 at the time of filming. 

16. You can buy your own replicas of the leg lamp and other movie memorabilia.

"It's a Major Award!" You can purchase your own here

17. The department store is actually a Higbee’s.

The Santa Claus scene was filmed in Higbee's in downtown Cleveland. There was no Higbee's in Shepherd's actual town of Hammond.

18. The year in which the film takes place was purposefully obscured.

There are references in the movie to anywhere from 1939-1946, but the director and Shepherd wanted it to be more of a general time period (late 1930s, early 1940s) than a specific year. 

19. It is possible to freeze your tongue to a flagpole.

Mythbusters tested to see if it was possible and, unsurprisingly, it is. 

20. The film opened the week before Thanksgiving, 1983.

Appearing on fewer than 900 screens, the film was only in theaters for a few weeks before MGM moved it to make way for other films such as Scarface and Christine. Nothing screams Christmas like gangsters and murderous cars.

21. Much of the snow was actually soap flakes and firefighter foam.

This led to many of the actors slipping and sliding during the scenes with the bullies. 

22. Scut Farkus never appeared in the book.

The character was written especially for the movie. His last name was derived from the Hungarian word for 'wolf', which is why, when he first appears, the "Wolf" theme music from Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf plays in the background.

23. The actor who played Flick was an Adult film star for many years.

Scott Schwartz worked both behind and in front of the camera of numerous adult films during the 1990s through 2000 before quitting. 

24. The Lone Ranger’s nephew really did ride a horse named Victor.

Ralphie's mother was correct!

25. A deleted scene featured Flash Gordon and Ralphie Battling Ming the Merciless.

The scene was a fantasy sequence. It was filmed but eventually cut. 

26. A Broadway musical based on the movie opened in 2012.

A Christmas Story: The Musical was the first play produced by Peter Billingsley.

27. Billingsley is actually a pretty successful producer now.

Rarely acting today, Billingsley was a Producer or Executive Producer on such films as Iron Man, Four Christmases, and The Break-Up.

28. And he is close friends with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau

Vaughn and Billingsley met while filming CBS Schoolbreak Special and Billingsley made a cameo appearance in another Christmas classic, Favreau's Elf, as a member of Santa's workshop.

29. There are three sequels.

One, a 1988 made-for-TV movie titled Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss, featured the Parker family going on vacation to a Michigan lakeside camp. Another, 1994's It Runs in the Family (also titled My Summer Story), delves more deeply into the Old Man's battles with the hillbilly Bumpuses, Ralphie's search for the perfect spinning top, and Ralphie's mom searching for another gift from the local cinema other than the gravy boat she always gets. Both of these were written by Jean Shepherd, with Clark also directing It Runs in the Family.

Another sequel, A Christmas Story 2, was released in 2012 straight-to-DVD and features Daniel Stern as the Old Man. This time, a teenaged Ralphie seeks to get a Mercury Convertible for Christmas. 

30. Jack Nicholson was considered for the role of The Old Man.

The Academy Award-winner was given the script and was very interested in the role of Ralphie's father, but the studio was hesitant to pay Nicholson's fee and salary (which would have doubled the film's budget). Clark was very adamant that Darren McGavin was perfect for the role anyway, and who can blame him?

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Matt Goldsmith

Matt currently works for a nonprofit based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Outside of the many travels his position affords, he enjoys watching television and films, reading great literature as well as comic books, and listening to the musical stylings of everybody. He often spends time with friends, discusses politics and makes 'Thanks Obama' jokes, and reminisces about that one time he conquered MRSA. He graduated from Ashland University in 2012 with a degree in Political Science, and minors in English and History.

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