Article: Oh, Fudge: 25 Facts You Might Not Know About "A Christmas Story": HowStuffWorks
Oh, Fudge: 25 Facts You Might Not Know About "A Christmas Story"
By: Bambi Turner
About This Article
When "A Christmas Story" came out in 1983, many movie theaters didn't even bother showing this now-classic tale about Ralphie and his burning desire for a Red Ryder BB gun. It wasn't until the movie hit the home market that families began including "A Christmas Story" in their holiday traditions. Word of mouth and VHS tapes made the film a classic, and now it's pretty much impossible to make it through the season without seeing at least a glimpse of that frozen flagpole scene, or Ralphie sliding away from Santa in that overly crowded department store as he desperately tries to deliver his Christmas wish list.
The same is true of another beloved holiday movie. When "It's a Wonderful Life" was released in 1946, it did so poorly at the box office that the studio didn't even break even. It took 30 years for fans to catch on to the wonder of George Bailey's story, thanks to TV stations airing the film during the holidays. It turns out that the most iconic Christmas movies take some time to catch on!
By 1997, cable network TNT was airing 24 hours of "A Christmas Story" to appease eager fans. The marathon moved to TBS in 2004 and has consistently received impressive ratings, with millions tuning in to each airing to bask in the feel-good nostalgia of the film as seen through the eyes of young Ralphie. Yet even watching this flick for 24 hours straight won't reveal all of its secrets. Check out this gallery of trivia and tidbits you might not know about "A Christmas Story."
No tongues were harmed in making this film
When somebody triple dog dares you, you've pretty much got no choice but to see if your tongue will stick to a freezing metal pole. Well, it will. Just ask Scott Schwartz, who played Ralphie's pal Flick in the film. Of course, the young actor didn't actually get stuck to the pole. Instead, producers used a suction device fed through a plastic sleeve to make it look as though poor Flick was trapped. In reality, the actor could easily free himself without any pain or assistance.
Ralphie's an elf?
"A Christmas Story" was by far Peter Billingsley's most famous acting role, but he did appear in another beloved holiday movie a few decades later. The actor played head elf Ming Ming in the 2003 Will Ferrell flick, "Elf." Director Jon Favreau mentioned in interviews that "A Christmas Story" was his main inspiration when working on "Elf," a story about an Elf named Buddy who leaves the North Pole and travels to New York City to find his birth father.
Believe it or not, Jack Nicholson lobbied to play the part of Ralphie's Old Man, who is never actually named in the film. Fresh off making "The Shining" a few years earlier, Nicholson read the script and was all set to star in the film. Unfortunately, producers decided they couldn't afford him, so the role went to Darren McGavin. Nicholson turned out OK and went on to star in "Terms of Endearment" the same year "A Christmas Story" was released.
You can sleep at Ralphie's house
The classic yellow Victorian where the Parkers lived sits at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2004, an investor purchased the home on eBay for $150,000 and spent nearly twice that amount restoring it to its on-screen condition. It now serves as the Christmas Story Museum and is open year-round. Die-hard fans can spend the night in the house for about the same price as a high-end hotel room. And, yes, the Bumpus' house next door is also available, minus the 785 smelly dogs.
Yes, there is a sequel
You can watch "A Christmas Story" on TV for 24 hours at a time around the holidays, but if you need more, check out some of the sequels and retellings inspired by the movie. A 1994 theatrical sequel called "It Runs in the Family" was pretty much a box office flop, but did find some success in home video, where it was renamed "My Summer Story." This time, Kiernan Culkin of "Home Alone" and "Succession" fame plays Ralphie. Do you still want more? The classic tale also got a Broadway production in 2012, as well as a major network staging with "A Christmas Story Live" in 2017.
Don't shoot your eye out ...
All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle. While he finally gets one for Christmas in the film, you might be surprised to learn that you can also own a version of this BB gun. Made by Daisy, which has been making similar guns since the 1880s, the modern version of Ralphie's dream toy can be purchased at Walmart for around $40.
Wait, who sends Ralphie to the back of Santa's line?
Small uncredited cameos by key players are a fun wink to movie audiences, and "A Christmas Story" is no exception. Jean Shepherd, who wrote the novel that inspires the film, serves as its narrator. He also appears as a grumpy customer at the department store, who tells Ralphie to head to the back of the Santa Claus line instead of trying to cut to the front.
A soda ad inspired that lamp
Writer Jean Shepherd was inspired by a soda ad from his youth when coming up with the idea for the iconic leg lamp. The risque design is based on an ad for Nehi (pronounced knee-high) soda, which featured a pair of shapely legs posing next to the beverage. The production team made three lamps for the movie, and all but one were broken or destroyed during filming. The original version of this "major award" went home with Shepherd after the film wrapped, but you can buy similar versions online.
Fake soap, real tobacco
In a move that just wouldn't fly in the modern film industry, Ralphie actor Peter Billingsley revealed that he was given real chewing tobacco to stuff under his lip in the fantasy scenes where he fights off the bandits. Surprisingly, the bar of Lifebuoy soap Ralphie held in his mouth was not real, and the actor was given a wax mold instead.
Peter Billingsley was perfect for the part
Peter Billingsley was the very first child actor who director Bob Clark auditioned for the role of Ralphie. Figuring he couldn't pick the very first kid he met with, Clark held another 8,000 auditions before finally awarding the starring role to Billingsley. The young actor had appeared in more than 100 commercials by the time he landed the part in "A Christmas Story," including a memorable turn as Messy Marvin in a commercial for Hershey's Chocolate Syrup.
Ralphie really wants that BB gun
"A Christmas Story" runs for just over 90 minutes, yet Ralphie manages to utter his biggest Christmas wish a whopping 28 times. That means he mentions that Red Ryder BB gun an average of every three minutes or so, telling everyone from Santa to his teacher to his mom and dad. Despite his pleas, all anyone will tell Ralphie is that if he did get his hands on the Red Ryder, he'd shoot his eye out.
What year is it again?
One thing fans of "A Christmas Story" love to debate is the period during which the movie takes place. The cars in the film, not to mention the Speedomatic Radio Orphan Annie decoder ring, all suggest the flick was set around 1940. It makes sense until you see that Ralphie's Old Man is given a shiny blue bowling ball for Christmas. But colored bowling balls weren't around until the '60s. Oops.
The Playboy connection ...
Would you believe that Hugh Hefner had a hand in giving us this beloved holiday film? Writer Jean Shepherd appeared on radio in the '40s, telling funny fictionalized tales of his Indiana childhood. Hugh Hefner encouraged him to write his stories down, and dozens of the early versions appeared in "Playboy" in the '60s. Shepherd finally published the novel "In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash" in 1966, and this book would later serve as the inspiration for "A Christmas Story."
Let it snow ...
Filming "A Christmas Story" in the winter in Ohio and Canada should have guaranteed plenty of snow for outdoor scenes, but the white stuff just wouldn't stick to the call schedule. This forced producers to get creative and use everything from mashed potato mix, soap flakes, firefighting foam and piles of shredded vinyl to represent snow. When that wasn't enough, the crew hauled in trucks full of flakes from surrounding ski resorts to decorate the set.
It inspired a classic TV series
Beloved TV series "The Wonder Years" might have looked a whole lot different if not for the influence of "A Christmas Story." The producers of the series revealed that both the adult narrator framing and the coming-of-age theme of "The Wonder Years" were inspired by Ralphie and the gang. Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper forever ...
Ralphie didn't say fudge
Ralphie explains to viewers that his father is an Oldsmobile man, but even his beloved blue sedan can aggravate the Old Man's temper at times. On a family outing to the Christmas tree farm, Ralphie is called upon to help dad change a flat tire. Frustrated by the tough task, Ralphie famously lets loose an "Oh, fudge!" Except he didn't actually say fudge. Actor Peter Billingsley later revealed in interviews that he was instructed to say the actual "f" word instead. After years of acting experience, Billingsley said he wasn't shocked by the vulgar term.
Director Bob Clark has a cameo
Bob Clark was a young man driving to pick up a date when he heard Jean Shepherd on the radio telling a story that would sound very familiar to fans of "A Christmas Story." Just over a decade later, Shepherd had written this story into a novel and Bob Clark was hired to turn it into a movie. Clark also shows up in the film as Swede, a southern-accented neighbor of the Parkers who is blown away by that shapely leg lamp.
Why was Flash Gordon in the credits?
If you stick around for the closing credits to "A Christmas Story," you might spot a nod to comic hero Flash Gordon and his nemesis, Ming the Merciless. The movie originally had an additional fantasy sequence where Ralphie rescues Flash from Ming's evil clutches, then tops off his heroic act by saving Santa from Black Bart. The scene was cut, but you can see pictures and memorabilia related to the action at the Christmas Story Museum in Cleveland.
Please don't stick your tongue to a pole
In a 2007 episode of "Mythbusters," the hosts proved that it is totally possible to get your tongue stuck to a frozen metal pole, just like poor Flick in "A Christmas Story." Even worse, attempting to free your stuck tongue could seriously damage skin and muscle. Seriously, don't try this at home, even if someone triple dog dares you.
The film's Mr. Yunioshi moment
After the Bumpus' dogs steal their Christmas turkey, the Parkers end up eating Christmas dinner at the Chop Suey Palace. The cast wasn't informed that the restaurant staff would be singing, so viewers get to see their real reactions to the "fa ra ra ras." This culturally insensitive scene might feel uncomfortable to modern viewers, kind of the way Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi makes us squirm while watching "Breakfast at Tiffany's." The scene was changed in 2017's "A Christmas Story Live" to remove the offensive "accents."
But what I really want to do is direct ...
Other than a successful role in the 1993 flick "Arcade," Peter Billingsley really didn't land many major acting roles after his iconic appearance in "A Christmas Story." By the '90s, he was focused on the behind-the-scenes action, working as a producer on flicks like "Iron Man." He then went on to direct, with his first major role as a director coming in the 2009 film, "Couples Retreat." And, no, none of the cast members were instructed to wear a pink bunny suit.
A much darker Christmas
"A Christmas Story" wasn't Bob Clark's first time directing a Christmas movie. In 1974, he directed the cult horror flick "Black Christmas." He didn't have the reputation to win the director role in "A Christmas Story" until a little 1982 film called "Porky's." The R-rated comedy was super suggestive, yet ended up being a huge hit, grossing $100 million at the box office during its first run. This success was a huge help for Clark in getting a studio to green-light "A Christmas Story" the following year.
Miss Shields had a secret
In a 2009 interview with "The Chicago Tribune," Tedde Moore, who played Ralphie's teacher, Miss Shields, revealed that she was eight months pregnant while filming "A Christmas Story." Given that the film was set around 1940, when it would be relatively scandalous for a visibly pregnant teacher to be in the classroom, producers hid Moore's pregnancy with padding and camera angles. Moore was one of the only actors from the film to appear in the sequel, "A Summer Story."
Where does this movie take place?
Jean Shepherd used his childhood hometown in Indiana as the setting for the novel that would become "A Christmas Story," but eagle-eyed viewers might spot that the movie was filmed in a few different locations. Bob Clark picked Cleveland, Ohio, for many filming locations because local department store Higbee's allowed him to film inside the store. Some scenes were also filmed in Toronto, Ontario, however, as evidenced by the bright red streetcars that appeared in some scenes.
Flick's career was a roller coaster
Scott Schwartz, the actor who played the icy-tongued Flick in the film, was living large in Hollywood in the early '80s, starring in "The Toy," "Kidco" and "A Christmas Story." By the '90s, his career had slowed considerably, prompting him to move into behind-the-scenes work in the adult film industry. By the '00s, Schwartz had changed careers again, moving into writing and selling collectibles and memorabilia.
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