15 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘A Christmas Story’
As beloved as the movie is now, it wasn’t quite as popular when it first hit theaters. Learn more about this holiday classic and put your trivia knowledge to the test.
In the “Instagram vs. Reality” version of holiday movies, those magical, picture-perfect Hallmark Christmas movies are “Instagram” and A Christmas Story is the more dysfunctional “Reality.” Whether it’s the turkey-related mishap, those unfortunate gifts from relatives, or the “I can’t put my arms down” feeling after bundling up a little too well, A Christmas Story is filled with widely relatable vignettes about this busy time of year. Thanks to TBS, viewers can catch the classic 1983 film during the 24-hour-long marathon every year on Christmas Eve. Or, you can purchase your own copy to keep on hand year after year (A Christmas Story DVD, $7.99, Amazon). But even if you tune in year after year, you still might be missing out on some interesting information about the film and its production.
Read through our list to brush up on your A Christmas Story trivia before you binge-watch the movie all winter.
MGM didn’t have much faith in A Christmas Story at the time of its 1983 release—such little faith, in fact, that the company only distributed the movie to show in theaters for a few weeks. It wasn’t until a few years later, thanks to the growth of home video and cable television, that the film solidified its spot as an American Christmas classic.
Like many films, A Christmas Story is based on a book—but there’s a little more to it than just that. The 1966 book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash is a collection of short stories, many of which first appeared in Playboy magazine. So that’s where some of those crude undertones that make the holiday movie so unique come from. Director Bob Clark is said to have first heard some of these stories on the radio and decided right away that he wanted to turn them into a movie.
Super-fan Brian Jones purchased the house used for exterior shots of the family home through an eBay ad in 2005. He bought the house for $150,000, then spent nearly $500,000 in renovations to match the interior to the movie sets and open the place up as a tourist destination in 2006. He also bought the house next door to serve as a gift shop and museum.
You may watch the movie every year and be able to recite every classic line, but spending a night at Ralphie’s house will have you immersed on a whole new level. You and your family—up to 6—can book a stay at the iconic house starting at $395 per night. Or head across the street and stay at The Bumpus House, where Ralphie’s hound-loving neighbors lived, starting at $195 per night.
Jack Nicholson was ready to play the role of Ralphie’s dad, but the film’s small budget couldn’t afford his high rates. To avoid doubling the budget, the director went with Darren McGavin for the role of Old Man Parker instead.
A reminiscent adult Ralphie guides narrates the movie scene by scene, and the voice belongs to Jean Shepherd, the writer of the film. He also has a brief cameo in the film as an angry man who polices the line to see Santa, telling Ralphie, “The line ends here! It begins there!”
Like A Christmas Story, ELF is up there on the list of most repeat-watched Christmas movies of all time. So, if you ever thought the head elf at Santa’s workshop looked familiar, that’s because he’s played by Peter Billingsley, the same actor who plays beloved Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
In the film, it looks like Ralphie is holding a bar of red Lifebuoy soap between his lips, but it’s actually just a wax mold. However, this wasn’t only to save the actor from suffering a soapy mouth: Reportedly, it wasn’t in the budget to buy this soap, so the wax mold took its place. The mold was made to replicate the Lifebuoy soap because that brand was known for tasting the worst.
Unlike the bar of soap, that chewing tobacco in Ralphie’s mouth during his fantasy bandit-shooting scene was very real. A grown-up Billingsley has talked about the experience since and remembers “getting real dizzy and sweating” after filming that scene.
Peter Billingsley was the very first kid to audition for the role of Ralphie, and he was an obvious fit. But director Bob Clark didn’t think he could simply hire the first kid who auditioned, so he went on to sit through thousands of other auditions before inevitably casting Billingsley as the lead.
For those who have (or know someone who has) tried it at home, getting your tongue frozen stuck to a pole is very real and painful. But fortunately for the actor who played Flick, this scene was fake. There was a hidden suction tube inside the pole that created the illusion that his tongue was stuck.
Three different leg lamps were made for the filming of the movie, and none of them survived production in one piece. If you pay close attention while watching the film, you can see that different snapshots show the Mr. Parker’s prized leg lamp broken in a few different ways.
Ralphie’s visit to see Santa is a scene filled with memorable moments, but one quiet star of that sequence is the boy in goggles standing next to Ralphie in line. This boy, the one who goes on to scream in Santa’s lap before it’s Ralphie’s turn, was actually just a kid in the department store that day, not an actor. Director Bob Clark saw him and decided to use him in the scene.
Director Bob Clark had some fun with that final scene at the Chinese restaurant. No one told the actors that the servers were going to break out into song, so their reactions were all genuine. Melinda Dillon, who played Ralphie’s mom, can be seen laughing uncontrollably in the film.
Jean Shepherd’s stories were deeply rooted in his hometown of Hammond, Indiana, during the 1940s, so director Bob Clark wanted to ensure that the movie closely resembled that setting. He sent his location scouts to twenty cities before deciding on Cleveland, Ohio, as the perfect place. The film was also partially shot in Toronto, Ontario.