“A Christmas Story” marathon runs on TBS

Poster for "A Christmas Story"When it was first released in 1983, “A Christmas Story” did not seem a  likely candidate to be considered a holiday classic. But despite a modest  budget, nothing in the way of special effects, and a cast devoid of any big  Hollywood names, “A Christmas Story” struck a distinct cord with viewers of all  ages. On Friday, December 24th at 8 pm, TBS will kick off a 24 hour “A Christmas  Story” marathon , running the film 12 straight times, ending on Christmas day at  8 pm. Directed by Bob Clark, “A Christmas Story” stars Peter Billingsley, Darren  McGavin, and Melinda Dillon, with narration provided by Jean Sheppard.

The voice of the adult Ralphie Parker (Sheppard) describes the most  memorable Christmas of his circa 1940 Hohman, Indiana boyhood. Nine year old  Ralphie (Billingsley) has just one wish for Christmas…he wants “an official Red  Ryder, carbine action, 200 shot range model air rifle with a compass in the  stock, and this thing that tells time.” Young Ralphie’s obsession for his dream  gift never wavers, despite constantly being warned by practically every adult  that such a toy could shoot his eye out. Staying focused on his rifle is not  easy, as Ralphie is faced with many of the same obstacles that other nine year  olds must endure, such as neighborhood bullies, hardnosed teachers, and a grumpy  father (McGavin) who is more concerned with battling his basement furnace than  attending to his son’s holiday gift needs. “A Christmas Story” contains no  flying reindeer, ghosts from Christmas pasts, or even a glimpse of what Hohman,  Indiana would have been like if Ralphie Parker had never been born. Instead, we  are treated to tongues getting stuck to frozen flagpoles, an unsympathetic  Santa, turkey stealing bloodhounds, a unique lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg,  and an unforgettable version of “Deck the Halls” sung by the staff of a Chinese  restaurant.

“A Christmas Story” is adapted from several stories and anecdotes written  or performed over the years by writer and radio personality Jean Sheppard. Much  of Sheppard’s material is semi-autobiographical based on his own years growing  up in Hammond, Indiana. Director Bob Clark became interested in Sheppard’s works  after hearing Sheppard relate the story of “Flick’s Tongue” on radio station WOR  in 1968. “A Christmas Story” debuted on the big screen on November 18th, 1983,  and all but disappeared from theaters within two months. Cable television  breathed new life into the film, as Superstation TBS and WGN began airing the  film in the late 1980’s. As “A Christmas Story” became increasingly popular, TNT  introduced the marathon concept in 1997 when it presented “24 Hours of A  Christmas Story.” Director Clark stated that in 2002, an estimated 38.4 million  viewers tuned into the marathon at one point or another. Switched to TBS in  2004, the audience for the full day of “A Christmas Story” has grown to over 50  million over the 24 hour period.

Note: Director Bob Clark considered Jack Nicholson for the role of  Ralphie’s father, but was more than pleased with his eventual choice, Darren  McGavin.