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.