Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Special: A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story (1983)

Humorist Jean Shepard's nostalgic view of Christmastime in Indiana during the 1940s is a holiday classic. Nine-year-old Ralphie desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas and wages an all-out campaign to convince his reluctant parents (Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon) that the toy is safe. Meanwhile, as Ralphie prepares for the big day, his brother has a strange relationship with food, and his dad fights the never-ending furnace battle.

Based on the novel: In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepard

My Thoughts

We can all identify with this poor boy's obsession. Every kid has that one thing that they wanted more than anything for Christmas. Often times, we have to embark on very similar campaigns to convince our parents that we were good enough and that it's safe enough to get it for us. Poor Ralphie just chose a BB gun, which is often one of those 'too dangerous' toys.

And the first, classic "You'll shoot your eye out" is heard. And we will hear it many a time before this film is through. Ralphie's internal struggles are heard through Jean Shepard's voice, so I suppose the entire movie is a flashback/memory as he explains everything to us.

Ralphie's 'Old Man''s fight with the furnace seems a little forced, but it's a long-running gag through the entire film.

I never understood the mother's obsession with having Randy wear every piece of clothing that he owns, while Ralphie just throws on a coat and some gloves and a hat and he's set. I mean, Randy has always annoyed me with his incomprehensible mumblings and grumblings, but I do feel sorry for him as he waddles to school and roles around like an upended beetle in the snow.

Then there's the ever-famous dare, double-dog dare, triple-dog dare tongue to the pole monologue. Poor Flick...How many of you out there have ever gotten your tongue stuck to a popsicle or something? I can definitely feel the poor kid's panic. And his friends all just abandon him...ouch. And then they finally get him off and make him go back to class with icicles sticking out of his mouth? That just seems cruel...

Enter the bullies...Any movie about kids in grade school has to have the infamous bully with his cronies. The bully's always bigger than everyone, and his tiny little toadie (who's really only scary because he's with the bigger bully).

I wonder if that little Randy kid still has potatoes up his nose from 'showing mommy how the piggies eat'. That would be an entertaining dinner table, I suppose, though I would be a little grossed out I think.

The delivery men show up with the ever-famous 'prize' and it's actually with the right end up! "Fra-jeeel-aay". I had a Finding Nemo moment there. Then he uncovers the leg lamp, and everyone on the planet wonders why he is so excited about it. I mean, I guess it's creative, but I don't think I'd want it in the front room window.

6:45! Time for the kids to curl up in front of the radio and listen to 'Little Orphan Annie'. Sometimes I wish we still had some radio shows to listen to, but how would they be popular enough to survive. Now we curl up in front of our big-screen, flat-screen, HD, 3-D TVs. I do enjoy my movies and shows, I'm not gonna lie, but the occasional radio program would be nice, too, I think.

And the wonderful family sing-a-long Christmas carols on the trip home from getting the Christmas tree. How many of us have lived through those wonderful times of screaming Jingle Bells at the top of our lungs? And then the helping dad change the flat tire moment...and Ralphie says the F dash dash dash word! Where did the soap-in-the-mouth punishment ever go to? Is that abuse these days? I'm sure they've invented non-toxic soap that doesn't strike you blind...Much better than what the Schwartz kid got...

Then they leave Flick along to the bullies...These kids are just loyal to the core. Poor, Flick gets left stuck to a flag pole and then with bullies to get his black eye all on his own. And we continue with the 'you'll shoot your eye out' theme from the teacher as well as the parents.

And Ralphie loses it. Beats the stuffing out of the bully and everyone just leaves him laying there. I guess nobody loves a bully. And Ralphie just has to go take a nap? That's my kind of punishment...And the relationship with Mother and son is changed forever. Randy hiding under the counter reminds me of every kid I've ever known...such a cozy place to hang out. :-)

Ralphie gives up on his parents and teacher and decies that Santa is his only hope. The line to see Santa is just ridiculous. How many parents would wait for their kids to get through that line?? And Santa and the elves are just so happy to be there. I do like the slide-exit, though. And even Santa says he'll shoot his eye out! What's a boy to do?

Christmas Morning! The wrapping paper flood begins and Aunt Clara's pink bunny footie pajamas rise from the chaos. Always love those wonderful obligatory reactions to ridiculous familial gifts. How his mom can't see how ridiculous those pajamas are is beyond me. Thank goodness for his dad! :-)

Christmas ends and poor Ralphie is left with no BB gun...Oh wait! What's that? His Old Man saves the day again. And Ralphie has the best Christmas ever...before he shoots his eye out...totally worth it, though! Except they left the door open...and those darn dogs from the neighbor's house ruined the turkey...the turkey that the Old Man had been looking forward to for days. to the Chop Suey Palace for Chinese turkey for Christmas. At least they got some Christmas carols...

Always on the Christmas Classic list, this movie is pretty good. My sister apparently hates it, but I liked it well enough. I'm not usually a big fan of voice overs, but I think it works okay here. There's plenty of comedy and a lot of holiday family stereotypes so everyone can connect to the characters in one way or another. A pretty good view for the holidays.

Random Facts
Ralphie says he wants the Red Ryder BB Gun 28 times throughout the course of the movie.

Jack Nicholson was very interested in playing Ralphie's dad. But casting (and paying) Jack would have been too expensive. Director Bob Clark has said Darrin McGavin was the perfect choice.

Mythbusters tested whether it was possible to get your tongue truly stuck on a piece of cold metal. It is. So don't triple dog dare your best friend to try it.

In the late 1960s, director Bob Clark heard Jean Shepherd's recollections of growing up over the radio on the way to a date's how. He drove around for almost an hours until the program was over and knew right away he wanted to make a movie out of the stories, which were collected in Shepherd's 1966 book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. His date wasn't happy, but it gave us a classic Christmas movie.

Jean Shepherd's book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories that Shepherd wrote for Playboy magazine during the 1960s.

In addition to providing the voice-over narration, writer Jean Shepherd had a cameo appearance in the movie as a grouchy department store customer who tells Ralphie to go to the back of the Santa line.

Director Bob Clark has a brief cameo, also, as Swede, the Parker family's dim-witted neighbor with a southern-accent who stops to marvel at the leg lamp from across the street.

For the scene in which Flick's tongue sticks to the flagpole, a hidden suction tube was used to safely create the illusion that his tongue had frozen to the metal.

The Radio Orphan Annie decoder pin that Ralphie receives is the 1940 "Speedomatic" model, indicating that the movie takes place in December 1940. Different decoder badges were made each year from 1935-1940. By 1941, the decoders were made of paper due to WWII metal shortages.

A Christmas Story inspired the creation of The Wonder Years television show.

Prior to A Christmas Story, Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) gained fame as a correspondent for the variety show Real People. Peter is now a producer often working with his close friends Vince Vaughn and John Favreau. His credits as a producer include: Iron Man and The Break Up. He often appears in cameo roles in the movies he produces. He's also seen as Ming Ming, the elf from the beginning of the movie Elf.

Cleveland car buffs donated the use of a number of vintage vehicles for the film, which helped to enhance the authenticity of the production despite a limited budget. During filming in downtown Cleveland, members of a local antique automobile club, following a preset route, repeatedly circled the square. The Parker family car was a 1937 Oldsmobile Model F-37 four-door trunkback sedan.

The Red Ryder BB gun was available beginning in 1938 and for many years after (and indeed, still is), but never in the exact configuration mentioned in the film. The Daisy "Buck Jones" model did have a compass and a sundial in the stock, but these features were not included in the Red Ryder model. The compass and sundial were placed on Ralphie's BB gun but on the opposite side of the stock due to Peter Billingsley being left-handed.

Mrs. Parker's memory is correct. The Lone Ranger's nephew, Dan Reid, rode a horse named Victor. He was the son of the Lone Ranger's horse, Silver.

According to Peter Billingsley (young Ralphie) in the DVD commentary, the nonsensical ramblings that Ralphie exclaims while beating up Scut Farkas were scripted, word for word.

In 2012, a staged musical adaptation of the movie opened on Broadway. One of the co-producers was Peter Billingsley. A Christmas Story: The Musical! was the first stage play or musical he produced.

1 comment:

  1. The first movie that you've reviewed that I've seen and can therefore comment on. This one is one of the most classic Christmas movies. I have seen it probably at least once a year for my whole life. It is full of absurd family humor and crazy ridiculous jokes. It's just an all around heart-warming movie with some of the most iconic moments to it. "You'll shoot your eye out," the awful bunny pajamas, and the leg lamp which inspired one of the greatest Halloween costumes ever:

    All in all a great movie, and one I am perfectly happy watching once a year at Christmas time.