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"This is one of my favorite Chirstmas movies.
I like it so much I watch it in July to avoid the rush."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story is a 1983 film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, including material from his books In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. It was directed by Bob Clark and is one of my favorite all time Christmas movies! The film relates the tale of Ralphie Parker (played by Peter Billingsley), who wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas (specifically, "an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and 'this thing', which tells time") and will go to any lengths to get it despite the numerous adult admonitions of "you'll shoot your eye out."

The movie was written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark. Shepherd provides the movie's narration from the perspective of an adult Ralphie, a narrative style later used in the dramedy The Wonder Years. Shepherd also has a cameo appearance in the department store scene, as the man who directs Ralphie and Randy to the end of the line. Director Clark has a cameo as Swede, the neighbor who questions the Old Man about the Leg Lamp.

Three of the semi-autobiographical short stories on which the film is based were originally published by Playboy magazine in 1964 – 1966. Shepherd later read "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder nails the Cleveland Street Kid" and told the otherwise unpublished story "Flick's Tongue" on his WOR Radio talk show, as can be heard in one of the DVD extras. Bob Clark states on the DVD commentary that he became interested in Shepherd's work when he heard "Flick's Tongue" on the radio in 1968. Additional source material for the film, according to Clark, came from unpublished anecdotes Shepherd told live audiences "on the college circuit."

Initially overlooked as a sleeper film, A Christmas Story was released a week before Thanksgiving to moderate success. By Christmas, however, the movie was no longer playing at most venues, but remained in about a hundred theaters until January 1984. In the years since, A Christmas Story has become widely popular and is now a perennial Christmas special.

A movie sequel involving Ralphie and his family, called My Summer Story (alternate title It Runs in the Family) was made in 1994, featuring an almost entirely different cast. A series of television movies involving the Parker family, also from Shepherd stories, was made by PBS, including Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters, and The Phantom of the Open Hearth.

In 2000, an authorized stage play adaptation of A Christmas Story was written by Philip Grecian and is produced widely each Christmas season. In 2003, Broadway Books published the five Jean Shepherd short stories from which the movie and stage play were adapted in a single volume under the title A Christmas Story, with stories including: "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder nails the Cleveland Street Kid", "The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again", "My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art", "Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil", and "The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds".


Director Bob Clark mentions that Jack Nicholson was considered for the role of the Old Man; Clark expresses gratitude that he ended up with Darren McGavin instead, who also appeared in several other Clark films. McGavin was well known in the cult TV universe for playing Carl Kolchak in the The Night Stalker TV movie and follow up television series. Kolchak was the inspiration for the successful series The X-Files and because of this, McGavin was asked to play the role of Arthur Dales, the man who started the X-Files, in three episodes: Season 5's "Travelers" and two episodes from Season 6, "Agua Mala" and "The Unnatural". Unfortunately, failing health forced him to withdraw from the latter, and the script (written and directed by series star David Duchovny) was rewritten to feature M. Emmet Walsh as Dales' brother.

Clark cast Melinda Dillon on the basis of her similar role in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Peter Billingsley was already a minor star from co-hosting the TV series Real People; Clark initially wanted him for the role of Ralphie, but decided he was "too obvious" a choice and auditioned many other young actors before realizing that Billingsley was the right one after all. As he grew older, his acting career lost momentum but Billingsley never completely gave up his acting career, appearing in various TV and film projects but also focused on projects behind the camera with much success including work on The Discovery Channel's A.R.K., The Adventures of Animal Rescue Kids, Patriot Son, The X Show, Made, and Elf. In 2001, he was nominated for an Emmy Award as co-executive producer for the show Dinner for Five. In 2005, he helped produce the movie Zathura (2005). He recently served as an executive producer for the Universal Pictures production The Break-Up starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in which he also plays the supporting character Andrew.


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