"You'll shoot your eye out!" is just as synonymous with Christmas these days as "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" and "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus". The quote comes from the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, where a young boy in pre-WWII Indiana dreams of having a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. Hilarity follows as young Ralphie (played by Peter Billingsly) deals with an odd family, a local bully, and a malicious mall Santa. Here are five random facts about this beloved Christmas movie.
5. Thank the Radio for This Movie.A Christmas Story is based on several short stories written by humorist/radio personality Jean Shepard. Several scenes in the movie were originally in the 1966 book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. Before that, a couple of the stories were published in Playboy magazine. Shepard had a popular late-night radio program for many years, where he often told stories (never scripted) about growing up in Indiana. Christmas Story director Bob Clark heard some of these broadcasts in the late 60s. and loved the story of a kid getting his tongue stuck to a pole. Clark became a fan of Shepard and spent years trying to get A Christmas Story made. By the way, Jean Shepard not only the wriote the movie, he is also the narrator and appears in a cameo role. When Ralphie arrives at the mall to visit Santa, Shepard tells the young boy where the back of the (really long) line really is.
4. Thank Naked Women for This Movie. Director Bob Clark tried for years to get A Christmas Story made, but holiday films were not nearly as popular in the early 80s as they since have become over the past several years. Getting a Christmas movie made, especially a period piece based on a series of short stories, was hard work. Then, in 1982, Clark directed one of the top-grossing movies of the year. The adult comedy Porky's was one of the most successful comedies ever made (and one of the top-grossing Canadian movies of all time), and its success made it possible for Clark to get the green light to work on his pet project. Thanks to the raunchy humor of a bunch of high-school kids spying on the girls' locker room, we now have one of the most celebrated family movies of all time.
3. It Had Several Sequels. Shepard wrote many stories about his childhood in Indiana and the misadventures of his family, many of which found their way into other books and, of course, on his radio broadcasts. In 1994, nine years after A Christmas Story, Shepard and Clark teamed up again for the sequel It Runs in the Family. Released on DVD under its original title, My Summer Story, the movie even featured bully Scut Farcus and The Bumpuses. Unfortunately, the film came too many years after the original and was mostly overlooked at the box office. The all-new cast and sudden change in title didn't help it. Although director Clark was not involved, author/narrator Shepard made three TV movies starring Ralphie and his family, all of which were produced by Disney and PBS in the late 80s. And in 2012, A Christmas Story 2 was made, featuring a teenaged Ralphie dreaming of a car for Christmas. Also of note: A Christmas Story is also now a stage play, with a hit version recently produced in 2010 by Peter Billingsly himself.
2. It Was Not a Box Office Smash. Hard to believe that this Christmas gem, now beloved by millions and routinely topping many people's "Best Christmas Movie" lists, was pretty much overlooked in its initial release. A Christmas Story debuted quietly the weekend before Thanksgiving in 1983. Critics were mixed on it, with many dismissing it as silly family nonsense. Other critics, such as Leonard Maltin, raved about it and urged people to see it out. The film was not an outright bomb at the box office, but certainly no one expected it to become the classic it is today. By the time Christmas rolled around in 1983, it was barely showing in theaters anymore and mostly forgotten by Hollywood. It wasn't until multiple airings on HBO and home video release that the film spawned the loyal following that it has today.
1. You Can Still Buy "The Leg Lamp". A key scene in A Christmas Story involves Ralphie's father winning a very sexy (and risque for the times) lamp as a "major award" from the local newspaper. A woman's leg, complete with fishnet stockings and stiletto heel, the lamp mortifies Ralphie's mother, despite the pride on the face of "the old man". Just like the movie itself, The Leg Lamp has gone on to attract quite the following. For years, only one manufacturer made the infamous lamp and sold it via mail order. Now there are several online companies making versions of the lamp, several of which carry the "Official Christmas Story Merchandise" banner. A quick online search and you can own your very own "major award".
Now that you've learned several random facts about A Christmas Story, all you need to do is run home, pull your decoder ring out of the mailbox, and find out if there are any secret messages Little Orphan Annie needs you to know about the holiday. Enjoy your Christmas, and try not to shoot your eye out this year.
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