A Christmas Story (1983)

PG | 93 mins | Comedy | 1983

Director:

Bob Clark

Producers:

René Dupont, Bob Clark

Cinematographer:

Reginald H. Morris

Editor:

Stan Cole

Production Designer:

Reuben Freed

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
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HISTORY

As noted in the opening credits, Jean Shepherd, who was one of the screenwriters and the author of the book on which the film is based, is heard intermittently throughout the picture as the voice of the adult “Ralphie Parker.” According to studio production notes, director Bob Clark became interested in making a film based on Shepherd’s award-winning book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash , when he read it in 1973. A Christmas Story is based on a short story in the book, “The Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid,” and was adapted by Clark, Shepherd and Shepherd’s wife Leigh Brown.
       According to onscreen credits, studio sequences were filmed at Magder Studios, Toronto, Canada. HR production charts reported that portions of the film were shot in Toronto and St. Catherines, Ontario, as well as in Cleveland, OH. Studio production notes reported that part of the decision to film in Cleveland, which was used to depict Hammond, IN, was the presence of the family-owned department store, Higbee’s, that was built in the 1920s and became one of the major set pieces in the film. During the four days of shooting at the store, the store’s owners permitted the construction of the huge “Santa’s Mountain” set on the main floor. Production notes also indicated that the large public square just outside Higbee’s was used for the film’s parade sequence, which featured over 850 extras and was shot during two nights. Because, as mentioned in the production notes, 1982-83 was one of the warmest winters of the century for the Snow Belt, the film’s crew needed to provide snow for ... More Less

As noted in the opening credits, Jean Shepherd, who was one of the screenwriters and the author of the book on which the film is based, is heard intermittently throughout the picture as the voice of the adult “Ralphie Parker.” According to studio production notes, director Bob Clark became interested in making a film based on Shepherd’s award-winning book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash , when he read it in 1973. A Christmas Story is based on a short story in the book, “The Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid,” and was adapted by Clark, Shepherd and Shepherd’s wife Leigh Brown.
       According to onscreen credits, studio sequences were filmed at Magder Studios, Toronto, Canada. HR production charts reported that portions of the film were shot in Toronto and St. Catherines, Ontario, as well as in Cleveland, OH. Studio production notes reported that part of the decision to film in Cleveland, which was used to depict Hammond, IN, was the presence of the family-owned department store, Higbee’s, that was built in the 1920s and became one of the major set pieces in the film. During the four days of shooting at the store, the store’s owners permitted the construction of the huge “Santa’s Mountain” set on the main floor. Production notes also indicated that the large public square just outside Higbee’s was used for the film’s parade sequence, which featured over 850 extras and was shot during two nights. Because, as mentioned in the production notes, 1982-83 was one of the warmest winters of the century for the Snow Belt, the film’s crew needed to provide snow for the outdoor sequences. Special effects supervisor, Martin Malivoire, and assistant, Neil Trifunovich, scouted Michigan and New York for snow to be trucked in, but ultimately used potato flakes to create flying snow, huge bales of shredded vinyl for set dressing and firefighter’s foam to simulate snow on the ground, trees and houses.
       Another challenge for Clark, according to production notes, was working with child actors. The notes stated that Peter Billingsley (Young “Ralphie”) required a dialogue coach, Charles Northcote, to help him memorize and speak the long name of the “Red Ryder 200-Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle” that his character wanted for Christmas.
       A Christmas Story opened in Los Angeles and New York on 18 Nov 1983 and received mildly positive reviews from critics, many of whom considered the film more adult-oriented. For example, the Var review described the film as “an adult’s view of childhood [that] kids may find corny.” Vincent Canby, in the NYT review, found “only a number of small, unexpectedly funny moments in A Christmas Story , but you have to possess the stamina of a pearl diver to find them.” In the end, audiences received the film well, and it grossed $16,839,092 in the first sixty-three days after its release, leading MGM/UA to re-release it in six hundred theaters during the winter of 1984, according to a 5 Dec 1981 Var article.
       The 5 Dec 1981 Var article also reported that, based on the film’s success, Clark and Shepherd began to work on a sequel to A Christmas Story tentatively titled The Revenge of the Mole People , that is based on another chapter in Shepherd’s book. At the time, Clark reported that he had completed several drafts of the script and had retained all of the cast of A Christmas Story . However, in the 1994 sequel, It Runs in the Family (which was released on DVD as My Summer Story ), only Tedde Moore, as “Miss Shields,” and Shepherd, as the voice of the adult Ralphie, reprised their roles. In that sequel, Kieran Culkin portrayed young Ralphie. PBS also aired a series of television movies featuring the Parker family that was based on some of Shepherd’s other stories. According to a 22 Nov 2006 HR article, the house located in the Tremont area of Cleveland that served as Ralphie’s family’s home in A Christmas Story was purchased and restored by a fan of the movie, Brian Jones, who hoped to make it a tourist attraction.


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and notes were written by participant Brittany Shelton, a student at University of Texas at Austin, with Janet Staiger as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
5 Apr 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 1983
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 2006.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 1983
p. 18.
New York Times
18 Nov 1983
Section C, p. 36.
Variety
16 Nov 1983
p. 16.
Variety
5 Dec 1984.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A film from the works of Jean Shepherd
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
Gaffer
Key grip
Stills photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Prop man
Const supv
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
MUSIC
Orig score
Orig score
Mus eng
The Holy Trinity Baptist Church Ensemble supv by
Revere High School Band bandleader
Parma High School Band bandleader
Ohio Boychoir choirmaster
North East Ohio Salvation Army Band supv by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd boom man
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Sd facilities
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Optical eff & titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting
New York-Chicago casting
New York-Chicago casting
Asst, New York-Chicago casting
Toronto casting
Post prod supv
Prod accountant
Prod office coord
Cleveland coord
Loc mgr
Prod's secy
Unit pub
Children's coach
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd (Garden City, 1966).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Jingle Bells," music and lyrics by J. S. Pierpont, performed by Bing Crosby, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," music and lyrics by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, performed by Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas," music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, performed by Bing Crosby, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
"Jingle Bells," music and lyrics by J. S. Pierpont, performed by Bing Crosby, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," music and lyrics by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, performed by Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas," music and lyrics by Meredith Willson, performed by Bing Crosby, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
"Silent Night," music by Franz Gruber, lyrics by Joseph Mohr, English translation, anonymous, performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, courtesy of CBS Masterworks
"Jingle Bells," music and lyrics by J. S. Pierpont, performed by Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 November 1983
Production Date:
began 14 January 1983 in Cleveland, OH and Toronto, Canada
Copyright Claimant:
MGM/UA Entertainment Company
Copyright Date:
19 January 1984
Copyright Number:
PA212225
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Canada, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27113
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a snow-laden Cleveland Street in 1940s Hammond, Indiana, Ralphie Parker lives with his parents and little brother, Randy. Through retrospective narration as an adult, Ralphie reveals that Christmas, the event around which the entire kid year revolves, is fast approaching. That night, young Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz head downtown where they ogle toys in the Higbee’s department store window. Electric trains, Raggedy Ann dolls and a sled are among the many items on display, but Ralphie only has eyes for one item, the “Holy Grail of Christmas gifts” – a genuine Red Ryder 200-Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle. Ralphie vows to somehow plant it into his parents’ subconscious that an air rifle is the best Christmas toy for him. When the family sits down to dinner that night as Ralphie’s father works on one of his “silly prize puzzles,” Ralphie further schemes to introduce the idea of an air rifle by stating that Flick thought he saw a few bears by the department store. Ralphie’s parents simply stare back at him, dumbfounded by his irrational remark. However, Ralphie’s mother inquires, point blank, what he would like for Christmas. Caught off guard, Ralphie blurts out, “I want an official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!” and his mother responds with the classic mother BB gun block, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Discouraged by his inability to downplay his desire for a BB gun and his mother’s negative response, Ralphie fantasizes about an instance when the family, being attacked by Black Bart and his evil henchmen, need Ralph and his trusty air rifle, “Old Blue,” to save them from certain annihilation. After shouting “Adios, ... +


On a snow-laden Cleveland Street in 1940s Hammond, Indiana, Ralphie Parker lives with his parents and little brother, Randy. Through retrospective narration as an adult, Ralphie reveals that Christmas, the event around which the entire kid year revolves, is fast approaching. That night, young Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz head downtown where they ogle toys in the Higbee’s department store window. Electric trains, Raggedy Ann dolls and a sled are among the many items on display, but Ralphie only has eyes for one item, the “Holy Grail of Christmas gifts” – a genuine Red Ryder 200-Shot Carbine Action Air Rifle. Ralphie vows to somehow plant it into his parents’ subconscious that an air rifle is the best Christmas toy for him. When the family sits down to dinner that night as Ralphie’s father works on one of his “silly prize puzzles,” Ralphie further schemes to introduce the idea of an air rifle by stating that Flick thought he saw a few bears by the department store. Ralphie’s parents simply stare back at him, dumbfounded by his irrational remark. However, Ralphie’s mother inquires, point blank, what he would like for Christmas. Caught off guard, Ralphie blurts out, “I want an official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!” and his mother responds with the classic mother BB gun block, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Discouraged by his inability to downplay his desire for a BB gun and his mother’s negative response, Ralphie fantasizes about an instance when the family, being attacked by Black Bart and his evil henchmen, need Ralph and his trusty air rifle, “Old Blue,” to save them from certain annihilation. After shouting “Adios, Bart!” and surveying a pile of thwarted attackers now with X’s for eyes, Ralphie is abruptly brought back to reality by his father’s profanity-laden remarks about the family’s frozen-up Oldsmobile. Again through narration, Ralphie reveals that his father is not only a master of obscenities but also one of the most feared furnace fighters in Northern Indiana. Later, bundled up on the way to school, Ralph and Randy meet up with Flick and Schwartz, who argue about whether or not a person’s tongue could get stuck to a pole in freezing weather. That day at recess, Schwartz utters the “coup-de-gras of dares,” triple dog daring Flick. Flick’s tongue does indeed stick to the pole and the bell rings calling the children back to class. Flick is rescued by the fire and police departments. When he returns to the classroom, with a bandage tied around his tongue, the boys’ teacher, Miss Shields, announces that she wants each student to write a theme about what they want for Christmas. Ralphie realizes this as the perfect chance to gain an ally in his quest for a BB gun. He sets out to write the most elegant Red Ryder air rifle essay, certain that it will compel Miss Shields to give him an A+++++++ and his mother will finally be convinced to buy him one for Christmas. Before making it home to compose his poetic theme, however, Ralphie, Randy, Flick and Schwartz are terrorized by the yellow-eyed school bully, Scut Farkus and his toadie Grover Dill. While Randy lies on the ground like a slug as his only defense, the older boys escape Scut’s clutches, eventually arriving home without injury. That night while Ralph checks the mail for his Little Orphan Annie decoder pin and works on his theme, Ralphie’s father arrives home, screaming that he won a prize to be delivered that night, as the dogs from next door terrorize him in the driveway. The award was for completing a puzzle, and the prize, which arrives in a wooden crate marked FRAGILE, turns out to be a risqué leg lamp that he places in the family’s front window. Though Ralphie is mesmerized by the “electric sex” in the family’s front room, his mother remains unhappy with the prize, repeatedly turning it off. Several days pass filled with school, Scut’s bullying and Little Orphan Annie radio programs without the arrival of his decoder pin. One evening, Ralphie and his family go to pick up their Christmas tree. When the car blows a tire on the way home, Ralphie’s mother suggests for the first time in his life that he help his father with the repair, but Ralpie manages to spill the nuts and bolts his father hands him and utters, not the word “fudge,” but the word , “the f--- word.” Once his mother learns what he said, Ralphie finds himself with a bar of Lifebuoy soap in his mouth, the flavor of which even his mother cannot stand. Perhaps one day, Ralphie fantasizes, he will suffer a terrible case of soap poisoning and go blind, finally convincing his parents of their wrongdoing. The next day, Ralphie finally receives his decoder pin and uses it to decode that nights Little Orphan Annie Secret Circle message – “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.” While disappointed by “the crummy commercial” he decoded, Ralphie’s frustration is quickly forgotten when his mother, possibly on purpose, breaks his fathers leg lamp while watering her plant in the living room. Ralphie’s father is crushed, and after a few failed attempts to salvage his award, he buries it in the back yard. The next day at school, Ralphie receives his theme grade, a C+ with the note “P.S. You’ll shoot your eye out!” causing him to conclude that Miss Shields was in cahoots with his mother and that he might never get his precious Red Ryder air rifle. On his way home from school, Ralphie is once again confronted by Scut and Grover, but this time, aided by his theme-induced frustration, Ralphie fights back with a storm of profanities, bloodying Scut’s face and forcing Ralphie’s mother to intervene. Back at home, his mother downplays “the Scut Farkus Affair” when his father inquires, saving Ralphie from certain death and reinvigorating his campaign for his ideal Christmas present. Finally, Ralphie decides that Santa is a viable avenue for getting his Red Ryder air rifle, so he and his family set out for “Santa’s Mountain” at Higbee’s. After waiting in line, Ralphie and Randy finally reach a disgruntled, unenthusiastic Santa who distracts Ralphie from his mission and sends him down a slide. However, Ralphie snaps out of his stupor in time to crawl back up the chute to Santa’s lofty throne and shout his desire for a BB gun. Santa simply replies, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” and pushes the defeated Ralphie back down the slide. When Christmas finally arrives, Ralph and Randy receive dozens of presents, including an elaborate pink bunny suit hand-sewn for Ralphie by his Aunt Clara. Just when Ralphie thinks his Christmas has ended without receiving his prized gift, his father points out a hidden present behind a desk. To Ralphie’s surprise, it is his coveted Red Ryder air rifle. Immediately, he rushes outside to try it out, and almost shoots his eye out after a BB ricochets off a piece of metal. Crafting an ingenious plan to protect his new toy, Ralphie tells his mother that a giant icicle fell from the garage, a story that she quickly buys because “icicles have been known to kill people.” However, while Ralphie’s mother tends to his wound, the next-door dogs infiltrate the Parker home, devouring their holiday turkey and incensing Ralphie’s father, a known turkey junkie. Instead of their usual feast, the Parker family enjoys an unforgettable Christmas meal out together in a Chinese restaurant and Ralphie goes to bed that night clutching his air rifle – the best Christmas gift he would ever receive. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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