Updated: Apr 8
“A Christmas Story” - the well-embraced, subtle Christmas comedy film is based on the book written in 1966 by Jean Shepherd “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash.”
Jean Shepherd was first a radio-raconteur and cited by some as the creator of free-form talk radio. Shepherd began his broadcast career after the end of World War II at WJOB in Hammond, Indiana. He moved his career to Cincinnati in January 1947 and spent time on the air at WSAI, WCKY and WKRC.
“In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” humorously depicts nostalgic Americana and contained his most popular radio stories often based on his own anecdotal doings as a child – including family Christmas in the 1940s. The stories in the book are told by the fictional character Ralph, who has returned to his fictitious hometown of Hohman, Indiana. The book opens with our introduction to Ralph’s friend Flick in his tavern, and a conversation about an old BB gun over a cold beer.
In the movie, Ralphie, a 9-year-old boy desperately yearns for a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. Despite protests from his mother that he'll shoot his eye out, Ralphie persists, unsuccessfully trying to enlist the assistance of both his teacher and the store Santa Claus. All the while, Ralphie finds himself dealing with the constant taunts of a pair of bullies and trying to not get in the middle of feuds between his parents including the arrival of a tacky lamp he won in the form of a woman’s sheer stocking leg dubbed “A major award.”
There are countless classic scenes such as the flat tire changing incident and Ralphie’s accidental expletive, the dad’s (Old Man Parker) “IIIIIIIt's a clinkerrrr!!!” furnace scene, 'double-dog-dare-ya' Flick tongue-to-the-frozen-flagpole, the imaginary rifle scene pitting Black Bart, rogue dogs and the turkey dinner, the pink bunny pajamas and of course the Little Orphan Annie radio show with secret decoder ring and what? OVALTINE! See? Classic.
What a lot of people don’t realize is this film is really not that old; it was produced by MGM in 1983 directed by Bob Clark (who also directed “Porky’s.”) With a budget of $3.2 million, it grossed almost $20M at the box office and would have done better if MGM booked more theaters for the initial showing.
Yet it seems like forever that movie shows up in the TV Guide over and over in December. This classic film is aired dozens of times in early December. Watch it at least once. If you have seen it, sit back and watch it again with some additional perspective.
Spoiler Alert! Of course the film ends with Ralphie lying in bed on Christmas night with his new Red Ryder BB gun by his side. A voiceover by an adult Ralphie states that this was the best present he had ever received or would ever receive. Happy Holidays!