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"Christmas was on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, around which the entire kid year revolved."
Based on humorist Jean Shepherd's autobiographical short stories (including material from his 1966 book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash) — and narrated by Shepherd himself — A Christmas Story is the story of a childhood Christmas in or around World War II-era America.Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker wants one and only one thing for Christmas: a BB gun. It's not just any BB gun he wants, either; his heart is set on 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). His mother, teachers, and even the department store Santa tell him, in an ever-deepening refrain, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"A Christmas Story did only modest box-office business in 1983, and didn't win any major awards, but the film has since become a holiday classic, due in part to Ted Turner acquiring the rights to the film and giving it a twenty-four-hour Christmas Eve/Day marathon on either TBS or TNT.The film spawned a play, as well as two "sequels": the made-for-TV Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss and 1994's It Runs in the Family (aka "My Summer Story", not to be confused with the Kirk/Michael Douglas collaboration), both of which are notable in that none of the original film's cast members are in either of the others (save actress Tedde Moore [Miss Shields], who appears in the latter). A Direct-to-Video sequel called A Christmas Story 2 was released on October 30th, 2012. You can watch the trailer here.This is the most acclaimed movie directed by Bob Clark. If Ralphie's encounter with Santa Claus seemed kinda scary to you when you were a kid, you shouldn't be surprised to learn what the director made before this. His previous and later work indicates this film was basically a fluke.
The films provide the following examples
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The original 1983 Movie
Adaptation Expansion: The stage show version of the movie adds a few more scenes between Ralphie's parents, a few more scenes with Flick and Schwartz, some extra narration, as well as expands on the throwaway character Esther Jane (the girl that says hello to Ralphie at Santa's mountain), giving her more lines and a couple rather sweet exchanges with Ralphie.
Adults Are Useless: Played with. While the kids are aware that their parents care for and love them, they also know there are some things you do as kids that they'd best not find out.
Ralphie (narrating): (responding to a teacher's attempt to guilt her class into confessing what happened to Flick) Adults loved to say things like that but kids know better. We knew darn well it was always better not to get caught.
Advertising Campaigns / Affectionate Parody: In 2006 Cingular (now AT&T) ran ads parodying the film. Instead of the 'Red Ryder'/'you'll shoot your eye out' call and response, the commercials had Ralphie ask for a Cingular phone with the call back 'you'll run the bill up, kid!'.
In 2013 TBS ran ads featuring the cast of Cougar Town parodying scenes from the film (such as the little piggies and the pink bunny scenes) generally after the scenes occurred in the 24 hour marathon, in order to promote Town's new season starting Jan 7th of the following year.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: Sort of. There really are Red Ryder BB guns, but (as of 1983) none that match the exact description given.
Also for some, Lifebuoy soap. While they don't advertise like they used to (they used to sponsor ads at several baseball stadiums, which tended to get vandalized), it's been continually produced since 1894.
While it's most associated with this movie, the "Drink More Ovaltine" ring decoded message was a very real thing that dates all the way back to the 1930's.
Arc Words: "You'll shoot your eye out," a warning of what may , and does, happen if Ralph were to get the BB gun.
Artistic License – Geography: Even though the film is set in Indiana, there are multiple references to Higbee's, a defunct department store chain based in Ohio. (In fact, the scenes were actually shot at Higbee's flagship in Cleveland.)
Behind the Black: Farkus surprising the three by hanging upside down in the schoolyard. A little hard to see both how anyone didn't notice he was there, or what he was hanging upside-down from.
Berserk Button: Mrs. Schwartz doesn't take too kindly to finding out about her son's supposed swearing.
The Old Man has SEVERAL. (His furnace, his car, his kids' roller-skates, the Bumpus' dogs). Oddly enough, when the dogs invade the house and eat his beloved turkey, The Old Man just wearily tells his family to get dressed to go out to eat.
Big "OMG!": Mrs. Shields, when she learns where Flick is the hard way.
Also, Ralphie: "Oh my God, I shot my eye out!"
Black Dude Dies First: When Ralphie gets his BB gun and fantasizes about shooting the villains, the black guy gets shot first.
Brick Joke: When Ralphie writes his "What I Want For Christmas" essay, he says that a football wouldn't be a good present. Later, when he's on Santa's knee and choking when he's asked what he wants, Santa suggests a nice football.
Buffy Speak: The "Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time."
Bumbling Dad: The Old Man, played masterfully by Darren McGavin. He does strange things and is a bit detached, but you can tell he genuinely loves his family.
Butt Monkey: Flick, Farkus's most frequent target as well as the poor sap that gets his tongue stuck on a pole. Especially in the stage version. "That's my sore arm!"
Ralph whenever he falls victim to the response of "You'll shoot your eye out!" every time he requests a BB Gun as a Christmas present, and a few other letdowns as a result of him being a habitual daydreamer.
Randy whenever he is pressured into wearing an incredibly thick snowsuit.
The Old Man, on account of how he always falls victim to having to deal with something going wrong with mechanical devices, with the exception of one item; and having to be the victim of dozens of a neighbors' dogs always intruding.
The mother is a little bit on account of what she has to put up with, according to her somewhat stern attitude.
Cassandra Truth: Mrs. Schwartz correctly deduces that Ralphie learns the F-word from his father, yet his mom still insists it was from Schwartz himself, despite hearing The Old Man swear as much as everyone else.
Cloud Cuckoolander: Ralphie, especially when Miss Shields has to snap him out of his daydreaming.
That creepy spacey kid waiting in line to see Santa.
Ralphie (narrating): In the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.
Cool Down Hug: How Ralphie's mom ends the beat down he gives Scut.
Competition Coupon Madness: In order to get the coveted Little Orphan Annie decoder ring — which is required to decode the show's secret message — Ralphie must send in an ungodly number of Ovaltine labels. He collects these labels religiously, drinking Ovaltine far past the point where he's come to hate the stuff, until finally he's collected enough and sends away for the decoder ring. When the ring arrives in the mail, he uses it to decode the secret message, which reads: Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.
Corpsing: Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Peter Billingsley all struggle not to laugh during the soap poisoning scene, and a couple of times, McGavin and Dillon hide their faces in their hands to cover up the fact that they're laughing instead of over the top crying.
Then there is the Chinese restaurant scene.
Creator Cameo: The man who directs Ralphie and Randy to the back of the line to see Santa is Jean Shepherd.
Man in Line for Santa: Young man. Hey, kid! Just where do you think you're going?
Ralphie: Going up to see Santa.
Man in Line for Santa: The line ends here. It begins there.
Also, director Bob Clark as Swede.
Swede: Hey, Parker, what is that?
Mr. Parker: Don't bother me now, Swede, can't you see I'm busy?
Swede: Yeah, but what is that?
Mr. Parker: I-i-i-it-uh-It's a Major Award!
Swede: A Major Award? Shucks, I wouldn'ta knowed that. It looks like a lamp.
Mr. Parker: It IS a lamp, you nincompoop. But it's a Major Award. I won it!
Fall Guy: Flick, one of Ralphie's friends, is left to Farkus' mercy several times. (At one point, when his tongue becomes stuck to a metal pole, his friends even leave him stuck outside, and the authorities have to remove him from the pole.)
Foreshadowing: Everyone keeps warning Ralphie that if he gets that BB gun, he'll shoot his eye out. He does get the BB gun for Christmas... and the first time he shoots, the pellet ricochets back into his face.
Narrator: Oh my God, I shot my eye out!
He soon realizes that his eye is fine and that the pellet only knocked his glasses off.
When the workmen bring the crate into the house and set it upright, the Old Man warns them to be careful. "Watch the lady!" Interesting considering they were delivering the only conflict that the couple has to handle between them during the film.
The FRAGILE warning on the crate the lamp was delivered in.
Flipping Helpless: Ralphie's little brother is dressed up in so many layers for the Indiana winter, he can't get back up when he falls down. The narrator even mentions he looks like a turtle on his back.
The Forties: The time-period in which this film takes place.note This brief shot of a license plate◊ suggests that the movie specifically takes place in 1940.
There's a slight bit of Anachronism Stew action all over the film. Though likely taking place circa 1940, it is loaded with objects, music & whatnot from all over the 1940's (and a few 1950s things & 1-2 subtle 1980's things). It's best to just see it as the memories of a middle-aged man of his childhood from 40 years earlier. It's best to just see it as an vague, sort of generalize, somewhat AU 1940's period.
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Played with, when the dad clearly wants to curse, but has to Bowdlerisehimself. Played straight when the family hears him trying to start the furnace.
Rumors state that originally, the actor that played the Old Man was really cursing in the scenes where he's speaking Angrish. When the producers got back a rating from the MPAA, they quickly re-dubbed those scenes with harmless euphemisms or gibberish. In fact, right before the tire blows out, the Old man says "dad gummit," but those who can read lips can see him say "goddammit."
Later lampshaded in the scene in which Ralphie helps his father change a flat tire. After the nuts get knocked out of the hubcap he was holding, he shouts out "Oh, fudge!!!" Only, as he points out himself, he didn't actually say "fudge".
"It was the word! The big one! The queen mother of dirty words... The "F-dash-dash-dash" word!"
Happily Married: Not even the "Legendary Battle of the Lamp" can permanently derail Ralphie's parents.
Hair of the Dog: On Christmas morning, the Old Man is rubbing his head and grimacing as if he has a hangover. Apparently a morning bottle of wine is a Christmas tradition at Ralphie's house. After a glass of wine, he is back to his usual self.
He is All Grown Up: In real life, Peter Billingsley is the male version of this trope. He's currently 43 years old... and wow... just google him. Oh, those blue eyes...
Heroic BSOD: After Santa Claus, Ralphie's final hope at getting a Red Ryder BB gun, tells him he'll shoot his eye out, Ralphie is left staring blankly up at the ceiling until his parents come find him.
Hypocritical Humor: When the family is leaving to get a Christmas tree, the mom goes inside to turn off the leg lamp, explaining to the Old Man that she doesn't want to waste electricity. Cut to a shot of the house with every other light left burning.
Innocent Blue Eyes: It's kind of hard to ignore Ralphie's bright blue eyes throughout the course of the film, especially considering the narrative.
Innocent Swearing: Subverted, then double subverted. Ralphie knows exactly what, ahem, "fudge" means, but considering he's only imitating his father, one could say he should get off the hook. Which he does after beating up Farkus, during which time he was swearing profusely. Inverted with Schwartz; in no way is his swearing innocent. The third word out of his mouth is a swear word, for goodness' sakes.
Instant Soprano: The Old Man, after his Christmas gift (a bowling ball) is unceremoniously dumped onto his tender bits.
Its Pronounced Tropay: Inverted when Dad reads the outside of the crate containing his newly-arrived Major Award.
Dad: Ah. "Fra-gee-lay"...that must be Italian.
Mom: I think that says "fragile", honey.
It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: In narration, Ralphie declares that the leg lamp "was, indeed, a lamp", and refers to it as "the soft glow of electric sex". Mr. Parker can't stop raving about the lamp himself.
Karma Houdini: After Flick refuses to say who pressured him to stick his tongue on the pole, Ms. Shields tries to play their inevitable guilt as punishment enough. Ralphie's narration then smugly notes that this is an utter crock and all kids know it.
Zigzagged with Schwartz. He doesn't suffer consequences for triple dog daring Flick into getting his tongue stuck to the flagpole since Flick refused to tell the teacher who put him up to it (though it seems like the teacher knows it had to be either him or Ralphie). On the other hand, while it is unconnected to the previous incident,Schwartz later gets an unexpected beating from his mother when Ralphie falsely tells his mother that he learned the F word from Schwartz instead of his father, which also makes his father a Karma Houdini.
Everybody during Ralphie's fantasy daydreams. Ms. Shields is a particular standout ("A Plus-Plus-Plus-Plus...!"), as are the parents' reactions to "Soap poisoning".
Leitmotif: The Bumpus Hounds, with "Chicken Reel" of all things.
And Scut Farkus with the Wolf's theme from Peter and the Wolf. (Interesting side note: "Farkus" comes from the Hungarian word for wolf.)
The first time Scut showed up, Ralphie and his brother & pals are accompanied by the Little Bird's theme from that same piece. And the fast-motion Running Gag of the kids getting chased by Scut everyday is a bit of The William Tell Overture.
Ralphie's Imagine Spot of rescuing his family from Black Bart finds him accompanied by "On the Trail" from Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite.
Mall Santa: Technically, a pre-mall department store Santa, on a mountain-size display that would take up gargantuan amounts of warehouse space 11 months a year.
Match Cut: Used for particularly humorous effect; a scene transitions from Randy lifting the lid of a toilet and getting ready to use it to a close-up of the mother lifting the lid off a pot of...questionable-looking stew.
My Beloved Smother: Ralphie's mother at times, particularly in regards to his little brother.
My God, What Have I Done?: After having his mouth washed out with soap, Ralphie has a daydream where he's blinded from soap poisoning. When he reveals the cause of his blindness to his parents, they amply break down and cry.
No Communities Were Harmed: The film, and the stories it's derived from, are set in fictional Hohman, Indiana, which is a slightly disguised version of Jean Shepherd's real-life hometown, Hammond, Indiana.note For one thing, there's a street in Hammond called Hohman Avenue
Noodle Implements: Admittedly minor, but it's a "Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time". What kind of thing? Is it a clock or a sundial?
No Peripheral Vision: When the teacher asks where Flick is after he stuck his tongue to the pole. The camera shot over her shoulder reveals that Flick was right there, out the window, right within her range of vision.
Peking Duck Christmas: After the neighbors' dogs eat Mrs. Parker's turkey, Mr. Parker takes them to a Chinese restaurant, where they eat Peking Duck (though Ralphie calls it "Chinese Turkey") and sing carols with the owners.
Phrase Catcher: Everybody all together now, "YOU'LLSHOOTYOUREYEOUT!!!"
The Remake: While not a direct remake, several elements of the film were reused from Jean Shepherd's previous made-for-TV films about Ralphie Parker. 1976's "Phantom of the Open Hearth" includes a lengthy subplot about the Old Man's leg lamp, which was largely repeated (with only small alterations) for this film. Likewise, that film sees one of the Old Man's buddies being abandoned by his friends in the midst of a bad situation - a subtle inspiration for Flick's tongue/pole saga. The 1982 follow-up film, "The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters" sees the first on-screen usage of 'You'll shoot your eye out' when Randy wants fireworks. Allegedly, an almost entirely unknown and never aired telefilm produced in 1978 for ABC contains many elements later used in this film, including the birth of "Ohhhhh, fudge" (albeit spoken by Randy).
More of "Phantom of the Open Hearth", specifically Mom's gravy boat catastrophe, ended up in the 1994 theatrical sequel "My Summer Story."
Undercrank: In the Imagine Spot with Ralphie shooting the bad guys, they are in fast-motion. Also, the scene where Ralphie turns in his paper begins and ends with fast-motion scenes of the boys running to and from school, complete with chipmunk voices.
Unfortunate Names: With a name like "Scut Farkus", you might have become a bully, too.
Unnamed Parent: Neither of Ralphie's parents are named; they're referred to as "my mother" and "my old man" throughout.
Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: "What kind of parents would name their kid 'Scut?' Still, I had to admit, the name suited him." Also, unless it's a nickname, which is not made clear, what parent names a kid "Flick?" If there were any way to make your child an instant Butt Monkey...
Continuity Nod: Plenty to the first move, the "Oh Fudge" slow motion, dealing with yet another rude mall Santa, an embarrassing outfit from their aunt, and of course, the infamous leg lamp.
Determinator: Despite numerous setbacks, Ralphie does his best to try to earn the money for the damages to the car. It pays off in the end, when the car dealer lets him off the hook for exactly this reason.
Stalker with a Crush: Ralphie has a crush on a girl named Drucilla. One disturbing facet about this is that he also brings up her lavender scented shampoo. Errr...
Stock Sound Effect: Baby Kate Cry: Variant: A group of people were rushing trying to get attention at once, including one of the women with her baby in a basket, which was crying until Ralphie wrapped it as a present.
Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz go through numerous department store jobs after botching their previous one. Eventually they are fired but Ralphie does manage to regain his for a bit after begging for it.
Work Off the Debt: The main conflict of the movie. Ralphie accidentally damages a car while messing around in it and trying to rise the money to get it repaired.