A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Christmas comedy 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. The film has since become a holiday classic and is shown numerous times on television during the Christmas season on the network TBS, often in a 24-hour marathon.
The film is set in Hohman, Indiana, a fictionalized version of Shepherd's hometown of Hammond, Indiana. Nine-year-old Ralph "Ralphie" Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants only one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock, and "this thing which tells time" (a sundial). While using various schemes to convince his parents to get him this gift he continually bumps into objections from others saying, "You'll shoot your eye out."
In each of the film's three acts Ralphie makes his case to another adult and each time receives the same reply. When Ralphie asks his mother for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, she refuses. Next, when Ralphie writes an essay about wanting the BB gun for Miss Shields (Tedde Moore), his teacher at Warren G. Harding Elementary School, Ralphie gets a C+, and Miss Shields warns him of shooting his eye out. Later, Ralphie asks a local department store's Santa Claus (Jeff Gillen) for a Red Ryder BB gun, and Santa tells him the same thing before pushing Ralphie down a long exit slide with his boot.
One day after he gets the C+ on his composition, Ralphie is hit in the face with a snowball thrown at him by the local bully, Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) and his sidekick Grover Dill (Yano Anaya). Ralphie begins to cry and Farkus teases and taunts him until he snaps. Ralphie charges Farkus and begins to pummel him. During the fight, Ralphie shouts profanity non-stop as he lands blow after blow to the squealing Farkus. When Grover attempts to intervene, Ralphie pushes him away and continues beating Farkus at will. Ralphie's brother, Randy (Ian Petrella), gets their mother (Melinda Dillon), who pulls her son off the bully, and takes him home. This incident occurs shortly after Ralphie was punished for cursing while helping his father change a flat tire. Ralphie is worried about the cursing and is sure he will again be punished when his father gets home from work. Instead, Ralphie's mother tells his father about the fight casually at the dinner table. She then changes the subject of the conversation to an upcoming Chicago Bears game, distracting his father and getting Ralphie off the hook in the process.
On Christmas morning, Ralphie looks frantically for a box that would hold the BB gun to no avail. He and Randy have received a number of presents, but he is disappointed because he did not get the gun. As he accepts this fact and sits with his parents, his father points out one last half-hidden present, ostensibly from Santa. As the joyful Ralphie unwraps the BB gun, Mr. Parker explains the purchase to his surprised wife, stating that he had one himself when he was 8 years old.
Ralphie goes out to test his new gun, shooting at a paper target perched on top of a metal sign, and predictably gets a ricochet from the metal sign. This ricochet ends up hitting his cheek and glasses, sending them flying and knocking out a lens. While searching for the glasses, Ralphie inadvertently steps on and crushes the other side. He concocts a story about an icicle falling on him and breaking his glasses, which his mother believes, thanks in part to Ralphie's realistic sobbing. She takes him upstairs to dry his face and forgets to close the door. This allows a horde of the Bumpuses' (the Parkers' hillbilly neighbors) dogs, who frequently torment Ralphie's father, to enter the house and devour the Christmas turkey that is cooling on the kitchen table. Making a last-minute decision, Mr. Parker takes the family out to a Chinese restaurant where they have a hilarious time dining on duck which adult Ralphie calls "Chinese turkey".
The film ends with Ralphie lying in bed on Christmas night with his gun by his side. Randy is holding the toy zeppelin he received. The voiceover states that this was the best present he had ever received or would ever receive.
Several subplots are incorporated into the body of the film, based on other separate short stories by Shepherd. The most notable involves the Old Man's (Darren McGavin) (Ralphie's father's) entering a sweepstakes, and winning a "major award." A large crate marked "FRAGILE" (breakable) arrives, and the Old Man remarks, "Fra-JILL-ie! Must be Italian!" Inside is a lamp shaped like a woman's leg wearing a fishnet stocking. Mrs. Parker does not see its charm and the "battle of the lamp" escalates until she breaks the lamp, infuriating the Old Man. The leg is the logo of the contest's sponsor, the Nehi Bottling Company, but the details of the contest were not made clear in the film.
Other vignettes include:
- Ralphie's father, is almost constantly complaining or cursing about something, be it his car or the family's home furnace. The father's cursing episodes are depicted using nonsensical gibberish.
- Ralphie's friends Flick (Scott Schwartz) and Schwartz (R.D. Robb) disputing over whether a person's tongue will stick to a frozen flagpole. Schwartz ultimately issues Flick a"triple dog dare" and Flick's tongue gets stuck to the pole. A suction tube within the flagpole was used to simulate the freezing of Flick's tongue to the pole.
- Ralphie receiving his Secret Society decoder pin from the Little Orphan Annie radio show after weeks of anxious waiting. However, he learns a lesson in advertising, as the secret message proves to be a promotional message from one of the radio program's sponsors, Ovaltine. "A crummy COMMERCIAL!" he gripes.
- Ralphie and his friends dealing with the neighborhood bully, Scut Farkus and his toadie, Grover Dill.
- While helping his father change a flat tire, Ralphie letting slip the dreaded "Queen Mother of Dirty Words," the "F-dash-dash-dash" word (toned down to the word "fudge" onscreen.) Later, when asked where he'd heard the bad word, Ralphie falsely blames Schwartz. Ralphie's mother calls and reports this falsehood to Schwartz' mother, who proceeds to immediately spank Schwartz vigorously while still on the phone.
- The numerous smelly and bothersome bloodhounds of the Parkers' hillbilly neighbors, the Bumpuses, including the dogs destroying the Christmas turkey, prompting the family to go out and have Peking duck instead.
- Several fantasy sequences depict Ralphie's daydreams of glory and vindication, including the vanquishing of a small army of villains (dressed in stereotypical burglar costumes of flat caps, black masks, and striped shirts) with his Red Ryder BB gun and obtaining his parents' gratitude, receiving an extremely good grade for his written theme about the BB gun, and parental remorse over a case of "soap poisoning."
- Randy's refusal to eat a meal on his own brings hilarity between him and his mother at the dinner table.
- At the Chinese restaurant, the employees sing "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells" with a stereotyped Asian accent where the English /l/ is articulated incorrectly ("Deck the hars with bawrs of hawry").
- Ralphie's "Aunt Clara" gives him pink bunny pajamas on Christmas morning, much to his annoyance and discomfort. He then claims his Aunt Clara repeatedly believes that he is 4 years old, and a girl besides. His mother is the only one impressed with Aunt Clara's weird gift, but his father calls the outfit "a deranged Easter Bunny" and allows Ralphie to take it off.
- A deleted scene featured Ralphie on the Planet Mongo saving Flash Gordon from Ming the Merciless with his BB Gun.
List of Classic Cars
- 1948 Chevy Fleetmaster
- 1936 Chevy Master
- 1934 Chevy Master De Luxe
- 1948 Chevy Stylemaster
- 1936 Chrysler Airflow Imperial
- 1938 Ford
- 1940 Ford V8 De Luxe
- 1937 Hudson Terraplane
- 1937 Oldsmobile Six
- 1938 Pontiac De Luxe