24 'A Christmas Story' Facts to Kick Off 24 Hours of 'A Christmas Story'

The holiday classic film celebrates its 30th anniversary this Christmas.

Jeff Gillen plays Santa Claus and Peter Billingsly plays Ralphie in "A Christmas Story."
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It's been 30 years since Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) started asking for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but viewers aren't sick of watching him yet. "A Christmas Story" opened in theaters in November 1983 to modest box office success, but it was the film's TV run – particularly the 24 hour marathon, now in its 17th year – that cemented the nostalgic, Americana-embracing family holiday comedy as a Christmas classic. TBS will kick off its 10th annual "24 Hours of a Christmas Story" Tuesday at 8 p.m. Here are 24 facts you may not know about the film:

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1. The film's many vignettes are based on the anecdotes of Jean Shepherd, a radio personality who hosted all-night monologues on WOR, based out of Manhattan.

2. Shepherd collected his stories in writing first published in Playboy and then in the 1966 book "In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash."

 

3. Shepherd was hesitant to have his stories made into a film, and only agreed once director Bob Clark signed on, after seeing Clark's film "Black Christmas."

4. Clark decided he wanted to make a movie out of Shepherd's stories when he heard them on the radio on the way to a date in the late 1960s. "My date was not happy," he said, as he didn't get out of the car until the broadcast was over, so enamored he was with Shepherd's tales.

5. Getting the studio to sign on to the movie took some 10 years, and only after Clark could leverage the massive success of his 1982 film "Porky's."

6. Jack Nicholson was considered for the role of Ralphie's father, known as "The Old Man," but it as ultimately given to Darren McGavin.

7. While set in a small town in Indiana, "A Christmas Story" split its filming between Cleveland and Toronto.

8. There is some confusion as to what year it is set, as a calendar seen in the film says it's 1939, but the decoder pen Ralphie receives from the Little Orphan Annie radio show is the 1940 model.

9. Shepherd narrates the film, and makes a cameo with his wife in the department store Santa scene.

10. Clark makes a cameo too, as the neighbor who gawks at the leg lamp with Ralphie's father in the street.

11. Speaking of the leg lamp, the merchandising firm associated with the "A Christmas Story" museum (more on that later) markets 10,000 variations of the leg lamp each year.

12. Ralphie asks for the Red Ryder BB Gun 28 times in the film.

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13. The BB gun used in the film had to be remodeled to be a leftie for Billingsley, a south paw.

14. For the infamous scene where Ralphie's friend Flick (Scott Schwartz ), gets his tongue stuck on the frozen flag pole, a hole was drilled in the pole with a suction vacuum to create the effect.

 

15. Ralphie's father was supposed to curse some 35 times in the film, but Higbee's, the retailer that had agreed to let "A Christmas Story" film its department store scenes in it, requested the profanities be taken out to preserve Higbee's family image. The nonsensical grumbling heard from The Old Men in lieu of actual curse words was actually scripted word for word.

16. "A Christmas Story" opened Nov. 18, 1983, and played on about 900 screens, making about $20 million (about $48 million in today's dollars). Some theater owners removed it from their screens before Christmas even came around, saying the film had been "played out."

17. HBO premiered "A Christmas Story" in 1985, and it was played on a number of other stations during the holiday season until TNT started the 24 hour marathon tradition 17 years ago. It moved to TBS in 2004.

18. The house featured in "A Christmas Story" was bought on eBay for $150,000 by Brian Jones, a fan on the film, who turned it into a museum to the movie that opened in 2006. 19. Billingsley continued his acting career and also found his way behind the camera, directing "Couples Retreat" and producing "Four Christmases," among other films. (He's a friend and producing partner of Vince Vauhgn's).

20. It is credited for inspiring "The Wonder Years" with its child-like, yet nostalgic point of view.