28.7k readers

Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of ‘A Christmas Story’

Updated November 22, 2019 28.7k views14 items

Christmas traditions run the gamut for many families, but in America, one thing's for sure: At least one TV in the house has to have TNT's 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon playing.   

The behind the scenes of A Christmas Story are just as entertaining as the delightful and highly quotable film itself. From Flick's infamous tongue-on-the-flagpole scene to Ralphie's silly fantasy sequences about getting the Red Ryder BB Gun, here are some of the most interesting stories from the making of A Christmas Story. 

  • The Stories That Inspired The Movie Were First Published As Essays In ‘Playboy’

    Photo: MGM

    Writer Jean Shepherd, who also narrated the film, was already a prolific writer before he wrote A Christmas Story. He had columns in The Village Voice, Mad Magazine, and even Playboy. The stories that inspired Shepherd to write the film came straight from some of the essays published in the adult entertainment magazine, which were later collected into a bookIn God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash. Scott Schwartz, who played Flick, recalled Shepherd and the movie's origins fondly in an interview with NPR:

    He improvised a great many of his stories on the air, on WOR [New York City], but he also was published in Playboy magazine... One of the many delicious ironies about this movie is the fact that the stories on which it was based were first published in Playboy.

  • Director Bob Clark And Narrator/Writer Shepherd Have Cameos In The Film

    Photo: MGM

    Director Bob Clark makes a brief but memorable cameo in A Christmas Story. After the Old Man has set up all the Christmas lights and is admiring his work (along with his fancy new leg lamp), his neighbor comes out to admire the view. Swede, AKA Clark, is a bit of a doofus, but a lovable one. 

    Writer/narrator Shepherd makes a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance as well. When Ralphie is impatiently making his way through the store to meet Santa, Shepherd yells at him for cutting the line.

  • Flick’s Tongue Wasn’t Really Stuck To A Flagpole

    Photo: MGM

    One of the many beloved scenes in A Christmas Story is when Flick (Scott Schwartz) agrees to lick a freezing cold pole on a dare. Naturally, his tongue becomes stuck to the pole, and his struggle to pull it looks nothing short of painful. Schwartz revealed the trick behind making the scene, as he wasn't actually sticking his tongue to a cold piece of metal; it was a suction trick:

    It was a plastic pole. It wasn't real. And they put a little hole in it about the size of your pinky nail, and there was a suction tube with a motor that was in the snow [covered up] so you couldn't hear it, and just like a vacuum cleaner, if you put your hand on the vacuum cleaner, it's just phhhht, and you get stuck... It took us about 11½ hours to shoot that.

    And unfortunately, they had to do it more than once:

    And if that wasn't bad enough, we actually had to shoot it twice. The first time we did it, the film came out dark. They developed it dark, and they nicely came to me and said, "Listen, we have good news and bad news. The good news is you're going to be with us a few more days. The bad news is we've got to go out there and do it all over again."

  • Screenwriter/Narrator Shepherd Hated The Idea That His Stories Were ‘Nostalgic’

    Photo: MGM

    Many fans of the film love it for its seemingly nostalgic look at American life at the turn of the consumerist boom in the late 1930s and 1940s. Writer Shepherd, however, doesn't enjoy this outlook on his story. In fact, he relates nostalgia to a "sickness." The New York Post quoted the late writer as saying:

    I think nostalgia is one of the great sicknesses of America. What my work says is: If you think it’s bad now, you should have seen it then. You’ll notice that nothing works out for the kid. He gets hit with the [BB], the furnace blows up, the dogs go wild, and the family winds up having to go to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas.