The 24-hour marathon of the beloved classic A Christmas Story has become a staple of the holiday season. After watching the movie a few times, however, viewers may begin to notice historical mistakes in A Christmas Story they may have missed before. Remembered fondly for a leg lamp, a tongue frozen to a flag pole, and many classic Christmas Story quotes, the story of young Raphie Parker and his family is a tradition for many. And while the movie nails a lot of authentic details of its time period, the filmmakers did manage to get a few things wrong.
The film was based on several short stories by Jean Shepherd that were fictional accounts of his time as a boy growing up in Indiana. Although the film's era is never specifically mentioned, it's believed the movie takes place in 1939 or 1940 due to the fact no one mentions WWII, and characters from 1939's The Wizard of Oz, which has nothing to do with Christmas, are prominently included. A Christmas Story's period-accurate details include displays for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (which premiered in 1937) and radio shows such as Little Orphan Annie (which really was sponsored by Ovaltine). Real-life department stores like Higbee's were all the rage, as the movie depicts, and people often gathered there to view the lavish holiday window displays and meet Santa.
Of course, the most important and endearing aspects of the film revolve around nostalgia and family, so a few historical errors are more than forgivable. But when you're watching it for the 10th time this holiday season, you might want to keep an eye out for the occasional details that are historically out of place.
Scut Farkus's Davy Crockett Hat Wasn't Popular Until The '50s
Davy Crockett's famous coonskin cap makes several appearances in the movie. It's first worn by Ralphie's father during a fantasy sequence in which Ralphie saves his frontier-era family from bad guys with his Red Ryder gun; its second appearance is atop the head of bully Scut Farkus. For a movie made in the 1980s, the hat symbolized boyhood from a bygone era and seemed an apt costuming detail. In 1940, however, someone wearing a faux raccoon pelt on their head would have been unusual.
Davy Crockett was a real frontiersman and folk hero who lived during the late 1700s and early 1800s, but his famous hat - made out of a raccoon with an intact tail - didn't enter pop culture until the mid-1950s. Walt Disney was behind the trend thanks to a five-part television series about Crockett, which gave hundreds of young boys a sudden desire to dress like the hero. The hat mania continued into 1955 as Disney assembled the series into a feature movie called Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. The hats were so popular, the National Museum of American History claimed people purchased around 5,000 hats a day during the 1950s.
The Parkers Listen To Bing Crosby’s ‘Merry Christmas,’ Which Was Released In 1945
On Christmas morning, the Parkers gather around their glittering tree to exchange presents while Bing Crosby softly croons Christmas music in the background. It's a classic and warm holiday scene - but not quite historically accurate, as Crosby didn't release the album in question until 1945.
Merry Christmas compiled several of Crosby's holiday-themed hits into a single record, including "White Christmas," one of the most beloved songs ever recorded. The song was first broadcast to the public on Christmas Eve in 1941, just after the events of the movie presumptively occurred. After selling more than 15 million copies, Crosby's Merry Christmas remains the second-best selling Christmas album in history. A large part of its popularity comes from its inclusion of "White Christmas," which has kept its place as the best-selling single of all time despite the fact that people generally only listen to it one month out of the year.
Segregation Was Still Very Much A Part Of Public Schools During The Story's Time Period
Throughout the movie, Ralphie's classmates prove to be a rambunctious bunch, annoying the teacher with novelty teeth and daring one another to lick frozen flag poles. The class includes a few African American children, and while this is commonplace today (and in 1983, when the movie was released), real-life classrooms from the film's time period would have looked much different because of segregation. Despite three post-Civil War amendments to the Constitution establishing rights for African Americans, the Supreme Court continued to pass laws limiting these freedoms.
In 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson declared segregation constitutional and allowed the creation of "separate but equal" establishments. This ruling not only applied to schools, but also public transportation, churches, and even cemeteries. While laws supporting segregation came to be known as Jim Crow laws in Southern states, racial inequality was not limited to the South alone. Even Ralphie's state of Indiana would have been affected.
A few court cases initiated by the NAACP in the 1930s and 1940s challenged segregation in schools, but it wasn't until Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that the Supreme Court finally ruled school segregation unconstitutional. Subsequent court cases and protests led to the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act, which put a legal end to segregation.
Mrs. Parker's Permed Hairdo Is From The 1980s
As a loving mother to two young boys and wife to a man whose idea of good taste includes fishnet-clad leg lamps, Mrs. Parker spends much of the film just as frazzled as her hair. In the late 1930s or early 1940s, however, her hair style would have looked entirely out of place. A period appropriate woman's hair style would have not featured bangs, and would have been carefully styled with every hair in place.
Although curls were in, they were not the tight curls Mrs. Parker wears. They were rolled curls that were soft and sleek like those worn by Ralphie's teacher, Miss Shields. Most women at the time also wore their hair short and pinned back away from the face. Mrs. Parker's look is more appropriate for the 1980s, when the movie was made, as big hair was in and kinky permanent waves were all the rage.