Welcome to today’s show, A Christmas Story (1983), my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. You can also go to snarkymoviereviews.com to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts. Remember this show is completely free and independent. All I ask is that you jump over to iTunes and give me a review.
Today’s movie is A Christmas Story (1983). It is a family friendly traditional holiday tale.
Melinda Dillon played the role of loving Mother Parker. Melinda was born in Hope, Arkansas in 1939. Melinda was working in improv when she made her film debut in The April Fool (1969). Her next role came seven years later with Bound for Glory (1976). Melinda is perhaps best known for the mother of a kidnapped son in Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Other roles include Absence of Malice (1981), A Christmas Story (1983), Harry and the Hendersons (1987), The Prince of Tides (1991), and Magnolia (1999).
Darren McGavin played the dad – The Old Man Parker. McGavin was born in 1922 in Washington. He trained at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio and debuted had an uncredited film role in A Song to Remember (1945). Some of his earlier roles include a drug pusher in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Capt. Russ Peters in The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), both directed by Otto Preminger. He also played the role of Mickey Spillane’s hard-boiled private eye in Mike Hammer (1958).
McGavin continued to make movies and star on television until he got the role of reporter Carl Kolchak in telemovie The Night Stalker (1972). This was followed by The Night Strangler (1973). This lead to the great, but short-lived TV series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” 1974 which also starred Simon Oakland as McGavin’s editor.
Other movies include A Christmas Story (1983), The Natural (1984) where he put in an amazing performance, Turk 182! (1985), Raw Deal (1986), and Dead Heat (1988).
He continued to act on stage and 1990 he played Candice Bergen’s father on “Murphy Brown” 1989 – 1992. He continued to make movies through the 1990s. McGavin died in 2006 at the age of 83.
Peter Billingsley played the role of Ralphie. Peter was a child actor, mostly in commercials. He received the role in A Christmas Story (1983). Since that time, he has worked behind the scene in Hollywood.
This movie is really schmaltz and I really like it. Even though it on 24-hours a day in December, I really like it. The movie is set at an undetermined date after World War II in the small town of Hohman, Indiana. The main character is Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), a nine-year-old boy. The story is narrated as his older self (Jean Shepherd) telling the story of the week before Christmas. Ralphie, his little brother, and some other friends have their face pressed to the Christmas display at a department store. The only item Ralphie is interested in is 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” (a sundial).
Ralphie knows he can’t ask for the bb gun directly or he will get the dreaded “NO.” He adds advertisements into his parent’s magazines. One morning at breakfast his mother (Melinda Dillon), asks about Christmas and he blurts out that he really wants the bb-gun. She replies with the oft-quoted line “you’ll shoot your eye out.”
Ralphie has a fantasy session about defending his family from bandits armed with his trusty bb-gun. The sequence is ended with the sounds of this father (Darren McGavin) doing battle with home furnace complete with inaudible cussing.
Ralphie and his friends live a Nordic existence. Ralphie meets his two friends, Flick (Scott Schwartz) and Schwartz (R.D. Robb). Tagging along behind is his little brother stuffed into a snowsuit. Flick ad Schwartz argues about what would happen if you stuck your tongue to a freezing flagpole. Schwartz triple-dog-dares Flick and Flick sticks his tongue to the pole trapping himself. The other boys run to class when the bell rings leaving Flick behind.
In the classroom, the teacher asks about Flick. When she sees, what has happened, she calls the police and the fire department to free the boy. After Flick comes to class with a bandage on his tongue, the teacher chews the class out. She then assigns them an essay on “what they want for Christmas.” Ralphie knows that if he writes a good enough essay he will be sure to get the bb-gun.
Every day after school, Ralphie and company are bullied by Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) and his toady Grover Dill. Scut has yellow eyes.
Ralphie finishes his essay and watches his father walk across the yard as he is accosted by a pack of neighborhood dogs belonging to the Bumpuses. Apparently, they own a herd of bloodhounds that are Ralphie’s father bain of existence. The father’s mood is brightened when he receives a telegram saying he has won a “major prize” from the local paper and it will be arriving that night.
Mother and brother are having fun at dinner as the small boy pretends to eat like a pig. A delivery driver arrives with a large box labeled ‘fragile” to which the father says Aaah! “Fra-GEE-leh!” It must be Italian! When the box is opened inside is a lamp designed in the shape of a woman’s leg, complete with stocking, high heel shoe, and a skirt for a shade. Father is so happy he puts it in the front window but mother seems to have some issues. The two boys are drawn away from all this when Little Orphan Annie comes on the radio.
At school the next day, Ralphie turns in his BB gun essay. He daydreams about the teacher saying it is the best essay she has ever seen. They have another bullying session after school. When Ralphie gets home he finds out his much-desired Little Orphan Annie Secret Society secret message decoder pin has arrived. Ralphie records the coded message at the end of the Little Orphan Annie show. He locks himself in the bathroom and carefully decodes it. Much to his chagrin, it is a commercial message – drink Ovaltine.
That night the furnace acts up and father heads down passing mother with a watering bucket. Shortly thereafter a large crash is heard in the living room. The father rushes up and sees his beloved lamp in pieces. She says it was an accident, to which the father replies, she was jealous of the lamp, to which the mother replies it was the ugliest lamp she’s ever seen. Father attempts to fix the lamp but when he can’t he buries it in the backyard.
The next day at school, the kids are all giving the teacher small presents. Ralphie unloads a large fruit basket hoping to gain favor on his paper. That night the family goes to pick a Christmas tree. The father fancies himself as a great haggler, but not so much. They have a flat on the way home and Ralphie is holding a hubcap full of lug nuts for his father. When the hubcap is knocked out of his hands, Ralphie drops an F-bomb. He has heard his father say this every day of his life.
Back at the house, his mother washes his mouth out with soap and demands to know where he heard that word. Not able to rat out his father, he says Schwartz. The mother calls Mrs. Schwartz and tells the story. You can hear little Schwartz being beaten over the phone as he screams “what did I do, what did I do.”
Ralphie is sent to bed early and he has a fantasy about his parents feeling sorry because having his mouth washed out with soap caused him to go blind. The next day at school, his essay is returned. He gets a C+ and a not that says “you’ll shoot your eye out.” Ralphie has another daydream that the teacher is a witch and that his mother has gotten to her about the BB gun.
Walking home that afternoon, Ralphie is in despair thinking he will never get the coveted BB gun. Just then he is hit in the face with a snowball. Taking his glasses off to whip his face he sees Scut and the toady laughing at him. Filled with rage and disappointment Ralphie can’t take Scut’s mocking. He jumps on the bully and pummels him on the ground as a list of curse words flow. Ralphie’s mother finally pulls him off leaving Scut with a bloody nose.
Back at home, the mother tries to calm Ralphie down as his little brother cries that “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie.” When his father comes home that night his mother covers for him and they put the “Scut Farkus Affair” behind them. Ralphie decides the only way to get the BB gun is to appeal directly to Santa Claus.
The next night, Christmas Eve, the family goes to the Christmas parade and then to a mall to see Santa. Did they have malls back then? Anyway, Santa is at the top of a snowy mountain. After the kids talk to Santa, they ride a slide back to the bottom. The line is extremely long. When Ralphie finally makes it to the big guy, he freezes. The overworked Santa and elves try to force Ralphie to decide. In a panic, he finally asks for football. Ralphie is sent down the slide by an angry elf but pulls himself back up and tells Santa about the BB gun. Santa says “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid” before putting his boot on his head and pushing him down the slide.
Christmas morning the two brothers come downstairs and the younger brother starts claiming all of the presents. The boys go into a frenzy ripping packages open. Ralphie has an aunt that thinks he is a four-year-old girl and he is forced to wear a bunny suit that she sent. His father says he looks like a deranged Easter bunny.
Later, the little brother is passed out on the floor and Ralphie is on the couch with his parents. His father asks him if he got everything he wanted. Ralphie says almost. Then the father points out one more present behind the desk. The present is, of course, the BB gun. Ralphie goes outside to try the gun on a metal target while the father picks at the turkey.
When Ralphie shoots at the metal target. The BB bounces back uep hitting him below his eye knocking off his glasses. Ralphie thinks he has shot his eye out. Then he steps on the glasses. He starts crying and pretends an icicle fell on him. His mother believes him and gives him an old pair of glasses.
During the confusion, the Bumpuses’ bloodhounds bust into the house and eat the turkey. After the father chases the dogs out, the family goes out eat. The only place open is a Chinese restaurant. The waiters try to sing Christmas carols as a roast duck, complete with the head, is presented for dinner. When the father asks about the head, the owner (John Wong) loops the head off and the family has a fine meal.
Ralphie takes his new BB gun to bed and he thinks it’s the best Christmas ever.
World-Famous Short Summary – Be careful with fragile stuff
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Beware the moors