SOMETIMES CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT GETTING WHAT YOU REALLY WANT.
In the 1940s, nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but every adult in his life tells him “you’ll shoot your eye out”. It didn’t get much attention from critics at its premiere, but this one has become a Yuletide classic in the U.S. and Canada over the years. A nostalgic look back to author Jean Shepherd’s own experiences as a child, the film is episodic and uneven but very amusing and has offbeat, charming observations from Ralphie’s perspective of his family, friends and, yes, Santa. Various subplots offer all kinds of ideas and entertainment, but the film finds the right tone. Billingsley is perfect as little Ralphie.
1983-U.S. 93 min. Color. Produced by Bob Clark, René Dupont. Directed by Bob Clark. Screenplay: Bob Clark, Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown. Novel: Jean Shepherd (“In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash”). Cast: Peter Billingsley (Ralphie Parker), Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker), Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker), Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, Tedde Moore. Narrated by Jean Shepherd.
Trivia: Shepherd narrates the film as the adult version of Ralphie. Later a stage musical. Followed by It Runs in My Family (1994) and a direct-to-DVD movie, A Christmas Story 2 (2012).
Last word: “This was a real little grinder kind of indie [film]. It took [Bob] 12 years to get the movie made. Nobody wanted to fund it, this period movie about a BB gun. Nobody cared about it. […] It was really cold. And the child labor laws back then, if you didn’t live in California, you didn’t have reciprocity with the state’s laws, and I think Ohio and Canada were very lax. So you worked a lot of hours.” (Billingsley, Buzzfeed)