A Christmas Story, now a cherished American holiday classic, first premiered in November of 1983. The story is based on Jean Shepherd’s novel, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, set in the fictional town of Hohman, Indiana during the 1930s. At the center of the novel is a 9-year-old boy that desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun (specifically, one with a sundial and compass in the stock) for Christmas. The screenplay by Bob Clark, who was also the director, and Leigh Brown, and Jean Shepherd introduced us to such colorful and memorable characters like Ralphie Parker, Flick, Schwartz, The Old Man (Mr. Parker), Scut Farkus, Grover Dill, and the curmudgeonly mall Santa. The film also featured nostalgic items like the Red Ryder BB Gun, Ovaltine, and the secret decoder pin.
Of course, A Christmas Story is best-known for one of the most iconic, not to mention bizarre, film props of all time — the kitschy leg lamp: a golden lamp shade with black fringe and the base of a woman’s leg wearing a black fishnet stocking and black high-heel shoe. The prop was designed by Reuben Freed, the film’s production designer, based on Shepherd’s description in the short story, “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art.” The inspiration for the leg lamp came to Shepherd after seeing an illuminated Nehi soda ad, from the 1920s, that featured a glass bottle (similar to the shape of a Coke bottle) of fruit-flavored soda next to two shapely legs (shown from the feet, that wore black high-heel shoes, to just above the knees) –an obvious visual pun on the name Nehi (“knee-high”).
In honor of the film’s 30th anniversary, Bookshelf presents some of the funniest and most memorable quotes from A Christmas Story:
I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!
Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.
Oh my god, I shot my eye out!
I have since heard of people under extreme duress speaking in strange tongues. I became conscious that a steady torrent of obscenities and swearing of all kinds was pouring out of me as I screamed.
Oooh fudge! Only I didn’t say “fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!
It was all over — I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child’s play compared to what surely awaited me.
He plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice.
Some men are Baptists, others Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man.
In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.
I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master. But I chickened out and said the first name that came to mind.
Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. Though my personal preference was for Lux, I found that Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor – heavy, but with a touch of mellow smoothness. Life Buoy, on the other hand… Yech!
The heavenly aroma still hung in the house. But it was gone! All gone! No turkey! No turkey sandwiches! No turkey salad! No turkey gravy! Turkey hash! Turkey a la king! Or gallons of turkey soup! Gone! All gone!
Adults loved to say things like that but kids knew better. We knew darn well it was always better not to get caught.
With as much dignity as he could muster, the Old Man gathered up the sad remains of his shattered major award. Later that night, alone in the backyard, he buried it next to the garage. Now I could never be sure, but I thought that I heard the sound of “Taps” being played, gently.
Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at it’s zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters decend upon us.
Fra-gee-lay. It must be Italian!
Randy lay there like a slug! It was his only defense!
Scut Farkus! What a rotten name! There he stood, between us and the alley. Scut Farkus staring out at us with his yellow eyes. He had yellow eyes! So, help me, God! Yellow eyes!
Well I “double-dog-dare ya!” Now it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a “triple dare ya”? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare. “I triple-dog-dare ya!” Schwartz created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple dare and going right for the throat!
For further reading: A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic by Caseen Gaines, ECW Press (2013)
A Christmas Story Treasury: A Tribute to the Original, Traditional, One-Hundred-Percent, Red-Blooded, Two-Fisted, All-American Holiday Movie by Tyler Schwartz, Running Press (2013)
A Christmas Story: The Book that Inspired the Hilarious Classic Film by Jean Shepherd, Broadway Books (2003)
In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd, Broadway Books (1991)