My favorite Christmas movie is A CHRISTMAS STORY. It was released in 1983, written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark, and directed by Bob Clark. TBS or TNT (one of those Turner networks with a T) plays it every year for 24 straight hours on Christmas. And every year our family watches it. Never in order anymore. We see a chunk here and a chunk there but we’ve all seen the movie fifty times so it makes no difference.
A CHRISTMAS STORY is a wonderful character driven comedy with heart, big laughs, and is steeped in Americana. Set in a small town in the Midwest in 1939 it was inspired from short anecdotal stories by Jean Shepherd. If you’ve never heard of Jean Shepherd, he (yes Jean was a he) was a master storyteller. Besides books and articles he had a one hour radio show for years on WOR in New York. On the show he would just talk. That’s it. No calls, no guests, no sound bytes, no music, no Robin Quivers. Just Jean. He would open the mic and for an hour, off the top of his head, would tell stories that were absolutely spellbinding. I remember once listening to him describe movers taking a piano out of an apartment and I was enthralled. You can read more about him here.
Jean narrates this movie (a device that THE WONDER YEARS later stole, I mean “adopted”) that follows a goofy bespectacled kid and his family over one holiday season. That’s all I’m going to say. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat.
When first released in 1983 just before Thanksgiving, the movie did tepid business. The reviews were generally good. Roger Ebert said it was “Funny and satirical…a sort of Normon Rockwell crossed with MAD magazine.” But it really didn’t begin to catch on until Ted Turner showed it repeatedly on his Superstation. Now it’s a cult classic, and like I said, airs as a marathon every Christmas.
And I’ll leave you with this fun factoid: Where do you think this heartwarming family Christmas tale first appeared? That’s right, in Playboy Magazine.