A Christmas Story
At the time, most critics credited A Christmas Story's success to Jean Shepherd, who wrote the memoir on which it was based, along with providing the film's narration and playing an angry department story customer. But Bob Clark deserves credit for the offbeat casting of Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin as Shepherd's parents. Both were better known for more dramatic work - Dillon as an Oscar® nominated supporting actress in Absence of Malice (1981) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and McGavin as star of the TV horror series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.
Clark also assembled a wonderful cast of children, chief among them Peter Billingsley as Ralphie, the boy whose greatest dream was to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Billingsley had first drawn notice as Messy Marvin in a series of commercials for Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, then starred in the horror film Death Valley (1982). But it's A Christmas Story for which he will always be remembered.
Whoever gets the credit, A Christmas Story was a surprise hit, grossing $18 million in the U.S. on a budget of only $4 million. It also brought Clark Genie Awards (the Canadian version of the Oscar) for Best Director and Best Screenplay.
Billingsley has continued acting into his adult years, starring in the 1995 comedy series Sherman Oaks, but does most of his work today writing and directing music videos. Another of the film's children has also gone on to fame of a very different kind. Scott Schwartz, who played Flick after co-starring with Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason in The Toy (1982), has carved out a niche of his own - as an actor in adult videos.
Director: Bob Clark
Producer: Bob Clark, Rene Dupont, Gary Goch
Screenplay: Leigh Brown, Bob Clark, Jean Shephard (also novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash)
Cinematography: Reginald H. Morris
Editor: Stan Cole
Music: Paul Zaza, Carl Zittrer
Cast: Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker), Darren McGavin (Mr. Parker), Peter Billingsley (Ralph "Ralphie" Parker), Ian Petrella (Randy Parker), Scott Schwartz (Flick)
C-94m. Letterboxed. Close captioning.
by Frank Miller