On Christmas morning (of what is supposed to be 1939 or 1940), the family is listening to Bing Crosby's "Merry Christmas" album while they open presents. That album was not released until 1945 (and reissued in 1947).
Jean Shepherd said the film is set in 1940 and it is usually agreed that the action takes place in 1939 (The Wizard of Oz characters) or 1940 (there is no reference to Pearl Harbor or WWII). But in Jan. 1940 Ovaltine dropped the "Little Orphan Annie" radio show and switched to "Captain Midnight." In Dec. 1940 Quaker Puffed Wheat was "Annie"'s sponsor. The announcer, Pierre Andre, also left "Annie" in Jan. 1940 because audiences identified him with Ovaltine, and he too went to "Captain Midnight." These facts would only fit the action of a film set in 1939.
With the Christmas tree on the roof of their 1938 Oldsmobile, the moving car gets a flat. While changing the tire, Ralphie goes to help his dad, who implores him to hold the hubcap flat to catch the "nuts." We see them in the hubcap. That car used removable "bolts" like all GM cars into the 1950s. Even Jean Shepherd mentions "bolts" in his running monologue.
A Christmas Story was filmed in in 1983 but was set in the 1940s. Melinda Dillon's hairstyle in the film is factually incorrect. Rather than the rolled or pin curled sculpted and sleek styles of the 40's, Dillon sports a frizzy 1980's perm for the entire film. Even if a woman's hair was naturally curly, she would have pinned it up under a hair net or snood and she would not have worn frizzy bangs or kept her hair in the style Dillon wears throughout the film.
Colored bowling balls were not developed until the 1960s. In addition the ball already has the holes drilled in it. Aside from the fact that the holes are way too small for an adult, the holes are drilled to fit the user so they wouldn't have been in the ball until after his hand span was measured.
When Scut is laughing at Ralphie, there is a close up showing the braces on his teeth. The braces are the type that attach to the front of the tooth with adhesive, which were not invented until many years later. Braces at that time would have been the type with a metal band going around the tooth.
Mrs. Parker mentions to the Old Man that "the Bears are playing Green Bay on Sunday". In 1939 and 1940 (the years it is generally agreed that the events occurred) the Bears and Packers did not play in December (the Packers played at Chicago on 11/5/1939 and 11/3/1940), and the NFL season was over by the second week of December. However in 1941 the Packers played a playoff game at Chicago on 12/14.
When Ralphie steps on his glasses outside in the snow after shooting his Red Ryder BB Gun on Christmas morning, a 3 barrel hinge on the temples are clearly visible. This type of hinge was not available until the 1980s.
The BB gun is wrapped in red embossed, solid color paper with a metallic finish. Wrapping paper of the period was typically non-metallic paper lithographed with repeated designs, such as Santas, sleighs, snowflakes, and the like.
The film is set during the holiday season of 1940; however, when Ralphie strategically sets his magazine with the Red Ryder BB Gun ad inside his mother's magazine, his copy of Boys' Life has a cover date of January 1939, and his mother's copy of Look Magazine has a cover date of December 21, 1937.
In the night scenes showing street lights and also on the big ship docked across the road from the spot where Ralphie and Mr. Parker fix the flat tire, purplish mercury vapor street lights are shown, which had not yet been invented at the time.
At the beginning of the movie Mr. Parker enters reading a newspaper distressed that the White Sox had just traded "Bullfrog". Bill Dietrich the Bullfrog was released from the Chicago White Sox on September 18, 1946. That would place this scene some time in the middle of September - a little too early to be thinking of Christmas lists or for Indiana to be covered in snow. The movie seems to be set in 1939 or 1940 anyway.
When Ralphie blurts out "Schwartz" and his mom calls Mrs. Schwartz, the voice of the kid receiving the spanking on other end of the phone is not R.D. Robb, the Schwartz actor. If you listen closely, it is actually the voice of the Flick actor, whose name is, oddly, Scott Schwartz.
While Dad is opening the leg lamp crate, he says "There could be anything in there!" We then hear Mom talking, saying "Maybe they forgot." Her lips don't match this dialog and it appears she is mouthing "but what IS it?" like she then says a bit later.
Before Ralphie and Randy get in line to visit Santa in Higbee's Department store, The Wizard of Oz characters pass by, and the witch tries to talk to Ralphie, who won't interact with her because he's busy 'thinking'. Watch Randy's face in this scene as he comes out of character for a moment and smiles at a scared little girl, who is off camera. She was afraid of the witch during rehearsal, and never really was able to handle her presence.
After Ralphie gets sent to bed after saying the F word, the narrator stated that Schwartz was getting punished from three blocks away. However, at the beginning of the movie, we learn that Schwartz actually lived two houses down from Ralphie.
The word Christmas is misspelled in Ralphie's school theme title, "What I Want for Chistmas," but was not marked as an error by Miss Shields. There are no errors marked on the paper anywhere to justify his final grade of C+.
Near the beginning of the film, when The Old Man yells up from the basement to open the damper, Mrs. Parker adjusts the top control all the way to the left, and the bottom control all the way to the right, then backs away from the controls. In the very next shot, the positions of the controls are reversed.
At the beginning of the movie there is a set of monkey bars in the back yard next to the shed (it is used when Ralphie is fighting Black Bart's gang). On Christmas morning Ralphie opens the window and looks outside; the camera pans slowly over the back yard and the monkey bars are no longer there.
Before the radio announcer began to read off the numbers to Orphan Annie's secret message, he instructs the listeners to set their pins to "B-2." The first letter in the message would be the letter "B" in the word "BE" so if the pins were on "B-2," then the first number that he reads off should be "2." Instead, the first number he reads off is 12.
When Mrs. Parker is getting Randy ready for school and he complains about not being able to put his arms down, the shots of Randy from the back show him with his gloves off; shots from the front of Randy when Mrs. Parker responds show him with his gloves on. The sequence continues for 5 shots, each alternating gloves on, gloves off.
Randy gets pushed down Santa's slide first. Ralphie soon follows. When he lands at the bottom, Randy is nowhere in sight. But when their parents come by to pick them up, both Randy and Ralphie are sitting in the cotton snow.
After Flick is removed from the flagpole, the teacher then gives the class an assignment to write a theme. While she's saying this, the blackboard behind her says "The brown fox jumped over the lazy dog". Seconds later the blackboard says "A Theme What I Want for Christmas".
When Ralph's mother is dressing Randy up for school, Randy's arms are clearly by his side before he suddenly announces that he can't put his arms down. The camera angle jumps back and forth twice between arms up and arms down before Ralph's mother pushes Randy's arms down, only to have them pop back up.
As Ralphie and Randy are waiting in line to see Santa, there is a woman with a red coat standing behind them. Moments later, as Ralphie and Randy make it to the stairs leading to Santa, the woman in the red coat is suddenly in front of them. There was no time between shots for her to have moved.
As Randy is being greedy with his servings, initially there's a huge slab of meatloaf near his left hand. As the camera cuts to his mom, then back to him, it suddenly disappears. Given its position on the edge of the plate, it's quite possible it fell off the plate during filming.
When the old man is digging around in the crate he first pulls out a leg that clearly has a hole in the top and no socket or harp attached to place a lamp shade on. He then goes back in the crate with that leg and fumbles around and pulls one out with the shade being attached already. And all of the packing material fibers are gone from his sweater.
When Ralphie is decoding Annie's secret message in the bathroom, the text's case on his writing changes from lower case to upper case between shots (watch the "E/e" in "Be"... (Be sure to drink your Ovaltine)).
In the dinner scene ("show mommy how the piggies eat"), Mrs. Parker is first shown facing Randy with her elbows in the middle of the table (where she is seated), then in following shots, she is shot from below with elbows on a bare plywood shelf or table. Then at the end of the scene, she gets up from the middle of the table, which is light blue on top with black trim around the edge.
When the leg lamp crate is brought into the house, Dad can only see the letters "ragile" which he interprets as an Italian word, but he says "fra-gee-lay." Since he doesn't know the word fragile, he couldn't have known to pronounce an F as the first letter.
After opening presents on Christmas morning, Ralphie goes outside while his mother bastes the turkey in a roasting pan at the kitchen table. In the next shot, a canning jar of pickles has appeared beside the roasting pan. In the next shot, the jar of pickles has disappeared from the table and is in her hand as she comes up from the basement and sets it on the table.
When the old man enters the house fighting the Oldsmobile he tosses his hat on the dining room table and it falls to the chair. Later in the scene as Mrs. Parker goes to open the damper for the furnace, as the camera pans, it can be seen on the table.
Just before the teacher announces the Christmas theme for the students to write, the center blackboard reads, "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs." Two seconds later, as soon as she mentions the title of the theme for the children to write, the center blackboard magically reads, "Christmas Theme: What I Want for Christmas," and there is no sign of the previous sentence.
When Mrs. Parker first breaks the lamp it is in her lap in three pieces. The camera goes to the Old Man then back to Mrs. and the lamp is in one piece but broken vertically. This is reinforced when he tries to put back together the lamp in the window.
When we see the Chinese restaurant from the street, the headwaiter is standing in front of the table conducting the singing waiters. When we move into the restaurant the song (Faa-Raa-Raa-Raa) has not missed a beat, yet the headwaiter is now standing behind the table.
As the workers are bringing the crate into the house the is a rope tied around the crate. Once they get it into the house the rope is no longer there. The exterior shot was done in Cleveland and showed a rope, while the interior shot was done in a Toronto studio weeks later.
During the first battle of the furnace, both levers are to the right when Dad yells to open the damper. Mom goes over touches the damper (lower) lever, but then instead moves draft (upper) lever all the way to the left. She then back away. When the view takes in the levers again, the damper (lower) lever is to the left and the draft (upper) lever is to the right.
In the first scene that has Ralphie's father going down to the basement to do battle with the furnace, you can see a crew member's foot quickly disappear from the shot in the next room just as the father crosses the kitchen and is about to open the basement door.
When Black Bart is escaping from Ralphie's backyard, you can see a crew member's head skimming the top of the fence as they are leading the horse from left to right then again from right to left as they leave the horse for Black Bart.
When Black Bart is escaping from Ralphie's backyard, the trampoline that he uses to jump over the fence is clearly visible (it was not there in the previous backyard shots, so it's not part of the "furniture"). This is only visible in the Full Frame version; it gets cropped out of the original Wide Screen movie and the Wide Screen DVD version.
When Ralphie comes up to the house in the "blind because of soap poisoning" dream sequence, a crew member can be seen reflected in his sunglasses. Additionally, one of the stage lights is reflected in his glasses later on in the sequence.
On the front of the radio in the living room is a red light in the dial. The light is supposed to be green because it is not actually a light. It is the top of one of the vacuum tubes that sits on its side. It's called a magic eye tube, and is not a full circle until a station is tuned in. This would also be a product of the movie being filmed in Canada as radios with magic eye tubes were very common in Canada but not in the US.
According to the Daisy Air Rifle manufacturers on the Special Edition DVD documentary on the history of the Red Ryder BB Gun, the gun did exist except for one error in the story: The gun did not have a compass and sundial as mentioned in the movie. According to the historians, writer Jean Shepherd confused the Red Ryder gun with another rifle that did have those features. But because the story and screen play were scripted to have the compass and sundial, guns had to be specially made for the movie.
In the two scenes when Ralphie is checking the mail in the mailbox, the mailbox's red flag is in the "up" position, indicating there is mail to be picked up. It is assumed Ralphie is checking the mailbox after mail has been delivered, in which case a postal carrier would move the flag to the "down" position after placing mail in the mailbox.
When the radio announcer recites the code to decipher, he says the number 12 at least twice. We know that 12 is the letter "B" since it is the first number given. But there is only one "B" in the decoded phrase "be sure to drink your Ovaltine".
After the Little Orphan Annie program, the radio announcer instructs listeners to set their decoder pins to B-2, and then begins the coded message with the number 12. Since the first letter in the decoded message is B, the first number should have been 2, not 12.
The Old Man thanks Mrs. Parker on Christmas morning for a blue bowling ball, yet was unable to distinguish blue Christmas lights the previous evening. This was probably just the Old Man's stubborn refusal to admit that he was mistaken, rather than color-blindness.
As Ralphie dreams of his new BB gun, a few bars of the theme from High Noon are heard. Although Ralphie could not have heard this song in his childhood, it could be his adult self projecting the song backward, or simply an in-joke for the viewers which Ralphie isn't really hearing.
The Lifebuoy "soap" in Ralphie's mouth can appear plastic due to a seam. Soap can be molded the same way plastic is, between two halves and leaving a seam. Without a reference to an actual bar of Lifebouy, then it can be likely a real bar looked this way. Also the filmmakers probably food-dyed a block of wax for the actors, which is easier than making a piece of plastic.
When the children are taking their seats after they were handed the fake teeth, Schwartz appears to look at the camera and smile. He in fact looks just off screen-right, then at Ralphie, smiles, and looks off screen-left.
When Ralphie defends the home against Black Bart, he shoots three times, hitting three thugs. Yet when the scene ends, there are four dead thugs with x's on their eyes. This may be a flourish to heighten the absurdity of Ralphie's hyperactive imagination.
After his BB gun mishap, Ralphie comes back into the house through the back door. In the next scene, the Bumpus hounds are shown coming through the living room from left to right and moving on to the kitchen. The dogs would need to open the front door for this to be possible.
When Ralphie is deciphering the Little Orphan Annie code the second number is 19; equivalent to the letter "E". However, the last number is 25 - yet the last letter in the puzzle is, once again, an E. So the last number should have been 19.
When Ralphie is in line to see Santa Claus, the boy named Billy tells Santa that he wants "a toy truck". Santa repeats "A toy truck! Get him off my lap!" and Billy screams as he's pushed down the slide. This exact exchange is heard, but not seen, in the same scene during shots of the interior of the store.
At the beginning of the movie when we see Christmas activities in the large town square, there's a red-and-cream "Peter Witt"-type trolley car, as well as an elevated view of a two-car trolley. There are no trolley tracks, nor are there overhead wires to power the trolley.