The people of Cleveland were incredibly cooperative during filming, donating antique vehicles from every corner of the city. These vintage vehicles helped to enhance the authenticity of the production design.
Jean Shepherd's book "In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash", which the film is partly based on, is a collection of short stories that Jean Shepherd wrote for "Playboy" magazine during the 1960s, including the stories about the tongue sticking to the flagpole, and eating Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The subplot of the mangy dogs constantly harassing The Old Man was taken from another of Mr. Shepherd's short story collections, "Wanda Hickey's Night Of Golden Memories and Other Disasters." In that book, the character of Ralph is about 17 years old.
The movie was set in Hammond Indiana. References were made throughout the film to support this claim. Examples: Harding school (on 165th St.) where Flick stuck his tongue to the flagpole, Goldblatt's department store, the mention of Griffith (a city that borders Hammond), Cleveland Street, Hohman Ave, and other streets that are located in Hammond. Although the movie was not filmed in Hammond the houses and look of the film is very authentic. Jean Shepherd (Writer) grew up in Hammond.
Parts of the movie, including the Christmas tree shopping scene, were filmed in Toronto, Ontario. One of Toronto's trademark red trolleys can be seen driving by the shot of the outside of the tree lot.
The film was released just before Thanksgiving and became a surprise hit. By the time Christmas rolled around, the movie had already been pulled from most theaters because it had been "played out". After complaints were lodged at the theater owners and the studio, the film played on select screens until after the first of the year 1984.
According to Director Bob Clark, Jack Nicholson was given the script and was very much interested in the role of Mr. Parker, "The Old Man". However, Clark didn't learn of this until later and the studio didn't want to pay Nicholson's fee anyway, which would have doubled the budget. Regardless, Clark said that Darren McGavin was still the better choice and was born to play the role.
The Orphan Annie radio decoder pin that Ralphie receives is the 1940 "Speedomatic" model, indicating that the movie takes place in December, 1940. Different decoder badges were made each year from 1935-1940. By 1941, the decoders were made of paper.
During the filming in downtown Cleveland, the antique automobile club members, whose cars were used, were given a route to follow on Public Square. They were instructed to continue circling the square until otherwise instructed. Road salt was a major concern for the car owners and the cars were pressure-washed after each day's filming and parked underground beneath the Terminal Tower.
While reading the newspaper at the kitchen table the "Old Man" angrily mentions that the "Sox traded Bullfrog". This is a reference to long time Chicago White Sox pitcher Bill Dietrich, whose nickname was Bullfrog. He pitched during the 1930s and 1940s. Dietrich was never traded from the Sox, he was released September 18, 1946.
White Sox player Bill "Bullfrog" Dietrich (Bill Dietrich) is mentioned as being traded. He was traded to the White Sox in 1936 and from the White Sox in 1946. Since the family drives a 1937 Olds, it would imply it was the 1946 trade. This would be consistent with the soldiers present at Higbee's corner window in the movie opening, since the war may have just ended. However, war-era versions of the decoder badge were paper due to the shortage and Little Orphan Annie was off the air well before 1946.
In 2005, the original home used for the exterior shots of the family home was put up for auction on eBay and avid fan of the movie Brian Jones managed to purchase the home directly from the seller for $150,000.00 USD. Jones then spent the following year restoring the home to the way it looked on screen. The exterior of the home was completely restored and the interior was renovated to match the interior of the home shown in the movie. (Parts of the interior was actually filmed in a Toronto studio) On November 25th, 2006, the famous home finally opened its doors as a tourist attraction. Jones spent close to $500,000.00 USD in preparation for this grand opening. In addition, Jones also purchased the house next door and converted it to a gift shop and museum dedicated to the film and the house.
A behind-the-scenes documentary named 'Road Trip for Ralphie' follows two mega-fans on a two-year quest to locate and visit every location used in the movie. Along the way, they uncover Miss Shields' chalk board from a dumpster, discover all the movie costumes hidden in a Toronto warehouse, track down the antique fire truck seen in the movie and visit the forgotten location of the actual Chop Suey Palace.
In early December of 2008, there was a contest to see who can portray the best Ralphie, whether if it's him in a pink bunny suit, or in his winter apparel in celebration of the movie's 25th anniversary. Plus they revealed the house in Cleveland where the movie was filmed.
Clarkworld is a heart-warming documentary on "A Christmas Story" director Bob Clark. The documentary's director, Deren Abram, worked with Bob Clark for over a decade before Clark and his 22-year old son, Ariel Clark, were killed by a drunk driver in April 2007.
The real house used during filming can be found at 3159 W 11th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. Pictures and a "Street View" of the house can be seen on Google Maps. A nearby street that intersects with W. 11th St is Clark Avenue.
Don Geyer, who played the Scarecrow, was the head of Display and Fixtures at Higbee's Department Store / Dillards. Santa's throne in the movie is one of the actual chairs owned by Higbee's and used annually for Santa. After his death in 1999, his co-workers reported seeing him on the loading dock, where he used to smoke and a few claim they heard his voice on the overhead paging system.
Although now the film is considered a Christmas classic, what's interesting is that at the time, according to Peter Billingsley, not many major studios were interested in a Depression-era story about a little boy wanting a BB gun for Christmas. Billingsley also stated in an interview that director Bob Clark agreed to make a horror film for the studio in order to get A Christmas Story made.
The film is set in 1941, according to the reference made by Mrs Parker to Mr Parker about an upcoming game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. These two teams met in a playoff game on December 14, 1941, a Sunday. It was their only playoff game against each other until January 23, 2011. The only previous time these two teams met during a regular season game in December was December 10, 1933. Throughout the 1940's the second game of the regular season between these two teams all occurred in November, the two latest being mid-November in 1942 and 1948.
Since Jean Shepherd is listed in the opening set of credits, but is not in the more comprehensive end credits, the opening credits are used first in the IMDb cast list, followed by those in the end credits not yet in, as required by IMDb policy on cast ordering. In addition to being credited as "Ralphie as an Adult," Shepherd also is uncredited as the Narrator/The Man in Line for Santa/Santa.
There is a debate about when the film takes place. Evidence seems to point to 1939 because of The Wizard of Oz references. The decoder ring points to 1940. However, if you look at the calender on the wall (during the first dinner sequence), you can clearly see the first of December falls on a Friday. December 1st fell on a Friday in 1939, not 1940 as was previously accepted.
In 2012, a staged musical adaptation of this movie opened on Broadway. One of the co-producers was Peter Billingsley, who as a child played the lead role of Ralphie in the movie. As an adult, Billingsley transitioned into producing such movies as The Break-Up, Four Christmases, and Iron Man. "A Christmas Story: The Musical!" was the first stage play or musical he produced.
It has long been thought that the "Old Man" aka Ralphie's dad, had no first name. However, if you listen closely when he is in front of the house admiring his major award/lamp, his neighbor, a firefighter, comes up to him asking questions. When the old man states that it's a major award and that he won it, the neighbor replies "Damn Hal, you say you won it"