Happy Festivus! May your grievances all air, and your feats of strength be impressive.
Fesitvus is two days before Christmas, the perfect time to look at one of my favorite traditions: A Christmas Story.
When this film was shot, I still lived in the Cleveland area, so the movie has special meaning to me and many people I grew up with. But it’s really a universal film, almost a Depression-era prequel to The Middle as it takes place in an Indiana town with an equally dysfunctional family.
The story concerns Ralphie, a 10-year-old boy who wants nothing more than a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas. The movie concerns his efforts to ensure he gets one despite his mother’s protests that “you’ll shoot your eye out!” Meanwhile, Ralphie has to deal with the neighborhood bullies (whom he beats up at one point when frustration overwhelms his fear of the big kids), his teachers, his friends, and a cynical Santa Claus who wants to finish his shift and go home.
That scene was rather interesting because the director kept the name of the store, Higbee’s, where it was shot. Higbee’s is now a Horseshoe Casino (where I lost $20 one night while my cousin managed to beat the slots. Hi, Lori!), but was still open when the movie filmed. Contrast that with Cleveland’s other department store from yesteryear, which was immortalized when a Maple Heights woman named her daughter after it. You know the daughter as Halle Berry, and yes, she really was named for Halle’s. That one’s an office building and not nearly as interesting.
There are a lot of cultural touchstones in this movie: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”, Darren McGavin’s gibberish swear words, “Oh, fudge!”, Palmolive having a nice after-dinner flavor, and, of course, Flick getting his tongue stuck in that scene. You know the one…