Monday, December 22, 2008

New Light on 'A Christmas Story'

Bob Clark's 1983 movie "A Christmas Story" became an instant classic. Immediately before he made "A Christmas Story," Clark had made "Porky's" and "Porky's II," two execrable teenaged sex farces which were nevertheless hugely successful. After "A Christmas Story," Bob Clark directed lots of theatrical films and TV junk, but nothing he ever did before or after quite jelled like "A Christmas Story."

The 1983 classic earned a place in my own work because it made a good deal of comic hay out of an unseen family of Kentucky hillbillies ("the Bumpuses") who had moved into the urban neighborhood of the Parker family, bringing with them a pack of hillbilly hunting hounds who end up destroying Darren McGavin's Christmas turkey. (The movie offers much, much more, of course, like double-dog dares, the radio marketing of Ovaltine, the many flavors of bar soap, and that wonderful "fragile" long-legged lamp!)

I was very aware of the screen credit that acknowledged the movie's source material: Jean Shepherd's "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." I actually searched for that book for years without success (this was pre-Amazon days) and never really learned who Jean Shepherd was, though as the voice-over narrator for Clark's film, he seemed as familiar and as approachably Midwestern as Tom Bodett.

All of this by way of recommending a very interesting and revealing new article on the (surprising) man behind "A Christmas Story."

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