The lamp featured in A Christmas Story still stands in the Cleveland home used in the shooting of the classic holiday movie.
The lamp featured in A Christmas Story still stands in the Cleveland home used in the shooting of the classic holiday movie. Amy Sancetta/AP
The holiday season means family, food, friends — and a slew of holiday films. The 1983 comedy A Christmas Story has become one of the cult favorites of the season, in heavy rotation on television screens across America each year.
The quirky film follows a boy named Ralphie and his misadventures with his parents, friends and neighborhood bullies — all while he pines for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.
Scott Schwartz played Flick, the kid who stuck his tongue to a frozen flagpole in one of the film's most memorable scenes. Schwartz talks with NPR's Neal Conan about his memories from the set and the enduring appeal of the film. And Talk of the Nation movie buff Murray Horwitz also joins the conversation to remember some favorite moments from A Christmas Story.
On the film's origins as a 1974 radio drama and Playboy magazine series
Horwitz: "The reason for the success of this thing and for the durability of it ... is Jean Shepherd [the film's narrator]. Jean Shepherd is a writer and storyteller ... mostly localized in New York ... He is an underappreciated, undersung writer, and he's the reason for it.
"He improvised a great many of his stories on the air, on WOR [New York City], but he also was published in Playboy magazine ... One of the many delicious ironies about this movie is the fact that the stories on which it was based were first published in Playboy."
On the visual appeal of the movie
Horwitz: "As much as [the film's success] depends on the writing and on Jean Shepherd's narration ... It's the images that stick with you ...
"Shepherd's narration is incessant, but the pictures are what really get the laughs and hit us hard: Flick's bandaged tongue. That shot out the window when the teacher, Mrs. Shields, sees him stuck to the flagpole. The little brother Randy in that Michelin Man snowsuit writhing on the ground trying to get up. Watching him eat like a pig ... [It's] these images that don't have any narration or even dialogue around them that really make it an unsentimental Christmas card."
On how the "tongue on the flagpole" scene was filmed
Schwartz: "It was a plastic pole. It wasn't real. And they put a little hole in it about the size of your pinky nail, and there was a suction tube with a motor that was in the snow buried so you couldn't hear it, and just like a vacuum cleaner, if you put your hand on the vacuum cleaner, it's just phhhht, and you get stuck ... It took us about 11 1/2 hours to shoot that ...
"And if that wasn't bad enough, we actually had to shoot it twice. The first time we did it, the film came out dark. They developed it dark, and they nicely came to me and said, 'Listen, we have good news and bad news. The good news is you're going to be with us a few more days. The bad news is we've got to go out there and do it all over again.' "
On why Schwartz can no longer watch the film
"I don't watch the whole thing. I watch bits and pieces. Being a kid, having a film, you have to watch it with your parents, your aunts, your uncles, your cousins, you brother, your sister, your best friends, their families. So about the 600th time, I just — I can't do it anymore."