Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Story Trivia and Sequels

[The quiz part of this was originally posted here last Christmas Eve, 2009, also at World's Best Films]
Updated in 2010 with more trivia, film sequels, and more Jean Shepherd..

Click here for our original review of A Christmas Story

I thought on Christmas Eve that this would be a fun trivia quiz for fans of director Bob Clark's comedy A CHRISTMAS STORY, based on humorist Jean Shepherd's (who also narrates) first book of his collected stories, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash".. The book is told from the point of view of Shepherd, now an adult, visiting his old home town again, but everyone has left, so he's sitting alone in a bar and reminiscencing about his childhood there, hence his memories are in adult vernacular. The title is a sign on the bar's wall that he keeps looking back at occasionally. [see below for more on Shepherd's books, they're all worth reading]

(1) what is Ralph's family name, and the street and town where they lived?
(2) name at least 3 items in the teacher's drawer where she puts the fake teeth, and her name?
(3) why does Flick lick the flagpole?
(4) who had yellow eyes and what was his toadie's name?
(5) why did Ralph's dad say he won the leg lamp prize and what country did he first think it was from?
(6) who was named Victor, in a contest for money?
(7) what's the first present that Ralph opens?

Bonus: name anything religious in the film...

OK - here are the answers, now that Christmas is past..

1-the Parkers, of Cleveland St, Holman, Indiana
2- Miss Shields puts the fake teeth in a drawer which has chattering teeth, a slingshot, a yoyo, Slinky, rubber frog, fake mouse, Groucho glasses, and a book called "Ace of Test Pilots" (with a rocket ship on the cover)
3-Flick has to lick the pole cuz he was "Triple dog dared", apparently avoiding playground etiquette but issuing the 'coup de grace' of dares - they used a suction device inside the pole for filming
4-Scut Farcus, the neighborhood bully, had yellow eyes and Grover Dill was his toadie
5-Ralph's dad said he won the lamp due to "mind power"; when he saw "Fragile" on the box, he thought it was from Italy, calling it "frah-gee-lay, oh look, honey it must be from Italy"
6-Victor was the Lone Ranger's nephew's horse (newspaper quiz his dad was doing, "on American literary characters" - too funny - his mom replies "The Lone Ranger is literary?")
7-Ralph's first present was a pair of socks, then the pink bunny outfit from Aunt Clara

The only 'religion' I could spot, other than mom's forgiveness for his fight (and constant tolerance of men), was the Salvation Army band playing carols in the beginning..

More Trivia

The most unusual thing was the constant intrusion of Wizard of Oz characters.. that seems more like a Halloween film, but it was shown on Thanksgiving when I grew up..

Thanks to the Bumpus Hounds (another story used is "Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds", about the Arkansas hillbillies who moved in next door, and immediately removed the back steps from the porch), the Parkers had their Christmas duck dinner at the Chop Suey Palace at the bowling alley. Our favorite Thai restaurant in CA was also at a bowling alley! of course, not the food inside the bowling alley, but in a restaurant adjoining said alley..

The house exterior they used was in Cleveland (passing for Indiana, in the stories the house was on "Cleveland St", so there is a literary connection), the interiors were shot in a studio in L.A... the house in Cleveland was bought by a fan, on E-Bay (!), and he restored it like the film, including interiors. Film fans now make pilgrimages there, usually around Christmas time.

There's a museum film across the street, with many of the original film props, plus you can buy the 'electric sex' leg lamps there, which was the Nehi Beverage Co. logo - that alone ought to make the trip worth taking! I've noticed that the Pardon the Interruption show on ESPN has the leg lamp in the background as a studio prop; now, for a sports talk show, that's just bizarre.

"What's that there", asked by Swede, was director Bob Clark. McGavin replies "that there's a major award".

The man who directs the kids to the rear of the Santa line, and the narrator, is author Jean Shepherd. He later had a hilarious show on PBS, a travel show called "Jean Shepherd's America". It began with the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, at night, with Shepherd narrating, "the primordial ooze from whence all life began".

More Jean Shepherd Films and Books

A sequel with Mary Steenburgen and Charles Grodin as the Parker parents, based on more stories of Shepherd's, most involving summer vacation, was My Summer Story. This film had more about the hillbilly Bumpus family next door. PBS also filmed The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Coznowski - (I believe it was a 1-hr film) of the story of his first big date in Chicago with a Polish girl. They also filmed Ollie Hoopnoodle's Haven of Bliss, about a summer vacation at a fishing 'resort'. Darren McGavin repeated the role of Ralph's father; I believe that one ran about 90 minutes.

Shepherd's story collections after "In God We Trust" are "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories", which are more high school oriented, and "Fistful of Fig Newtons", perhaps not up to the standard set by the first two. My favorite story of all is in the 2nd film (but the first and best book), "Leopold Doppler and the Great Orpheum Gravy Boat Riot", about a local cinema's give-away nights to lure crowds mid-week.

Shepherd had a way with names like no other American author, they're always funny and usually semi-describe the person already. "Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb That Struck Back" is about a July 4th neighborhood fireworks show that goes awry. These would probably be best filmed for Cable or PBS as the original short stories, each about 20-45 minutes. Shepherd is, to me, the Mark Twain of the 20th century. He won numerous awards for humor. He captured an era of Americana like no one else, and his stories have made me laugh out loud more than any other literature; the films can hardly do them justice, Shepherd's prose is far funnier.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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