For the past three decades A Christmas Story has become a holiday cult classic. Whether it’s a 24 hour marathon on Christmas Day, a Broadway musical adaptation, or sequels (good and bad), the film co-written and narrated by the great Jean Shepherd and directed by Bob (Porky’s) Clark has become a tradition in many households across America. Today on Biff Bam Pop’s Holiday Gift Guide we’re taking a look at “A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic” by Caseen Gaines. See you after the jump.
The Late Great Jean Shepherd
The movie resonates especially with me because of my early connection with Jean Shepherd. Back in the day, when I was a widdle kid, there were only two things worth watching on PBS – “Sesame Street” and various programs by Jean Shepherd. His storytelling ability, and seeming attraction to the New Jersey area, attracted me right away. He struck me right in my heart, my region and my creativity. It was love at first sight.
Years later I would learn that Shepherd was a radio host up in the North Jersey area, and also a writer. In college, as PBS continued to roll out programs featuring the man, as well as dramatizations of his stories, I discovered his writing. He had many books of short stories, mostly detailing his young life as a kid in Indiana, and many that found their way into a theatrical feature called A Christmas Story. Shep educated my sense of storytelling and my sense of humor, and I still remain amazed by his genius.
For the folks not in the New Jersey area or loyal viewers of PBS, Jean Shepherd struck the national pulse with 1983’s A Christmas Story. Many of the situations from the film came directly from Shep’s short stories in “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.” As you might imagine, I was thrilled. How could I not see a movie based on the work of one of my writing heroes on the big screen. Yep, I was one of the few there. A Christmas Story had a modest release but was quickly forgotten.
Over the years however, the film has achieved cult status and success on video and in syndication. For nearly two decades the film has become a holiday staple, sometimes shown in marathons during the season. 1994 brought a wonderful sequel alternately called It Runs in the Family and My Summer Story, and last year a terrible sequel called, more obviously, A Christmas Story 2. PBS continued to make Shep specials and dramatizations. There’s also been a stage adaptation, the Tony nominated Broadway musical, and yes, even a museum. And now there’s a book about the film.
Written by Caseen Gaines, the author of “Inside Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” and published by ECW Press, “A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic” is exactly as promised. With forewords by Wil Wheaton and Eugene B. Bergmann, and even illustrations by Ian Petrella, who played Randy in the film, this book is a terrific in-depth exploration of the making of this Christmas movie tradition.
Caseen Gaines covers everything in this book, Jean Shepherd, the filming of the movie, the deleted scenes, the sequels, the musical, and even the museum made of the original house. This is an excellent companion to the film for fans of the movie and Shepherd’s work. I loved it, and it would make a wonder gift for your favorite movie fan this holiday season. “A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic” by Caseen Gaines is available from ECW Press here.