It’s almost Christmas and nothing’s more fun than being with family, baking, eating and watching all those old Christmas movies. In the spirit of the season, here’s some Christmas trivia, mostly from films, to impress/ entertain/ bore your friends and family over the holidays.
It doesn’t get much better than It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): Proving that even a director with incredible talent can overlook some things, Frank Capra missed this one: when Clarence is showing George Bailey what life would have been like without him, he takes him to his younger brother’s grave, telling him that Harry fell through the ice and died at the age of nine. However, on the tombstone, Harry Bailey’s years of life are shown as 1911-1919, which means he could have been no older than eight when he died.
A Christmas Story (1983): One of the most famous scenes from this classic film is when one of Ralphie’s school pals, Flick, is “triple-dog-dared” into putting his tongue against a frosty flag pole to prove that it will stick. In order to make Flick’s tongue stick to the pole, a hidden suction tube was used to safely create the illusion that his tongue had frozen to the metal. Another bit of trivia: director Bob Clark makes an appearance as one of the neighbors who comes out to gawk at The Old Man’s “major award” in the hilarious unveiling of The Leg Lamp. He’s the guy who says, “Damn, hell- you say you won it?”
…which brings us to Elf (2003) where Peter Billingsley, who played young Ralphie in A Christmas Story makes an uncredited appearance as Ming Ming, the Head Elf. Also, if you ever thought, while you watched this movie, that certain things looked very familiar, you were onto something. The design for Santa’s workshop, all of the elf costumes and most of the animals in the North Pole were mirror images of those from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the much-loved Christmas special that has aired every year since its debut in 1964.
But Rudolph’s story had been around since 1939 when it was created for an advertising campaign for Montgomery Ward. The song about Rudolph was first recorded by Gene Autry and hit #1 on Billboard’s pop chart during the week of Christmas in 1949.
Gene Autry recorded another Christmas classic, “Here Comes Santa Clause” that gets featured toward the end of Christmas Vacation (1989) when the Clark Griswold home is ransacked by the S.W.A.T. Team. Earlier on, when Clark gets locked in a cold attic while everyone’s out shopping, he passes the time watching old films from family Christmases past. Look closely and you can see the front of the house from the 1960’s series Bewitched in Clark’s home movie.
Chevy Chase was just one of many actors considered for the part of Kevin McCallister’s (Macauley Culkin) dad in Home Alone (1990). That part eventually went to John Heard. In the scene where Kevin grabs his brother’s pet tarantula in order to scare bungling crook Marv (played by Daniel Stern), they were originally using a mechanical spider. It was decided the fake bug looked too fake, so Stern agreed to do just one take with the real thing, which Kevin drops onto his face, causing him to scream like a girl. Stern made the wise decision to mimic the scream so as not to spook the spider, and his scream was added in during post-production.
Perhaps no other story of Christmas has been told more often or in more ways than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. His tale of redemption just celebrated its 170th anniversary (it was published on December 19, 1843). An interesting piece of trivia is that Dickens himself had some things in common with Mr. Scrooge. Like the famous miser, Dickens lost his favorite sister Fanny, who died, not in childbirth as Scrooge’s sister did, but of tuberculosis. Her son, Henry was crippled and was Dickens’ inspiration for the character of Tiny Tim.
What better way to close out this stocking full of Christmas trivia than with some tidbits from what many people, myself included, consider to be the most-loved Christmas special ever. When its director saw a rough cut of A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), he was sure he had a flop on his hands. There was no laugh track, as was typical of animated specials of the day, and director Bill Melendez had tried to get Peanuts creator Charles M Schultz to take out the Biblical references—particularly Linus’ speech from Luke 2. Reportedly, Schultz won him over by asking, “If we don’t do it, who will?” CBS executives were also nervous at the prospect of an animated Christmas special with such a blatant message. In spite of all this, the message remained, and that scene with Linus has become highly acclaimed, with multiple generations still enjoying this classic year after year. Only Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer can top it in longevity as far as television Christmas specials go.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
…and as Linus said, “That’s what Christmas is all about.”
Merry Christmas, everyone!