Then & Now – Hollywood Life





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Image Credit: Courtesy of MGM/ Debby Wong/REX/Shutterstock

  • A Christmas Story first aired in 1983.
  • The movie starred Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Zack Ward.
  • Members of the original cast reunited for the 2022 sequel, A Christmas Story Christmas.

“You’ll shoot your eye out!” “I Triple-Dog-Dare Ya!” “Fraa-jeel-aay! It must be Italian!” Since A Christmas Story first came out in 1983, the movie has been a family holiday classic. The film continues to play in households all across America, thanks to the yearly 24-hour marathons. Plus, in 2022, it got a long-awaited sequel, A Christmas Story Christmas. The HBO Max film reunited most of the surviving members of the original movie’s cast.

Directed by Bob Clark and based on Jean Shepherd’s book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, A Christmas Story shows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsly) enthralled in the Christmas spirit and how all he wants is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. As he tries to guarantee that the BB gun will be under the tree come Christmas morning, we are treated to adventures featuring Ralphie, his younger brother Randy (Ian Petrella), and his beleaguered parents (Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon).

There are also clashes with neighborhood bullies Scott’ Scut’ Farkus (Zack Ward) and Grover Dill (Yano Anaya) and an unforgettable scene with Santa (Jeff Gillen). Not to mention, The Old Man and his “major award,” the now-iconic leg lamp. Though the movie was a moderate success – it pulled in $19 million at the box office – it has become a classic.

The cast has also gone on to do other things, as well.

(MGM/Everett)

Peter Billingsley

Peter Billingsley acted in The Dirk Bike Kids, Russkies, and Arcade. He even returned to Christmas movies with 2003’s Elf, co-producing the film and appearing as Ming Min the elf. Peter also had roles in Iron Man, Four Christmases, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. He also directed a few movies, like Couples Retreat and Term Life.

In the 1990s, Billingsley began to work more behind the scenes as a producer and writer on projects. In 2005, he was nominated for an Emmy for the show, Dinner for Five. He also served as an executive producer on the first Iron Man film.

Peter also co-wrote 2022’s A Christmas Story Christmas. “We were developing this movie for almost four years,” Peter told Collider. “A few years ago, it felt like the right time to start to explore this. A lot of things had to line up to make it right. We were able to partner with (screenwriter) Nick Schenk. I was able to write the story with him.”

“The original is irreverent. It was a little mean-spirited, at times, but it’s real,” added Billingsley. “So, to get that right, Clay Kaytis, our director, was able to produce with my long-time producing partner, Vince Vaughn. We’ve made a lot of movies together. Timing lined up, for a lot of the right pieces. And, most importantly, Ralphie, as a father, was a great way in to explore this movie. What would he be like, as a dad? What would his family be like? Where is he in his life?”

Ian Petrella

Ian Petrella would go on to appear in a handful of television shows following A Christmas Story, including Diff’reny Strokes, Who’s The Boss?, Highway To Heaven, and Beverly Hills, 90210. However, he would fall out of love with acting, only to discover his passion lay in the art form of puppetry. However, Ian reprised his role as Randy for A Christmas Story Christmas.

Peter Billingsley as Ralphie (MGM/Everett)

Melinda Dillon

Melinda Dillion was one of the few surviving actors of the 1983 original Christmas Story who didn’t return for A Christmas Story Christmas, but in 2022, she was 83 years old. Her role as Mrs. Parker was played by Julie Hagerty in the sequel.

Melinda — who earned critical acclaim for her roles in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Absence of Malice – had notable roles in Harry and the Hendersons, Magnolia, Reign Over Me, and To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. She stopped acting after 2007, with her last roles being in the movie Reign Over Me and three episodes of Heartland.

Darren McGavin

Darren McGavin appeared in The Man with the Golden Arm and on numerous television shows (Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer) before A Christmas Story. He continued to act up until he died in 2006.

Scott Schwartz

Scott Schwartz appeared in another 1980s classic, starring opposite Richard Pryor in The Toy. After A Christmas Story, Scott had a roller coaster of a career. After having roles in Raiders of the Living Dead and 1988’s Fear, Scott worked in the adult film industry. He left the industry at the start of the 2000s and concentrated on acting in more mainstream, non-explicit films. He appeared in the TV series, The Comeback Kids, in the movie A Wrestling Christmas Miracle, and in Doll Killer 2. In 2022, he reprised his role of Flick in the sequel.

Peter Billingsley as Ralphie on Santa’s Lap (MGM/Everett)

R.D. Robb

Like Peter, R.D. Robb found success behind the camera following A Christmas Story. He was the executive producer of the Siren series from 2018-2019 and produced films What Goes Up, Triple Dog, and April Apocalypse.

As an actor, Robb had sporadic roles through the 80s and 90s. He voiced Miguel on He-Man and Re-Ra: A Christmas Special, appeared in The Brady Bunch Movie and in three episodes of The Goldbergs, to name a few. He reprised his role as Schwartz in the 2022 film, A Christmas Story Christmas.

Zack Ward

Perhaps the biggest glow-up is that of Zack Ward. The yellow-eyed bully of A Christmas Story appeared on television shows like Titus, NCIS, Lost, and Crossing Jordan. He has also appeared in Repo, Transformers, Don’t Blink, and Survive The Game. He’s also available for Cameos if you want to get someone that special something.

It’s incredible how this sleeper hit has become a yearly tradition. One of the ways the film has endured over the decades – and this is probably key to its longevity — is through the 24-hour marathons that have aired on TBS and TNT. The networks began airing the movie around Christmastime in the 1980s, but in 1997, TNT cemented the film’s legacy by kicking off the first 24-hour marathon. “Starting in 2014, we started airing it across both TBS and TNT,” Michael Quigley, then the networks’ executive vice president of network and programming optimization and content strategy, told Variety in 2018. The marathons at the time were reaching “over 40 million viewers,” which Quigley described as “staggering in terms of its performance, and we’re finding that constantly it is among the top-performing movies on our network year after year.”

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