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3:18 AM Wed, July 18th

‘Wonderful’ behind the scenes of ‘Christmas’

A Christmas Story. Lamp scene. (Courtesy)

A Christmas Story. Lamp scene. (Courtesy)

A lot of work goes into making movies, and holiday films are no exception. Fans may be surprised by some of the events that went on behind the scenes of their favorite holiday films, as well as background information about the actors and settings of the movies.

A Christmas Story

An equally beloved holiday film and a cult favorite, “A Christmas Story” follows a 1940’s Indiana family anchored by Ralphie, the cynical but lovable schoolboy played by actor Peter Billingsley. The movie was based on autobiographical tales penned by author and radio personality Jean Shepherd, who narrates the film.

The movie was a low-budget film that used virtually no special effects. It also used tracking shots instead of Steadicam.

The setting for the movie is based on Shepherd’s hometown of Hammond, Indiana. Shepherd grew up on Cleveland Street and went to Warren G. Harding Elementary School. However, the movie was filmed in Cleveland, Ohio, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The house from the movie still stands in Cleveland. Part of the decision to film in Cleveland stems from the willingness of Higbee’s department store to allow crews to film inside the store.

Darren McGavin played Ralphie’s father, a role he won over Jack Nicholson. McGavin might have won the role because of Nicholson’s typically large salary demands.

For the scene in which Flick’s tongue sticks to the flagpole, a hidden suction tube was used to safely create the illusion that his tongue had frozen to the metal.

Three leg lamps were made for the movie, and all three broke during filming.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Anyone who has ever wondered what life would be like if they took a different path or made different decisions can relate to this classic Christmas film. It’s difficult to make it through the holiday season without seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and many people make it a point to view it every year. The following are some interesting tidbits about George Bailey and the film that put savings-and-loan managers on the map.

The movie began as a short story titled “The Greatest Gift.” Writer Philip Van Dornen Stern was unsuccessful at shopping the story and turned it into a Christmas card for 200 friends and family. A producer at RKO pictures got a copy and purchased the movie rights for $10,000.

Many now agree that Jimmy Stewart was the perfect choice to play lead character George Bailey, but studio heads originally had Carey Grant in mind for the lead. The role went to Stewart when Frank Capra signed on to the film and named Stewart his leading man.

Although Donna Reed was a seasoned actress prior to the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” marked her first starring role.

Bedford Falls, the fictional town in the movie, is reportedly based on upstate New York towns Bedford Hills and Seneca Falls. Nearby cities like Rochester and Buffalo are referenced in the movie. However, the movie was not filmed on location. It was filmed in the summertime on a back lot in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles.

The movie received a technical Academy Award for the snow effects, which were created by using a “snow” mixture of water, soap and a fire-fighting chemical called Foamite.

The movie was not well received upon its release in 1946. The film received mixed reviews, which might surprise those who consider it a cinematic classic.