Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

While most of us are familiar with the 1983 film directed by Bob Clark and starring Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin and Peter Billingsley, I also recommend the stories upon which the film is based. Author Jean Shepherd’s 1966 novel, In God We Trust, all Others Pay Cash, was the primary source material.  Not every chapter in the novel relates to the subsequent film, but shown here is the Broadway Books edition which compiles the five essential stories. Shepherd was both the co-screenwriter on the film and the narrator. His stories are delightful to read and are quite short. The film is widely regarded as a classic and is shown constantly on television along with It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart. I am a fan of the film, and people seem to either love it...or don’t get it. I can’t help those of you that don’t get it, and I won’t bother trying. I have two Red Ryder BB rifles propped against the bookcase in my den. The Red Ryder BB rifle originally went into production in 1940, inspired by the Red Ryder comic book and film character. The Red Ryder BB rifle was designed to resemble the Winchester rifles commonly seen in Western films. There was also a Buck Jones model with a configuration that matched the model found in Shepherd’s story. Buck Jones and Red Ryder are both historical references the average viewer knows little about. Google it. The film’s charm lies in its simplicity; such Holiday experiences were once commonplace in the America experience. The film evokes memories of childhood, a past that has vanished, kept alive by such films as A Christmas Story. The leg lamp represents every idiosyncratic gift various family members coveted, and I can recall when comic books advertised BB guns on the back cover. Daisy air rifles were a popular and coveted item. The International BB Gun Championship was a prestigious event in the 1960s, as were most State Sponsored riflemen clubs. Incidentally, Daisy has just released the Eightieth anniversary edition. Melinda Dillon represents the traditional mother and wife, wise beyond her years, patient and loving. Merry Christmas!

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