It’s hard to believe that the film A Christmas Story turned 30 this year! Since its release in 1983 it has become a holiday favourite, a cult classic. But it wasn’t always poised for that kind of lasting power. A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic by Caseen Gaines tells the story behind the film’s production, release, and unlikely ascent. Caseen talks to us about his love for the movie and some surprising things he found while researching the book.
Caseen Gaines (holding the book) with some of the cast from A Christmas Story: Ian Petrella (Randy), Scott Schwartz (Flick), Zack Ward (Scut Farkus), and Yano Anaya (Grover Dill).
ECW Press: You write that part of the reason the film turned out to be a success is that people could relate to it. Having first seen the film as a child, do you relate to it differently as an adult?
Caseen Gaines: I have to say, I don’t think I relate to it differently as an adult. Watching the film really reminds me of what it was like to see it as a child and, more importantly, being a child. Who hasn’t wanted something for Christmas so badly that they would have done anything for it?
ECW: What was the most surprising thing you found out while you were researching the book?
CG: I was most surprised at how A Christmas Story became a big success really through a series of unlikely accidents. We’ve all seen the film and watch it annually, but when the film was first released it was barely a hit. How we got to the 24 hour marathon on the TBS network in America is a pretty interesting story.
ECW: It’s rare for a cast to stay friends 30 years after the release of the film, yet that’s the case with the cast of A Christmas Story. Why do you think that is?
CG: After spending some time with them, it’s obvious that the actors all have a mutual respect for each other and the film. The understand what the movie means to millions and they love meeting fans. It’s unique, but it’s great.
ECW: Do you have a favourite character?
CG: It’s very hard to choose. One of my favourite characters is Randy. Ian Petrella, the actor who plays him in the film, has become a good friend and it’s almost impossible to not watch the film every time he’s on screen.
ECW: Tell us a little about the two sequels to A Christmas Story. Are they worth a watch?
CG: My Summer Story and A Christmas Story 2 are actually pretty cute films. They both are decent, but I really like My Summer Story a lot better than the more recent sequel. The performances are good, the story enjoyable, and it’s certainly worth a watch – but probably just one!
ECW: In A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic you not only explore how the film became a cult classic, but also how it became a merchandizing goldmine. How much do you think the merchandising has affected the film’s lasting power?
CG: It’s a pretty cyclical relationship between merchandising and the film’s popularity. Merchandising almost always helps a film and it certainly has in A Christmas Story’s sense. I’m not sure how it is in Canada, but in the states, merchandise from the film is everywhere — supermarkets, pharmacies, department stores. It’s quite remarkable.