A Christmas Story

I remember when you could only see this on independent stations right on Christmas Eve.  It is one of my favorite movies of all time.  Everything about it is excellent, especially Darren McGavin.  However, the book is better than the movie. 

The book is actually called "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" by Jean Shepard.  I know that there is now a book called "A Christmas Story", but it's not even close to being the same thing because it only has the one story. 

Shepard was among the classic men of theWWII generation.  He grew up what is now the Rust Belt during the Depression, was an infantryman in Europe during the war, drank heavily, was not a very good father or husband -- all the things that made the 40s, 50s, and 60s great.

However, he did something totally out of character for those guys.  He wrote about his life and he had a cult indie radio show where he read and talked about stuff that John Cheever did not even write about.  If your father, grandfather, or whatever was a part of that generation, you know what I am talking about.  They never talked about anything prior to 1960 ever.  Ever.  But he did.

"In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" is one of his books, and the only one still in print.  When you read it, you get way more than the Christmas story.  You get an idea of what it was like to scrape up extra money around Indepence Day and how that can go terribly wrong.  You get to know what happened to Flick, Schwartz, et al after they got older.  You learn about getting accepted into the company of grown men which was way different than it is now.

The book is better because it is fuller.

By the way, I just looked up and found that "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories:  And Other Disasters" is back in print.  Oh yes, going to the prom with Ralphy in 1939 is a real treat.

TheSquirrel TheSquirrel
51-55, M
1 Response Feb 23, 2010

You said it all. I've been looking for these books and the sequel movie for years..."Ollie Hoopnagel's Haven of Bliss".

If I were a teenaged girl, I would say OMG! I do not remember that story. Now I have to find it. Do you remember his story published in (I think) Playboy about 1984 about a wimpy guy and a beefy Korean War vet duking it out in a post-war dormitory with a laxative called "Boom-O-Lax"? Many thanks for the heads-up.

I believe Ollie H was both a book, and a sequel movie to "A Christmas Story" staring almost the same exact cast. There as been another movie starring Charles Grodin as the ol' man titled something like "All in the Family". That's also rare. Don't know how funny either movie is. It's hard to top A Christmas Story. But they tried.

Before we get into assessing "My Summer Story", class, does everyone here realize that Ralph Parker and his family "existed" well before the American holiday favorite, "A Christmas Story"? To date, there have, in fact, been 6 films about Ralphie, Randy, Mom, the Old Man, Flick Schwartz, and company. Three of them even aired before "A Christmas Story" was even released. I say "aired" because, in fact, 4 of the other Ralphie films were made for PBS's American Playhouse, airing in 1976, 1982, 1983 (okay, not truly sure which appeared first in this case, as A Christmas Story was released in '83 as well), a much later one in 1989, and then there was the feature film sequel we are reviewing here in 1994. You may remember seeing these other Ralphie movies throughout the years on Disney Channel replays. These wonderful films were all based on the writings and radio stories of a true king of all media, Jean Shepherd.

Holy crap. I had no idea that Jean Shepard was so popular. My understanding is that he was not a good family man, but he is very special to those of us who read and whose roots come from the Rust Belt before it was rusty. Thanks for the additional information.

I don't remember Ollie H at all, either. Now I have a quest. As for the Mary Steenbergen - Charles Grodin movie, I can not imagine Grodin pulling that off. I can easily see Steenbergen as Ralph watches her and realizes that his mom had been a flapper. She can do anything.

Did you ever listen to Shepard's radio show? I found some recordings of it on the internet some time back.

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