Here’s some holiday movie trivia you can use to impress guests at your next Christmas get-together
For many people, it’s just not Christmas without a favorite seasonal movie or television special.
Here are some trivia bits about some holiday classics you can use to impress friends and family at your next Christmas get-together:
- It’s now a cherished traditional holiday film, but “It’s a Wonderful Life” initially flopped at the box office when it was released in 1946. It only became popular in the United States thanks to a clerical error at the studio, which led to the film’s copyright not being renewed after it expired in 1974. That meant it became public domain, which allowed local stations to air it non-stop between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day without paying royalties. In the 1990’s, after a series of court battles, the copyright was renewed by the studio’s successor. It is now the exclusive property of NBC, which airs the film at least twice during the holiday season.
- The iconic scene where James Stewart’s character runs through a snow-swept Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life” was actually filmed on a scorching July day. The film took 90 days to shoot, much of it during a summer heat wave that got to be so intense director Frank Capra gave the entire cast and crew a day off to recuperate.
- If it’s true that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings — as is often stated in “It’s a Wonderful Life” — then 42 angels got their wings over the course of the film, because you can hear bells ring 42 different times.
- In “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie says he wants a Red Ryder BB gun 28 times over the course of the film.
- Jean Shepherd, who serves as the narrator in “A Christmas Story,” wrote the collection of short stories the film is partially based on, “In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash,” for Playboy magazine in the 1960s. It included anecdotes about a childhood friend of Shepherd’s getting his tongue stuck to a flagpole, and eating a Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
- Ralphie’s father in “A Christmas Story” is never mentioned by name. He is only referred to as “The Old Man.” But in one version of the script, it is revealed his first name is actually Frank.
- “A Charlie Brown Christmas” broke many of the established rules for Christmas specials in the 1960s, when it was initially released. It used actual children to voice the characters instead of adults mimicking children, did not have a laugh track, and used several biblical references to get its message across. In fact, producers were initially aghast at the idea of an animated special with such a blatant message, but changed their minds when the special drew astronomical TV ratings after its debut in 1965.
- Cathy Steinberg, who did the voice of Sally Brown, had not yet learned to read at the time of production, so she had to be fed her lines, often a word or syllable at a time, which explains the rather choppy delivery of the line “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share”.
- “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the second longest-running Christmas special on US network television, behind only “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which debuted a year earlier, in 1964.
- In the original TV version of the show, Rudolph, Hermey the elf and Yukon Cornelius visit the Island of Misfit Toys and promise to help them, but the Misfits are never mentioned again. After it was shown, the producers were inundated with letters from children complaining that nothing had been done to help the Misfit Toys. In response, Rankin-Bass produced a new short scene at the end of the show in which Santa and his reindeer, led by Rudolph, land on the Island and pick up all the toys to find homes for them, which has ever since been the standard version of the show run during the holidays.
- Hermey is the only elf without pointed ears. He’s also the only male elf with hair on top of his head as well as eyes that dilate.
- In the movie “Elf,” the design for Santa’s Workshop as well as the elf uniforms come from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The elf uniforms completely mirror the ones from the television special. Most of the animals in the North Pole are also designed to look like the same form of stop-motion animation used in Rudolph.
- The elf Ming Ming, who appears briefly in the beginning of the film, is played by Peter Billingsley, who starred as Ralphie Parker in the classic holiday film A Christmas Story.
- The role of Buddy the Elf was originally offered to Jim Carrey, but he turned it down. That led to the casting of Will Ferrell instead.
- “White Christmas,” which was released in 1954, is actually the third movie to feature Bing Crosby singing the title song. The other two are “Holiday Inn” and “Blue Skies,” which were released in 1942 and 1946, respectively.
- Though it is filmed at the same location and features many of the same songs, and includes some of the same actors, “White Christmas” was not intended to be a sequel to — or a remake of — “Holiday Inn,”
which is a common misconception. Crosby plays different characters in each film.
- The snow used at the end of “White Christmas” is not real snow. It’s actually asbestos.
- The singer in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is Thurl Ravencroft, who is better known as the original voice of Frosted Flakes spokesanimal Tony the Tiger. He was picked because his deep voice.
- The Grinch was directed by animator Chuck Jones, who also brought the world Warner Bros. cartoon stars like Wile E. Coyote, Henery Hawk, Pepé Le Pew, Marvin the Martian, Ralph Wolf, and the Road Runner.
- Jones was inspired to cast Boris Karloff as the narrator and the voice of the Grinch after hearing a recording of Karloff reading Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” stories.
- “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” is based on “Christmas ’59,” a short story by John Hughes that appeared in National Lampoon’s magazine. Hughes wrote another story for the magazine, “Vacation ’58,” which served as the inspiration for “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” the first movie of the series.
- The house in which the Griswolds’ neighbors, Todd and Margo, live, is the same house where the Murtaugh family lived in all four “Lethal Weapon” movies.
- When Clark Griswold is unable to get the Christmas lights lit in one scene, he takes out his frustration by punching the plastic lawn ornaments set up outside the house. Actor Chevy Chase, who portrays Griswold, actually broke his pinky finger during one punch, but continued the scene by kicking the ornaments instead. That take was used in the final cut of the movie.
- “Home Alone,” was directed by Chris Columbus, who was originally slated to direct “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” but pulled out of the project after declaring he would be unable to get along with Chevy Chase. John Hughes, who wrote both films, sent Columbus the script to “Home Alone” as an alternative.
- “Home Alone” is considered a traditional Christmas movie in Poland, where it has aired on national television during primetime Christmas season every year since 1990. In 2011, the movie aired on December 23, with an audience of over five million, making it the most popular show aired during the Christmas season in Poland.
- John Candy did the role of Gus Pulanski (the clarinet player in the polka band in the rental truck) for free, and improvised all of his lines. He shot all his scenes in one day, working 23 hours.
- Judy Garland was the first artist to perform the classic song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in the musical “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Another Garland song from the film, “The Trolley Song,” also became a smash hit.
- In “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Garland refused to sing the grim original line, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last” to child actor Margaret O’Brien, who played Garland’s little sister in the film. The line was dropped from the final version of the song.
- The book on which “Meet Me in St. Louis” is based originally ran as a weekly feature in the New Yorker Magazine in 1942. It was written by Sally Benson.
- According to Natalie Wood’s biographer, during filming of “Miracle on 34th Street,” the young actress was convinced that Edmund Gwenn was actually Santa Claus. (By all accounts, Gwenn was a very good-natured man on the set). It wasn’t until Wood saw him out of costume at the wrap party that she realized he wasn’t Santa.
- Unbeknownst to most parade watchers, Gwenn played Santa Claus in the actual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade held November 28, 1946. The film’s parade scenes were shot at the same time. Gwenn had to fulfill the duties of the Macy’s parade Santa, including addressing the crowd from the marquee of Macy’s after the parade was over.
- Released in 1947, “Miracle on 34th Street” received a ‘B’ rating (morally objectionable in part) from the highly influential Legion of Decency because Maureen O’Hara played a divorcée.
- Released as a TV movie in 1969, “Frosty the Snowman” is the last movie role of legendary entertainer Jimmy Durante, who played the narrator and sang the title song.
- Frosty’s voice was provided by Jackie Vernon, a standup comic discovered by Steve Allen in 1963. One of Vernon’s most famous lines was “I used to be an atheist; gave it up: no holidays.”
- Billy de Wolfe, who portrayed Professor Hinkle, the magician, was a former vaudeville comic whose dandified voice patterns later inspired comics like Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly.
- The airport greeting footage at the beginning and the end of the 2003 film “Love Actually” is all real. The director had a team of camera operators filming at Heathrow Airport for a week, and whenever they saw something that fit the tone of the film they would ask the people involved for permission to use the footage.
- Andrew Lincoln — who went on to even bigger fame for his portrayal of Rick Grimes in the AMC zombie series “The Walking Dead,” was initially unsure about his character as he thought the scene with handwritten signs was “borderline stalker territory”. The signs he holds up were all written by Lincoln.
- “Love Actually” features three Academy Award winners (Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, and Billy Bob Thornton), and four Acadamy Award nominees (Liam Neeson, Kiera Knightly, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Laura Linney).
BONUS: Two bits of “Die Hard” trivia
- Alan Rickman, who portrayed villainous thief Hans Gruber, made his American debut in the film. He had arrived in Hollywood for the first time two days before the movie began shooting. The first scene he filmed was when Gruber met Bruce Willis’ John McClane character, which was done without rehearsal.
- Don Johnson and Richard Dean Anderson, both established action stars in television, were considered for the role of John McClane, as was future “Reservoir Dogs” star Michael Madsen and “Pulp Fiction” star John Travolta.