Enjoy these elf-sized tidbits about some of the movies you’ll catch on TV every holiday season.
1. It just goes to show you: don’t shouldn’t mess with the Ghost of Christmas Present. During the scene where Carol Kane grabs Bill Murray’s lip, she really latched on and accidentally tore it so badly that they had to stop filming for a few days so Bill could heal and his injuries wouldn’t be so obvious on camera.
2. All of Bill Murray’s actor brothers are in the movie – that would be Brian Doyle-Murray, Joel Murray and John Murray.
3. That’s Paul Shaffer leading the street carolers Bill Murray insults. The other carolers are Miles Davis (yep, that Miles Davis), famous saxophone player David Sanborn and Grammy-winning jazz guitarist Larry Carlton. It’s a pretty illustrious group of carolers to be heckling, really.
It’s a Wonderful Life
4. The movie was mentioned in an FBI file in 1947, when an analyst passed along the concern that the film was an obvious attempt to discredit bankers, a “common trick used by Communists.”
5. Among other people, the notoriously cynical Dorothy Parker contributed some rewrites to the script. Maybe she had a soft spot for Christmas (or maybe the money was just that good).
6. Does George look strangely sweaty to you when he and Clarence are on the bridge? That’s because it was 90 degrees out the day that scene was filmed. But I think it works –- I always assumed he looked damp because of the snow and because he was in the middle of his nervous breakdown.
Babes in Toyland
7. The movie that is now a cult classic was, as many cult classics are, a colossal flop at the box office when it debuted.
8. A bunch of the pieces from the movie – Mary’s garden, the shoe house, the pumpkin house and the trees – were an attraction at Disneyland’s Opera House for about a year following the release of the movie.
9. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of colour went behind the scenes for the movie’s wrap party… except since the whole wrap party was scripted and choreographed, it wasn’t really “behind the scenes,” exactly. Annette Funicello co-hosted it with Walt and it featured performances by many cast members.
Miracle on 34th Street
10. The scenes of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are actually taken from the 1946 parade. The movie is credited with bringing the traditional parade to the national spotlight, and Macy’s employees were given half a day off so they could see the first showing of the movie. In fact…
11. Most people didn’t realise that Edmund Gwenn, Santa Claus in the movie, also played Santa Claus during the real 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He even played to the crowd from the marquee of Macy’s when the parade ended to open the “official” Christmas shopping season.
12. Kris Kringle tries to prove that he’s quite mentally competent by reciting various bits of knowledge, including that Daniel D. Tompkins was John Quincy Adams’ Vice President. Except… he wasn’t. John C. Calhoun was Adams’ Veep; Tompkins served under James Monroe.
A Christmas Story
13. For anyone keeping count, Ralphie says he wants the Red Ryder BB Gun 28 times throughout the course of the movie.
14. Jack Nicholson was very interested in playing Ralphie’s dad. But casting (and paying) Jack would have been too expensive. Director Bob Clark has said Darrin McGavin was the perfect choice.
15. Mythbusters tested whether it was possible to get your tongue truly stuck on a piece of cold metal. Guess what? It is. So don’t triple dog dare your best friend to try it.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
16. The Capra family must have Christmas in their genes. The assistant director of Christmas Vacation, Frank Capra III, is the grandson of the legendary Frank Capra, who directed It’s a Wonderful Life. The part where Clark “fixes” the newel post by sawing it off with a chainsaw is an homage to It’s a Wonderful Life – the newel post at the Bailey’s house was also loose. Also, Russ is watching It’s a Wonderful Life on TV when his grandparents arrive.
17. I can always relate to the scene where the two grandpas are asleep in the armchairs while the Christmas parade is on TV in the background. This always happens at our Thanksgivings and Christmases – grandpas, dads, uncles. What makes the scene even funnier is that the actors who played the grandpas were supposedly both really asleep.
18. According to some reports, when the movie was first discussed back in 1993, Jim Carrey was going to play the lead.
19. Gimbels Department Store was a real department store and competitor of Macy’s until it closed in 1987. It was also featured in Miracle on 34th Street. The Gimbels exterior in the movie is actually the 34th Street Macy’s in Manhattan with a bit of digital alteration.
20. Ming Ming the elf from the beginning of the movie is Peter Billingsley, the actor who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story. That’s him in the picture. Billingsley and director Jon Favreau (along with actor Vince Vaughn) are good friends.
21. Like so many other Christmas movies, Home Alone slips in a reference to another Christmas classic: while (most) of the family is in the hotel room in France, they’re shown watching It’s a Wonderful Life.
22. Macaulay Culkin still has physical evidence of Kevin McAllister – in the scene where Harry bites Kevin’s finger, Joe Pesci bit harder than he’d intended and left Mac with a scar.
23. Daniel Stern wasn’t crazy about having to film a scene with a tarantula on his face, but agreed to it in the condition that they do just one take. His scream had to be dubbed in later because a real scream would have scared the tarantula.
The Polar Express
24. When the conductor says “11344 Edbrooke” near the beginning of the film, he’s referring to director Robert Zemeckis’ actual childhood home in Chicago.
25. Polar Express author Chris Van Allsburg gets a reference to his hometown in, too – when Hero Boy looks at a picture of himself on Santa’s lap, you can see that it was taken at Herpolsheimer’s. That was a real department store in Allsburg’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is also where the movie premiere was held.