Peter Billingsley Apologizes for 24-Hours of ‘A Christmas Story’

A CHRISTMAS STORY, Peter Billingsley, 1983.
Everett Collection

The holiday season has certain entertainment staples it just wouldn’t be the holidays without. Among them: Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch … and Ralphie.

The wide-eyed child who literally dreams of finding a Red Ryder BB gun under the tree — despite the famous warning “You’ll shoot your eye out” — spends a lot of time in homes at the yuletide, thanks especially to the now traditional 24-hour marathon TBS and TNT gives A Christmas Story starting on Christmas Eve 8pmET through Christmas Day.

A CHRISTMAS STORY, Peter Billingsley, 1983.

MGM/courtesy Everett Collection

Based on a novel by Jean Shepherd, the 1983 comedy made a young star of Peter Billingsley, later became quite active behind the camera. He often teamed with close friend Vince Vaughn, having been the director of the movie Couples Retreat and an executive producer of such films as Four Christmases and the TBS sitcom Sullivan & Son.

A CHRISTMAS STORY, Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Darrin McGavin, Melinda Dillon, 1983,

MGM/courtesy Everett Collection

Even with all of that activity, the then 41-year-old Billingsley [this interview was done in 2012, Billingsley is now 52] maintains a warm spot in his heart for A Christmas Story, as do so many others. “There’s a very loyal fan base for that movie,” he acknowledges. “Those who like it know it and quote it, and it’s a part of the family tradition of Christmas for them.”

Billingsley tends to tune in himself at some point during the TBS marathon of the film, also starring Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon as Ralphie’s parents — and boasting such now legendary elements as a leg lamp, pink bunny pajamas, a “triple dog dare” involving a tongue and a very cold flagpole, frontier fantasy sequences, and an ultimately fearsome visit to a department-store Santa.

A CHRISTMAS STORY, Peter Billingsley, Jeff Gillen, 1983.

Everett Collection

“First of all, I apologize for being in people’s houses for 24 hours,” Billingsley muses. “Having Sullivan & Son on the network, I feel like I’ve already been in the TBS family for as long as the marathon of A Christmas Story has been going, so it’s nice to be doing that job with them.

“The movie usually does wind up being on at my house, because we do Christmas with a lot of family and a lot of kids. And they like it, not just because their uncle is in it, but they enjoy it just on that level of being a tradition. It’s been enough years that it seems kind of normal when it’s on the kitchen TV, and you just hear it when you’re walking through to get some more coffee.”

There’s also A Christmas Story 2, since Warner Home Video released a sequel made directly for DVD and Blu-ray. Billingsley doesn’t conceal that he’s less interested in that (“The original is as well as you could do a movie in that format, so why would you ever try to improve upon it?”) than in a stage version of A Christmas Story that made its Broadway debut [also in 2012] … especially since he’s one of its producers.

A Christmas Story 2 BTS


Braeden Lemasters , Valin Shinyei, David W. Thompson Flick and David Michael Paul star in the 2012 musical adaptation


“It’s a big, full-blown musical,” Billingsley says. “I’d heard about it, and if I’m creatively inspired by something, I want to get involved in it. The producers and I got together after I’d heard some of the score, and they were making some changes, so it was good timing. I felt I had a lot that I could contribute to it, and so far, so good. We’ve had good runs in Seattle and Chicago, and now, it’s Broadway.”

An actor again more recently in Four Christmases and Iron Man, Billingsley was mentored in his off-camera pursuits by Bob Clark, the late director of the screen A Christmas Story. That kept them connected as the reputation of the movie rose — in much the same way It’s a Wonderful Life became a holiday viewing staple — after what Billingsley allows was “a mediocre performance” profit-wise in its original theatrical run.

A CHRISTMAS STORY CHRISTMAS, from left: Scott Schwartz, Peter Billingsley, R.D. Robb, 2022.

Yana Blajeva/HBO Max/Courtesy Everett Collection

Scott Schwartz, Peter Billingsley and R.D. Robb reunited in 2022 for A Christmas Story Christmas


“In a way, it really caught its audience through home video, which had just started a couple of years before. A movie would come out in theaters, and maybe you could get a re-release (which A Christmas Story did) if there wasn’t a crowded Christmas window the next year.

“Cable and video weren’t really part of the equation back then,” Billingsley notes, “so the popularity of the film really grew as I got older and outgrew being able to play that age where I would have been able to be cast for other things. It’s nice to have been a part of that movie and to have seen it grow. You never expect to have that kind of success.”

This story was written by Jay Bobbin and was originally featured in our sister publication Channel Guide Magazine in 2012
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Home For The Holidays

November 2021

Celebrate the holidays with your favorite classic stars!

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