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'A Christmas Story' celebrates 35 years: Everything you never knew about the iconic movie

We chatted with fans and also came up with 35 fascinating facts about "A Christmas Story" as the holiday favorite turns 35 years old

CLEVELAND -- It's time to break out those funny-looking pink bunny onesies and stay away from the red soap!

The iconic movie "A Christmas Story" is celebrating it's 35th year, so we talked with some dedicated fans about their favorite lines from this holiday classic.

Since November 18, 1983, "A Christmas Story" has graced your screen each holiday season. It exposed the Parker family's dysfunction, relating to thousands of families across the United States. Those stinging one-liners and epic scenes keep fans coming back, year after year.

"The funnest thing about people visiting here is that people get to relive their favorite scenes. The whole house is interactive," A Christmas House curator, Steven Intermill said.

New this year is 'The Bumpus House.' Folks can stay overnight, right next door to the house and museum. Tours run daily, and some fans take it more seriously than others.

"We were the suckers who paid the extra ten dollars to wear the bunny suit to do the tour," Benjamin Pyrc of San Antonio, Texas, said.

So to celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of the most beloved films of the holiday season, we decided to come up 35 fascinating facts you might not have known about "A Christmas Story." Thanks to A Christmas Story house for some help on many of these fun tidbits!

Here we go:

1. Before he directed "A Christmas Story," Bob Clark was a journeyman filmmaker whose biggest hit was the sex comedy "Porky's." That movie's success enabled Clark to have the clout to get a film made based on the broadcast of radio personality and writer Jean Shepherd’s recollections of growing up in Indiana in the late ’30s and early ’40s. Clark had heard the broadcast in the late 1960s.

2. The cable network TNT first aired its 12 showing, 24-hour marathon of "A Christmas Story" as a stunt in 1988, but popular demand turned stunt into tradition. The marathon is now on TBS.

3. To find an American city resembling an Indiana town of the 1940s, director Clark sent his location scouts to twenty cities before selecting Cleveland as the site for filming. The decision to film here was due to the willingness of Higbee’s to allow the movie to be filmed inside the store.

4. Not all of the film was made here in Cleveland, however. The Christmas tree shopping scene and many of the inside shots of the house were filmed in Toronto, Ontario. One of Toronto’s trademark red trolleys can be seen driving by the shot of the outside of the tree lot. Ralphie’s school exteriors were filmed at Victoria School in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

5. Speaking of outside of the school: For the scene in which Flick’s tongue sticks to the flagpole, a hidden suction tube was used to safely create the illusion that his tongue had frozen to the metal.

6. Here's a dynamite drop-in that we didn't know: The role of Mr. Parker, Ralphie’s father, was originally offered to Jack Nicholson, who reportedly was interested in playing the part. Director Clark, however, lobbied hard for Darren McGavin. The producers, worried about Nicholson’s typically large salary requests, eventually approved McGavin.

7. Jean Shepherd’s book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, which “A Christmas Story” is based on, is a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories that Shepherd wrote for Playboy magazine during the 1960s.

8. In addition to providing the voice-over narration, Shepherd had a cameo appearance in the movie as a grouchy department store customer who tells Ralphie to go to the back of the Santa line.

9. "A Christmas Story” Inspired the creation of “The Wonder Years” television show.

10. The character Scut Farkus, played by Zack Ward, was created specifically for the movie, and never appears in the book. In the book, Grover Dill is the only bully who torments Ralphie.

11. Yano Anaya, who played Grover Dill (the toadie), appeared in only two other films but is probably best known as the evil paperboy with the war cry, “Two dollars!” in the 1985 John Cusack comedy, “Better Off Dead.”

12. The setting for the movie was based on Hammond, Indiana, which was the home town of Jean Sheperd. Sheperd grew up on Cleveland St and went to Warren G. Harding Elementary School...just like Ralphie.

13. Jean Shepherd’s concept for the “major award” leg lamp was based on a real lamp: an illuminated Nehi logo. The style of the leg lamp for A Christmas Story was created by production designer Reuben Freed who had never before seen or heard of a leg lamp.

14. Three leg lamps were made for the movie and all were broken on set during the filming.

15. "A Christmas Story" opened the week before Thanksgiving in 1983 on fewer than 900 screens.The film took in about $2 million its first weekend and double that Thanksgiving weekend – solid business for the time.

16. Remember the department store kid with the goggles? He wasn't an actor, just a local kid. "He was weird and we used him just as he was," recalled Peter Billingsley, who plays Ralphie.

17. Billingsley apparently still has the Red Ryder BB gun and the pink bunny suit; the glasses he (as Ralphie) stepped on and broke were his own. The actor said the scene in sunglasses was the hardest for him, as he is nearly blind and had only pinholes to see through.

18. Before he was Ralphie, Billingsley was perhaps best known as "Messy Marvin" in a series of Hershey's Chocolate syrup commercials.

19. If you're wondering where Billingsley is now, you won't see much of him in front of a camera, however he has built himself a successful career as a producer-director. He worked alongside palsJon Favreau and Vince Vaughn producing Iron Man, The Break-Up, and Four Christmases. The 47-year-old has also directed Couples Retreat and Term Life and helped bring "A Christmas Story: The Musical" to Broadway as a producer in 2012.

20. An elaborate fantasy sequence – in which Ralphie joins Flash Gordon to fight Ming the Merciless – was filmed but dropped from the final cut. Picture of this scene and the costumes used in it are on display at A Christmas Story House and Museum.

21. A second fantasy sequence involving Black Bart's men was cut from the film in favor of the back yard fantasy sequence. The deleted sequence involved Ralphie rescuing Santa from Black Bart’s men while Santa is stuck in a chimney. Little brother Randy (in disguise) played one of Black Bart’s men in the scene. His costume from the scene is on display at A Christmas Story House and Museum.

22. Speaking of Randy: Ian Petrella, the actor who played him, actually lived in the Christmas Story House for a few months. In 2010, Petrella was living in San Francisco and felt wayward about his life, but decided it'd be a good change of pace to temporarily move into the house and give tours. Petrella moved into the house's closed-to-the-public third-floor space and went to work performing meet-and-greets with the visitors.

23. Petrella was able to do that because The Christmas Story house was bought sight unseen off eBay in 2004. At that point, it was a duplex rented out to tenants and didn't have any amenities featured in the movie, including a staircase. The asking price was $99,900, but Californian Brian Jones paid $150,000 to ensure he'd get it and decided to transform the house into a museum, replete with set pieces and details to look like the Parkers actually lived there.

After a six-figure renovation, A Christmas Story House and Museum opened to the public in 2006 and is now a year-round tourist attraction.

24. Some of the “snow” used during the scenes between the kids and the bullies was actually soap flakes and fire fighters foam. The stars later remarked that they were slipping and sliding during the filming of the scenes.

25. Director Bob Clark has a brief cameo appearance as Swede, the Parker family’s dim-witted neighbor with a southern-accent who stops to marvel at the leg lamp from across the street.

26. Actress Tedde Moore was seven months pregnant when she agreed to play school teacher Miss Shields. Moore added some padding to cover up her baby bump, because Miss Shields couldn't be shown as an unwedded mother in the early 1940s time period.

27. The Radio Orphan Annie decodat ther pin that Ralphie receives is the 1940 “Speedomatic” model, indicating that the movie takes place in December, 1940. Different decoder badges were made each year from 1935-1940. By 1941, the decoders were made of paper due to World War II metal shortages.

28. There have been two sequels made to "A Christmas Story." Don't worry if you haven't heard of them, because we hadn't either. Clark and Shepard made "It Runs in the Family" in 1994 as a summer movie with the Parker family. It stars Charles Grodin as the Old Man, Mary Steenburgen as the mother, and Kieran Culkin as Ralphie; the only original cast member to reprise their role was Tedde Moore as Miss Shields. The film, which was originally titled "A Summer Story," bombed at the box office.

The other film was a straight-to-DVD sequel called "A Christmas Story 2" that came out in 2012. It takes place during the Christmas season five years after the first film.

29. According to IMDB, Ralphie says that he wanted the "Red Ryder BB Gun" 28 times.

30. When the character of Scut Farkas first appears, the "Wolf" music from Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" plays in the background. The name "Farkas" is derived from the Hungarian word for "wolf".

31. When they filmed the scene in the Chinese restaurant, actress Melinda Dillon (mother) was purposely given the wrong script, and everyone was in on it. She had no idea that the duck would still have its head and the first time she saw it was when they were filming. Her reactions during the entire sequence were not scripted, which is what director Clark was going for.

32. Among the actors who auditioned to play Ralphie was Will Wheaton, who would go on to play Gordie LaChance in "Stand By Me" and Wesley Crusher in "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

33. Ralphie's two friends are named Flick and Schwartz. The role of Flick is played by Scott Schwartz.

34. The band used during the Christmas parade before Ralphie visits Santa is the marching band from Revere High School.

35. The first two carols heard in the opening of the movie are "Deck The Halls" and "Jingle Bells," the same two carols sung by the staff (in the same order) at the Chinese restaurant to close the movie.

WATCH | Lindsay Buckingham and Dave "Dino" DeNatale talk about the anniversary and the enduring magic of "A Christmas Story" on WKYC's Facebook Live