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25 Facts About Famous Christmas Movies

Enjoy these elf-sized facts about some of the movies you'll catch on TV every holiday season.

Scrooged

1. It just goes to show you: don'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 Color 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 realize 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.

Elf


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. Billingsley and director Jon Favreau (along with actor Vince Vaughn) are good friends.

Home Alone


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.

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Big Questions
What Happened to the Physical Copy of the 'I Have a Dream' Speech?
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AFP, Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

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Live Smarter
3 Reasons Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail—and How to Fix Them
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iStock

You don’t need a special day to come up with goals, but New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to build better habits. The problem is, by the time February rolls around, our best laid plans have often gone awry. Don’t let it happen this year: Heed these three simple tips for fail-proof resolutions.

PROBLEM 1: THEY’RE TOO OVERWHELMING

Let’s say your goal is to pay off $5000 worth of credit card debt this year. Since you're giving yourself a long timeframe (all year) to pay it down, you end up procrastinating or splurging, telling yourself you’ll make up for it later. But the longer you push it off, the bigger and more overwhelming your once-reasonable goal can feel.

Solution: Set Smaller Milestones

The big picture is important, but connecting your goal to the present makes it more digestible and easier to stick with. Instead of vowing to pay off $5000 by the end of next December, make it your resolution to put $96 toward your credit card debt every week, for example.

In a study from the University of Wollongong, researchers asked subjects to save using one of two methods: a linear model and a cyclical model. In the linear model, the researchers told subjects that saving for the future was important and asked them to set aside money accordingly. In contrast, they told the cyclical group:

This approach acknowledges that one’s life consists of many small and large cycles, that is, events that repeat themselves. We want you to think of the personal savings task as one part of such a cyclical life. Make your savings task a routinized one: just focus on saving the amount that you want to save now, not next month, not next year. Think about whether you saved enough money during your last paycheck cycle. If you saved as much as you wanted, continue with your persistence. If you did not save enough, make it up this time, with the current paycheck cycle.

When subjects used this cyclical model, focusing on the present, they saved more than subjects who focused on their long-term goal.

PROBLEM 2: THEY'RE TOO VAGUE

“Find a better job” is a worthy goal, but it's a bit amorphous. It's unclear what "better" means to you, and it’s difficult to plot the right course of action when you’re not sure what your desired outcome is. Many resolutions are vague in this way: get in shape, worry less, spend more time with loved ones.

Solution: Make Your Goal a SMART One

To make your goal actionable, it should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. When you set specific parameters and guidelines for your goal, it makes it easier to come up with an action plan. Under a bit more scrutiny, "spend more time with loved ones" might become "invite my best friends over for dinner every other Sunday night." This new goal is specific, measurable, time-bound—it ticks all the boxes and tells you exactly what you want and how to get there.

PROBLEM 3: YOU FELL FOR THE “FALSE FIRST STEP”

“A false first step is when we try to buy a better version of ourselves instead of doing the actual work to accomplish it,” Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch tells Mental Floss. “The general idea is that purchasing something like a heart rate monitor can feel a lot like we're taking a step towards our fitness goals,” Ongaro says. “The purchase itself can give us a dopamine release and a feeling of satisfaction, but it hasn't actually accomplished anything other than spending some money on a new gadget.”

Even worse, sometimes that dopamine is enough to lure you away from your goal altogether, Ongaro says. “That feeling of satisfaction that comes with the purchase often is good enough that we don't feel the need to actually go out for a run and use it.”

Solution: Start With What You Already Have

You can avoid this trap by forcing yourself to start your goal with the resources you already have on hand. “Whether the goal is to learn a new language or improve physical fitness, the best way to get started and avoid the false first step is to do the best you can with what you already have,” Ongaro says. “Start really small, even learning one new word per day for 30 days straight, or just taking a quick walk around the block every day.”

This isn’t to say you should never buy anything related to your goal, though. As Ongaro points out, you just want to make sure you’ve already developed the habit a bit first. “Establish a habit and regular practice that will be enhanced by a product you may buy,” he says. “It's likely that you won't even need that gadget or that fancy language learning software once you actually get started ... Basically, don't let buying something be the first step you take towards meaningful change in your life.”

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