Who Is The Man Behind The Voice Of ‘A Christmas Story’?
Everybody knows the 1983 holiday classic 'A Christmas Story'. I mean c'mon, who doesn't know all about Ralphie and his dream of owning a Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time right? But what would that story be without it being told so eloquently by...by....hey, wait a minute. Just who is that guy?
That man happens to be Jean Shepherd and he was not only the voice of 'A Christmas Story' but he also co-wrote the script along with Leigh Brown and Bob Clark.
Shepherd was born in 1921 on the south side of Chicago, Illinois and was raised in Hammond, Indiana before joining the Army Signal Corps during World War II. After his military service, Shepherd started his broadcast radio career in early 1945 in Hammond, Indiana at WJOB. He then worked at stations in Cincinnati (WSAI, WCKY, and WKRC) before landing a late-night gig on KYW in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Eventually Shepherd was headed to the Big Apple and WOR radio in the winter of 1955. It was there he entertained fans by reading poetry and telling stories which brings this story back to 'A Christmas Story'.
'A Christmas Story' was based on short stories written by Shepherd, ones he read on the air at WOR-AM in New York. In fact, it was on Christmas Eve of 1974 when Shepherd read a tale to listeners that would later become the basis of 'A Christmas Story'. At the time the story was titled 'Duel In The Snow, Or, Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid'. It was a chapter from Shepherd's 1966 book, 'In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash'. Here is the recording from that night:
And the rest is movie history.
Here are some other interesting trivia notes on the late great Jean Shepherd (1921-1999) courtesy of IMDB:
1) Provided the voice of the Narrator/Father character in the 'Carousel of Progress' attraction at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.
2) Inspired the deejay character in Jack Kerouac's novel 'On the Road'.
3) The inspiration for Jason Robards' character in 'A Thousand Clowns' (1965).
4) Peter Finch's famous rant in the 1976 film 'Network' was inspired by Shepherd's radio diatribes.
5) Steve Allen, who listened to Shepherd on WOR, suggested him as his replacement on Tonight!, the first of 'Tonight Show' series, in the late 1950s. NBC went with Jack Paar instead, deciding that Shepherd was too critical and opinionated to host a network show.
6) A life-long, die-hard Chicago White Sox fan.
7) A columnist for the 'Village Voice' weekly newspaper in New York City, called 'The Night People Column', in 1956 and '57.
8) Posthumously inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame on November 13, 2000.
9) Is mentioned in the 'Dictionary of American Slang' in the entry for 'Night People', which is defined as 'People who work or live at night, sleeping during the day' and 'Nonconformists'. Shepherd referred to his listeners as 'Night People' often explaining how they differed from 'Day People'.
10) Was a licensed amateur (ham) radio operator with the call sign K2ORS. Following his death, another ham took over Jean's call sign to honor his memory.