“A Christmas Story”: Docu on helmer Bob Clark debuts Nov. 29


Bob Clark had a perplexing career in film.

The multihyphenate made one timeless, flawless picture that will run forever — 1983’s “A Christmas Story.”

He also made a whole lot of other movies. Some were successful (“Porky’s,” “Porky’s II”), some became notorious over time (“Black Christmas,” “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”), and some were just plain stinkers (“Rhinestone,” “Baby Geniuses,” “The Karate Dog”).

How could the same guy who gave us a contemporary classic, a perennial holiday fave, also be responsible for talking tots and a Dolly Parton-Sylvester Stallone romance? Well, that was the peculiar, strangely endearing genius of Clark, friends and colleagues say in a new docu on the helmer.

“ClarkWorld,” produced and directed by Deren Abram, is set to bow Nov. 29 in Cleveland as part of a two-day, 25th anniversary salute to “A Christmas Story,” which was shot in and around Cleveland back when areas of the city could reasonably pass for the 1940 time period of the pic with only a little bit of dressing.

The movie about a 9-year-old Ralphie Parker’s determination to secure the Christmas present of his dreams — a Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle (aka a BB gun) — is so beloved that the house used as the boy’s home in the pic is now a tourist attraction and Cleveland is home to an annual “Christmas Story” celebration.

What makes “Christmas Story” so special? It starts with the source material, a story penned by radio humorist Jean Shepherd that so deftly captures the spirit of the season for a kid — the good and the bad, the crass and the commercial, the sweet and the saccharine, the nobody-understands-me angst and the nervous excitement that borders on madness as the Big Morning approaches.

Clark’s movie captures every bit of the sweetness and the edge in Shepherd’s story. Thanks to a stellar cast –anchored by Peter Billingsley as Ralphie and Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon as his parents — the movie can completely transport you back in time, not merely to an America on the cusp of World War II but to a time and a place that exists entirely out of time, but in our collective subconscious under the rough heading of “childhood.”

It works as a sentimental journey even if you didn’t grow up in the Midwest at a time when Dec. 25 was the day “around which the whole kid year revolved,” as the narrator puts it in the movie.

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  1. Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

  2. DPA says:

    Thank you for all of the wonderful and encouraging emails.
    As per the many requests (Thanks Jane), I hope you’ll enjoy a few clips from “ClarkWORLD” posted on blipTV at: http://clarkworld.blip.tv
    Happy Holidays.

  3. Jillian B says:

    I just heard something about Clarkworld. I think it was picked up by WB and is being played next to Christmas story this year… Couldn’t find anything about it online. I’d like to see it. Can anyone confirm?

  4. Nancy Pierce says:

    Hi, Nancy Pierce. That was sure weird when I saw your name … I’m Nancy Pierce, too!

  5. Nancy Pierce says:

    I was fortunate to be able to attend the premier of the movie in Cleveland this weekend and it was wonderful. As big a fan as I am of “A Christmas Story,” I am not at all familiar with the catalog of Bob Clark’s work. I knew he did “Porky’s” but that was all I knew. I learned a lot about him and his other movies. “Clark World” is a well-told story of the highs and lows of a very interesting career. Like all the true greats, Clark’s work is certain to be appreciated far more in the years to come than it ever was in his lifetime.
    STEVE KOONIN – I hope you are listening. Clark World should be picked up by TBS and TNT. Fans of “A Christmas Story” will love it. Don’t miss this golden opportunity. I say we all start a letter-writing campaign!

  6. LEM says:

    Just to be a stickler, it was TNT, not TBS, who started the 24 Hours of “A Christmas Story” marathons, back in 1997. I was head of Programming for the network at the time, and my Programming colleagues and I felt that as “It’s a Wonderful Life” had lost its place as the perennial Christmas TV favorite — after stations and networks had run it to great effect and affection when it was in the public domain, and then it was taken out of PD and hoarded by NBC and virtually disappeared off TV — the natural successor was the charming and more or less unsung “A Christmas Story”.
    To no small chorus of skepticism from others at the network, we prevailed in our plan to offer the movie 12 times in a row, as the perfect holiday marathon. The combination of yuletide appeal, nostalgic charm and performances that were perfectly poised to become cult favorites came together to validate our decision and in the process Christmas Day was that much more delightful across America, we were happy to find out.
    “24 Hours of ‘A Christmas Story'” on TNT was a staple as long as I was there (I left the network in 2000) and continued to air for several years, but was later spread to TBS. But it originated on TNT, long, long before current management came along. (For historical back-up, check out this story from the Los Angeles times from December of 1997: http://articles.latimes.com/1997/dec/24/entertainment/ca-1717 )
    It was indeed the annual television exposure that elevated “A Christmas Story” to its much-deserved place as the modern holiday movie classic, and it’s wonderful to see Bob Clark’s story being told in “Clarkworld”. I am still proud to have played a small part in “A Christmas Story”‘s ascent to glory.

  7. Keith Jackson says:

    Looks like I’m going to see it after all. Just got a flight. now I’m making the pilgrimage too. Gotta brush upon my fave lines from the movie…. “Christmas Story”, that is. Not “Rhinestone”:o)

  8. Keith Jackson says:

    Like a lot of people, I’m a big fan of “Christmas Story”. Damn shame that THIS story has to be told… hope something good comes out it. Sounds like it will. Wish I could make it to Cleveland to see it.

  9. PlainJane says:

    This is fantastic! I have goose bumps. An absolutely splendid and beautiful column.

  10. Perpetual hymn of an open book.
    Like an iced
    dream my mind
    disappears in
    the heart of
    an innocent
    nurse, when a
    clamour appears
    and a delicate
    blackbird discovers
    a glimmer.
    Francesco Sinibaldi

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