A Profile on Peter Billingsley
By:Claire Danko, GIFF Intern
A table lamp shaped like a woman’s leg and adorned with a fishnet stocking. A precocious doe-eyed youngster, obsessed with a dangerous Christmas gift and six little words that remind us all it is Christmas: “You’ll shoot you’re eye out kid!” These are just a few of the reasons why TBS plays A Christmas Story on their channel for 24 hours a day once a year. This Christmas classic is one of the country’s most beloved traditions.
The nostalgic appeal of A Christmas Story, set in the 1940s, is in the way its timeless holiday themes cut across generational lines and bring families together. The film has a unique narrative, centered on Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsley. His portrayal of the Red Ryder BB Gun obsessed youngster is so integral to the film, it’s tough to imagine anyone else in the role.
In A Christmas Story, Ralphie’s thoughts are narrated by his adult voice. His mature speech is a stark contrast to his innocent counterpart, which enhances the comical edge. Ralphie’s hysterical narrations focus on his childlike perceptions of his parents and peers. Ralphie’s notorious fixation with the Red Ryder BB Gun transports audiences, reminding them how it felt to have that youthful tunnel vision. Prompted by Ralphie’s storytelling, we reflect on our own nostalgic hindsight that reminds us of all that our younger selves believed in.
Billingsley is so inextricably associated with this Christmas classic, many of us don’t realize he went on to have an impressive career as a producer. The child star turned mogul earned his first Emmy nomination in 2001 for Dinner For Five, alongside his friend and co-producer, Jon Favreau. His first box office hit was Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005), which he also co-produced.
Billingsley met Vince Vaughn in 1990 while acting together on CBS’s after-school live sitcom, The Fourth Man. The pair went on to start a production company, Wild West Picture Show Productions, which has given us a number of modern comedy classics. He has been known to make cameos in his production company’s films, like Four Christmases and The Break-Up. Wild West Picture Productions was also behind hit films The Dilemma (2011) and The Internship (2013). Billingsley directed his first film, Couples Retreat, in 2009. Although, perhaps Billingsley’s biggest achievement in Entertainment was as the executive producer of Iron Man, which grossed a whopping $318.3 Million in the box office. Billingsley made cameos in both Iron Man and Spider-Man as “William Ginter Riva.”
At the end of the day, Billingsley will always be associated with Ralphie. He paid homage to his breakout role as Ralphie by doing a cameo in Elf, another Christmas favorite, and produced a theatrical rendition of A Christmas Story in 2010. Most recently, Billingsley has produced two films: Welcome to Sudden Death (2020) and The Opening Act (2020). We remain excited to see what he will do next in his career.
Fiduccia, Christopher. “25 Weird Facts Behind the Making of A Christmas Story.” Screenrant, 8 December 2019. https://screenrant.com/a-christmas-story-trivia-making-of/. Accessed 26 November 2020.
“Peter Billingsley.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/name/nm0082526/. Accessed 26 November 2020.
“Peter Billingsley.” Rotten Tomatoes, www.rottentomatoes.com/celebrity/peter_billingsley. Accessed 2 December 2020.
Robberson, Joe. “10 Impressive Things Peter Billingsey’s Been Doing Since ‘A Christmas Story.’” Zimbio, 26 November 2014.
“Who Is Peter Billingsley? Everything You Need to Know.” – Facts, Childhood, Family Life, Achievements, www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/peter-billingsley-47955.php. Accessed 26 November 2020.
“With Wild West Picture Show Productions.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/search/title/?companies=co0180082. Accessed 2 December 2020.