Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.
MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Flash Gordon was nearly in A Christmas Story.
A Christmas Story, has had an interesting trajectory since it was released in 1983. Written and directed by Bob Clark (based on radio personality/writer Jean Shepard’s stories about his childhood growing up during the 1930s), the film was a modest success upon its initial release but over time developed into first a cult classic and now one of the most mainstream Christmas movies around, with TBS airing a 24-hour marathon of the film every year on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
The film is about a young boy named Ralphie who spends the weeks leading up to Christmas trying to come up with a way to convince his parents to get him a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle for Christmas. Everywhere he turns, he is deterred from desiring the gun through the warning, “you’ll shoot your eye out”. While the driving plot of the film is Ralphie’s quest for the air rifle, the rest of the film is filled with snippets of what life was like during the Great Depression, including Ralphie’s other interests, like the Little Orphan Annie radio show (I did a legend a while back about the truth behind the secret decoder used in the film). Interestingly enough, originally the film was set to reference another one of Ralphie’s interests, the comic strip hero Flash Gordon! Yes, there was nearly a Flash Gordon/Ralphie team-up!
Flash Gordon was created by Alex Raymond for King Features Syndicate as a competitor to then-popular Buck Rogers comic strip. Flash Gordon soon became one of the most popular comic strips in the world and Raymond one of the most influential comic artists of the 20th Century. The strip was about a polo player named Flash Gordon who is essentially kidnapped on to a spaceship by a scientist intent on discovering the source of deadly meteors that had been threatening Earth’s existence. Flash, the scientist (Dr. Hans Zorlav) and a young woman (Dale Arden) end up on the planet Mongo, where they discover that the meteors were sent by the evil Ming the Merciless. Flash and his companions go on many adventures while trying to overthrow the evil Ming. Buster Crabbe starred in three hit serials starring Flash between 1936 and 1940.
So Flash Gordon would have been right in the wheelhouse of someone like Ralphie. A recurring theme in the movie is the depiction of Ralphie’s inner thoughts, as he has a very active imagination. He fantasizes that his composition about why he wants the Red Ryder air rifle is so compelling that his teacher convinces his parents to get him one, he dreams that he goes blind after his mother forces him to wash his mouth out with soap following Ralphie using a swear word in front of his parents and he daydreams about saving his parents from burglars and in another fantasy, saving his teacher from the evil desperado known as Black Bart (both scenarios involved him using his trusty Red Ryder air rifle, of course). Originally, Clark intended to film even more dream sequences with Ralphie using the Red Ryder air rifle to save the day. On top of the Black Bart and the burglar scenario, Ralphie was also going to save Santa Claus from burglars and, amazingly enough, Flash Gordon from Ming the Merciless!
In a scene set right after Ralphie imagines his teacher loving his composition, we see Ralphie going home and reading a bunch of comic books, including “Further Adventures of Flash Gordon on the Planet Morgo.” It then cuts to a fantasy sequence where Flash Gordon (played by Paul Hubbard) is captured by Ming the Merciless (Colin Fox), as Ming taunts him about how he is going to use his Turbo-Xenon Space Balloon, with its deadly Z-Gamma Rays, to destroy Earth. Ralphie shows up and rescues Flash and then uses his Red Ryder air rifle to shoot down the balloon and save the Earth.
That leads to the following exchange:
Flash: It’s the end of Ming the Merciless. You have done it, Ralph. You have saved all Earthlings. You have saved our planet.”
Ralphie: It was noting, Flash. After all, I had my trusty Red Ryder range-model BB gun, and nothing can stand up to this baby.
Flash: Ralphie, all Earthlings will be forever in your debt.
Ralphie: I know. Here, I’ll untie yo.
Flash: You know, Ralph, sometimes I’d like to meet that Red Ryder. He and I are in the same business, fighting Evil everywhere and standing for Truth and Justice.
The scene was filmed but it was cut for whatever reason (most likely Clark figured that they already had enough fantasy sequences). It was cut late enough in the process that Hubbard and Cox actually got credited in the final film!
Sadly, the filmed footage appears to have been destroyed. What a shame. That’d make for a great DVD extra!
The legend is…
Thanks to the A Christmas Story House and Museum for the information and the photo of Flash and Ralphie!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.