MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Flash Gordon was nearly in A Christmas Story.
A Christmas Story has had an interesting trajectory since its release in 1983. Written and directed by Bob Clark, and based on radio personality/writer Jean Shepherd's stories about growing up in the 1930s, the film was a modest success upon its initial release. However, over time it developed into first a cult classic and now one of the most mainstream of holiday movies, with TBS kicking off a 24-hour marathon each year on Christmas Eve.
The comedy is about a boy named Ralphie who spends the weeks leading up to Christmas trying to convince his parents, teacher and even a department-store Santa Claus that he deserves a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle for Christmas. Everywhere he turns, Ralphie is rejected with the warning, "You'll shoot your eye out.” While the quest for the air rifle drives the plot, 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 few months back about the truth behind the secret decoder used in the film). Interestingly enough, A Christmas Story originally 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!
Created by Alex Raymond for King Features Syndicate as a competitor to then-popular Buck Rogers adventure strip, Flash Gordon soon became one of the most popular comics in the world, and Raymond one of the most influential cartoonists of the 20th century. Introduced in 1934, the strip followed a polo player named Flash Gordon who is essentially kidnapped onto a spaceship by a scientist intent on discovering the source of deadly meteors 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 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 as Flash Gordon in three hit movie serials between 1936 and 1940.
So Flash Gordon would have been squarely in the wheelhouse of someone like Ralphie. A recurring theme in A Christmas Story is the depiction of Ralphie's inner thoughts, as he has an active imagination. He fantasizes his composition about why he wants the Red Ryder air rifle is so compelling his teacher convinces his parents to get him one; he dreams he goes blind after his mother forces him to wash his mouth out with soap; and he daydreams about saving his parents from burglars and rescuing 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 in which 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 rescue 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 Mongo. It then cuts to a fantasy sequence in which Flash Gordon (played by Paul Hubbard) is captured by Ming the Merciless (Colin Fox), who taunts him with a threat 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 the later cut for unknown reasons (most likely Clark figured they already had enough fantasy sequences). However, was removed late enough in the process that Hubbard and Cox actually received credit 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 email@example.com.
Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!