Whatever Happened To Peter Billingsley: The Christmas Story Star?
I figured that since it’s December and all, this would be a nice time to reminisce about a beloved character that runs non-stop for 24 hours over Christmas day on TBS. Maybe not as beloved as he used to be, because having something on repeat for 24 hours can cause extreme oversaturation that may make one shoot their own eyes out. What’s crazy is that this year will be the 17th year that Turner Broadcasting has aired a 24 hour marathon (first on TNT, then TBS). I know they own the broadcasting rights, but couldn’t Ted Turner open the wallet and shell out some cash to get another Christmas movie, say, Die Hard (yes, I’m claiming Die Hard as a Christmas movie. It is!) and run that for 24 hours? I mean, it’s not like he’s spending his money on the roster for the Atlanta Braves. Sidenote about Die Hard: Hans Gruber looks like Tom Green. Shout out to Ray’s girlfriend for bringing this to our attention.
Die Hard tangent aside, I’m obviously referring to Peter Billingsley, aka Ralphie from A Christmas Story. Each year, this lovable scamp infiltrates our holiday season and causes problems at school, daydreams, pines for a weapon, and curses like a sailor.
Let’s not forget about the time he said THE word:
You know what no one talks about? The fact that his dad is the one that knocked around the lugnut-filled hubcap. It’s not Ralphie’s fault his uncoordinated father is a wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube man, and also a poor role model when it comes to cursing and feeling up a leg lamp.
Billingsley got an early start in acting, appearing in over 100 commercials as a child. I searched, and thankfully the Internet had record of this in the dusty archives of YouTube. It felt like I was in the Internet’s version of the Indiana Jones warehouse. His biggest commercial was a series of Hershey’s Syrups in which he portrayed Messy Marvin, in which he makes a mess of everything except when he’s mixing up a delicious glass of chocolate milk. The shoulder shrug alone made me go out and buy 3 bottles of Hershey’s syrup (sidenote: I realize my last name is Hershey so you might think “Nick, it’s not that crazy that you’d buy Hershey products” but here’s the thing: One time in high school my friends and I went to HersheyPark and I showed them my ID, hoping they’d give me a discount to get in, but the jerk behind the glass denied me. Since then I have not shown any allegiance to Hershey products. I felt you needed to know this about me). Anyway, here’s Messy Marvin in all his glory:
I can only assume his contract with Hershey had expired once he got on the Ovaltine train in A Christmas Story. I imagine people were protesting it like when Boston favorite Johnny Damon signed with the Yankees. It’s a fine line only few can tread.
In 1981 he was in Paternity alongside Burt Reynolds. If only there was a 30 second trailer…
Quick plot summary: Reynolds wants a kid, but not a wife. He galavants around looking for surrogates, finds one, then falls in love with her and has kids. But you probably figured that out because it’s a predictable 80s movie. Here’s Billingsley coaching up Reynolds in what I assume is a mature-for-his-age kid giving the Bandit advice on life and love.
Billingsley went on to make appearances in such shows as The Wonder Years, Punky Brewster, and Who’s the Boss?
He then starred in the incredible film The Dirt Bike Kid, in which he turns a town upside down by riding a dirt bike that can fly. Oh, those crooked bankers have no idea what they’re in for!
In 1993, as his acting career was slowing down, he starred in a B-movie sci-fi horror film called Arcade, where all you need to play is two quarters and your soul:
After watching that trailer I’m actually a little surprised that the CGI effects look as good as they do for it being made in ’93. I mean, it got blown away by Toy Story two years later, but still.
Billingsley was also a part of the CBS Schoolbreak Special where he formed a friendship with Vince Vaughn, and in turn John Favreau. This completely makes sense if you were keen enough to catch Billingsley in The Break-Up, Four Christmases, Elf, Couples Retreat and Ironman. They’re such good friends they even chew on cigars and celebrate births together.
He’s continued to work on projects from the other side of the lens, most recently bringing A Christmas Story to the stage in 2010 as a musical, and has since been taking it around the country with great response. He was also credited as an executive producer for Sullivan & Son on TBS before the show was cancelled last month.
Here’s how Billingsley is looking these days:
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