One of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time, A Christmas Story, is playing in houses across America today. The film is narrated by Jean Shepherd -- but it turns out that's the least of his contributions to this holiday favorite.
A Christmas Story is based on a novel titled In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. Both the novel and the screenplay adaptation were written by none other than Jean Shepherd, the narrator himself.
Shepherd grew up in Indiana through the Great Depression and World War II. He worked as a mail carrier, labored in a steel mill, and served stateside as U.S. Army Signal Corpsman. He went on to a prolific career as a writer, radio host, TV personality, and actor. He died in 1999.
In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash was Shepherd's first book based on his childhood in Indiana. It was a collection of stories he'd written over the years, most of which he'd read or performed on the radio or TV, and published in magazines like Playboy. The book was published in 1966. He went on to write three more books with equally enigmatic titles -- Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories: and Other Disasters, The Ferrari in the Bedroom, and A Fistful of Fig Newtons.
Almost twenty years after the release of the book, Shepherd worked with MGM on the film adaptation. On top of writing the screenplay and doing the voice over work, he appeared briefly as a man waiting in line to meet Santa Claus at the department store.
Shepherd's inspiring career must have impacted Peter Billingsley, who played his younger counterpart as Ralphie Parker. Billingsley has also gone one to have an extensive career in entertainment, preferring to work behind the camera these days rather than in front of it. Much like Shepherd, Billingsley made a conspicuous cameo in a Christmas classic later in his life, when he played the supervisor in Santa's workshop in Elf.