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20 Years Of 'A Christmas Story' Marathon

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Turner Broadcasting System
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Peter Billingsley starred in Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" in 1983.

Happy anniversary, Ralphie! For the 20th year, "A Christmas Story" marathon will air on the Turner networks this weekend.

Jean Shepherd, a former Cincinnati radio and TV personality, narrates the 1983 film adapted from his story about Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wanting a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas in the 1940s. 

And in a year or so, "A Christmas Story" fans could be able to see a documentary about Shepherd.

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Credit Turner Broadcasting System
Ralphie with his Red Ryder BB Gun.

"A Christmas Story" airs 8 p.m. Christmas Eve through 8 p.m. Christmas on TNT and TBS. The "24 Hours Of 'A Christmas Story' " started on TNT in 1997. The movie, filmed in Cleveland, moved to TBS in 2004, and became a simulcast in 2014, says Kevin Little, editorial director for TBS  and TNT public relations in Atlanta.

By the end of next year, producer-director-writer Nick Mantis hopes to complete his documentary about Shepherd, who developed his storytelling style in 1947-51 on WLW-AM, WCKY-AM and WSAI-AM – where he got fired frequently for talking too much and not playing records. (Oh, fudge!) He also did his first TV on WLW-TV in the early 1950s.

"SHEP:  Life and Career of Master Storyteller Jean Shepherd" will include interviews filmed by Mantis two years ago with Cincinnati broadcast historians Mike Martini and Bill Myers; retired Enquirer art critic and Shepherd fan Owen Findsen; and me. 

https://youtu.be/83rIeZVqdcs","_id":"0000017a-3b4a-d913-abfe-bf4eb5d90000","_type":"035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2"}">https://youtu.be/83rIeZVqdcs">https://youtu.be/83rIeZVqdcs","_id":"0000017a-3b4a-d913-abfe-bf4eb5d90000","_type":"035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2"}">https://youtu.be/83rIeZVqdcs

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Credit John Kiesewetter
Nick Mantis (left), Owen Findsen and Bill Myers at filming in October 2014.

Born in Chicago in 1912, Shepherd grew up in Hammond, Ind., and started in radio at Hammond's WJOB-AM. He spent five years in Cincinnati, and a brief stint in Philadelphia, before going to New York's WOR-AM.

"SHEP" includes interview with comedian Harry Shearer; comedian/magician Penn Jillette; WOR-AM talk host Barry Farber; Boston talk host and close friend Ron Della Chiesa; Shepherd historian Steve Glazer; business manager Irwin Zwilling; and Herb and Laurie Squire, Shepherd's radio engineer and assistant producer.

"The documentary will reveal how much more of an impact Jean Shepherd had on the media and people through his radio shows, books, TV shows and on stage as well," Mantis says.

Shepherd, who died in 1999 at age 78, was inducted into Chicago's National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005. "A Christmas Story" was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2012.