A Christmas Story's Leg Lamp And The Soda Company That Inspired It

Halloween is done for another holiday season, and the diabolical symphony of witch cackles and chainsaws reverberating throughout the streets has already been replaced by the twinkle of sleigh bells and Christmas jingles. Come November 1, Americans tend to waste no time in rushing into the Christmas spirit. Some are probably already planning a trip home for the holidays, or maybe compiling a roster of old familiar movies to watch between now and December 25. If that's something you indulge in this time of year, "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) and "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947) are old reliables that you might kick back and enjoy with a cup of hot cocoa at some point, but come on — let's not beat around the mistletoe here.

The 1983 film "A Christmas Story" is likely on a number of Christmastime watch lists. According to the Indiana Foundation, an estimated 40 million people watch the holiday classic every year. There are plenty of iconic jokes that stem from the yuletide favorite, but let's take a second and talk about one of the film's most memorable and outrageous moments: that hideous leg lamp that nearly tore little Ralphie Parker's family apart. 

The leg lamp was inspired by a soda company

If you haven't seen "A Christmas Story" and need a little insight into which scene we're talking about, young Ralphie's father wins a mysterious prize for solving a newspaper puzzle and receives a massive wooden shipping crate. The box's contents are entirely unknown to the confused family, but upon opening it, Ralphie's dad exhumes a scandalous lamp that's essentially a life-sized woman's leg in a fishnet stocking. He takes great pride and pleasure in his prize and, to his wife's horror, places it directly in the living room window, facing the street for all to see. It really is one of the most hilarious and notable parts of the film, but have you ever stopped to wonder why a fishnet-adorned leg-shaped lamp was included in the script?

Ralphie's dad initially stood to win $50,000 for solving the puzzle, but a consolation prize turned out to be the lamp which was the official insignia of a soda company called Nehi (pronounced "knee-high." Get it?). Alert viewers will remember that the grape version of Nehi was a favorite of Radar O'Reilly on M*A*S*H (per M*A*S*H Wiki). According to AV Club, Nehi was once an actual soda company during the mid 1900s, and its logo did in fact include a lean leg belonging to a woman. Nehi eventually rebranded itself and became RC (Royal Crown) Cola, but these days, the iconic leg is nowhere to be found on the bottles and cans of Nehi still available in supermarkets across the U.S. (An assortment of leg-centric Nehi ads can be viewed at the flicklives website.)

Origins of the lamp

"A Christmas Story" is a loose adaptation of a 1966 sardonic novel titled "In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash" by Jean Shepherd. A Christmas Story House reports that Shepherd included the bit with the leg in the section of his book titled "My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art." It made an earlier appearance on screen some seven years before "A Christmas Story" came out, in PBS's "The Phantom of the Open Hearth" (1976), another film based on Shepherd's work.

"A Christmas Story Christmas," a follow-up to the original film, is set for release on November 17 on HBO Max. It once again stars Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker who, now a grown adult with a family of his own, brings his wife and kids back to his childhood town to spend the holiday season with his mother and his host of childhood friends. (The trailer is posted on YouTube.)