‘A Christmas Story’: Was Flick’s Tongue Actually Frozen to the Pole?

A Christmas Story opened in 1983 to only moderate success. Since then, it has become a classic Christmas movie, and each year, fans rewatch Ralphie Parker’s quest to get a Red Ryder bb gun for Christmas. The movie isn’t just about Ralphie’s journey to his coveted gift. The secondary characters, including Ralphie’s pal, Flick, are important to the story, too. So, how did Flick get his tongue stuck to the pole, and was it really stuck, or was it a case of movie magic?  

Why did Flick place his tongue on the pole in A Christmas Story?

Flick’s tongue scene is burned into the brains of most of the movie-watching world, but do you remember why he put his tongue on the pole in the first place? During the final days of school before the Christmas holiday, Ralphie and his pals are out for recess. In the freezing cold, a group of students stood around talking, and the topic, somehow, got around to whether or not a tongue could get stuck to a metal pole. Flick insisted it was not possible, while his classmate, Schwartz, said he knew it could happen.

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Flick only agrees to try the stunt after Schwartz “triple-dog-dares” him to do it. When he attempts to pull away, he finds his tongue is stuck to the pole. The bell rings, and the entire class runs off. Poor Flick was left on the playground alone, attached to the pole. Finally, the fire department appears to rescue him.

Can a tongue actually stick to a pole in the cold weather?

The famous movie moment might have been added to A Christmas Story for fun and a few laughs but touching your tongue to a pole in cold weather, as it turns out, is actually dangerous. You can get stuck, although there is a fairly straight forward way to break the seal.

Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker in 'A Christmas Story'
Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker in ‘A Christmas Story’ | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images

According to Live Science, the tongue’s moisture will freeze and adhere to a flagpole, or any metal surface for that matter, because the metal is a strong thermal conductor. Basically, the tongue’s moisture freezes and connects to the pores on both the pole and the tongue. Because metal cools faster than the body can reheat the surface, an unlucky tongue will be adhered to the pole. However, warm water will warm up the metal long enough for it to release the body part.

Was the actor’s tongue really stuck?

Now that we’ve established that it actually can happen, we have to wonder If Flick’s tongue was really stuck. The answer is, not really. At least, it wasn’t stuck to the pole by the freezing temperatures and science. Instead, the prop department made sure Scott Schwartz, the actor who portrayed Flick, was believably adhered to the pole without causing damage.

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According to Cinema Blend, Schwartz has revealed that the prop department’s ingenuity made his flailing believable. Schwartz has stated that the prop department created a gentle suction device with a small motor, some tubing, and plastic painted like a flagpole. He was tasked with placing his tongue over the tubing, which created a seal and light suction. That’s why, when he flails about, his tongue stays adhered to the pole. As soon as the motor was switched off, his tongue came unstuck. Fans of the movie who try the stunt at home are unlikely to be as lucky, though.