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Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Christmas Story

Any American unfamiliar with “A Christmas Story” is certainly in the minority! Directed by the late Bob Clark and released on Thanksgiving day in 1983, the film relates the tale of Ralphie Parker, a 9 year-old boy living in 1940’s era suburban Indiana who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas.
2008 is the 25th anniversary of A Christmas Story's theatrical release. Did you know the critics widely panned the film? It was, for lack of better words, a box office dud. But, thanks in great part to the first television airings years ago, it's popularity grew and grew. Today it is considered to be one of the best loved of all holiday movies.
The film takes place in fictional Hohman, Indiana, the setting of writer Jean Shepherd's stories, based on his actual hometown of Hammond, Indiana. For the film adaptation of these stories, director Bob Clark reportedly sent scouts to twenty cities before selecting Cleveland for exterior filming. Cleveland was chosen because of Higbee Department Store. Scouts had been unsuccessful in finding a department store that was willing to be part of the film. Higbee's vice president Bruce Campbell agreed to take on the project on the condition he be allowed to edit the script for cursing. Appropriately, the fictional boyhood home of Ralphie Parker is on Cleveland Street, the name of the actual street where Shepherd grew up. In addition to the house exteriors, Cleveland was the location used for the scenes involving Higbee's department store, despite the fact that there were no Higbee's stores in Shepherd's hometown.
However, Cleveland was only one of several locations used. The school scenes were shot at the Victoria School in
St. Catharine's, Ontario, Canada. The Christmas tree purchasing scene was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, as was the sound stage filming of interior shots of the Parker home. The exterior shots of the house and neighborhood where Ralphie lived were filmed in the Tremont section of Cleveland's West Side. The "...only I didn't say fudge" scene was filmed at the foot of Cherry Street in Toronto. In December 2004, Brian Jones, fan of the film since childhood, bought the house on ebay for $150,000. Jones used revenue from his business, The Red Rider Leg Lamp Company, which manufactures replicas of the "major award" Ralphie's father won in the film, for the down payment. The previous owners had reconfigured the building into a
duplex, installed modern windows, and covered the original wood siding with blue vinyl. Watching the movie frame by frame, Jones drew detailed plans of the interiors and spent $240,000 to gut the structure, restore it to a single-family dwelling, transform it into a near-replica of the movie set, and restore the exterior to its appearance in the film.
Jones then borrowed $129,000 to purchase the house across the street and converted it into a gift shop and museum which contains some of the props from the movie, including Randy's snow suit and the leg lamp (although the lamp is broken in the film, alternates survived). The house and museum opened to the public on November 25, 2006, with original cast members attending the grand opening, and the site drew 4,300 visitors during its first weekend. The house as it looks in 2008
Indoor shots as the house looks today, meticulously
restored to appear just as it did in the film.
I spy the Red Ryder all wrapped up for Ralphie! Mmmm....just smell that red cabbage, the meatloaf and those mashed potatoes cooking.
There sits Ralphie furiously working at his Little Orphan Annie Decoder!
Is that a bar of Lifebuoy Soap I see?
For the last few years, a convention is held in the Cleveland area and seems to be very well attended with folks having a rousing good time!
Ian Petrella (Randy) and Scotty Schwartz (Flick) checking out the living room of A Christmas Story House
Ian Petrella (Randy) once again hiding under the sink in A Christmas Story House
A bully and his toadie. Zack Ward (Scut Farkus) and Yano Anaya (Gover Dill)
Ian Petrella (Randy) and Jim Morelavitz (Freight Man) reunite after 23 years. Jim took care of Ian on set during the filming and delivered the crate that held the leg lamp during the movie.
Patty Lafontaine and Drew Hocevar (The Evil Elves at Higbee's) at the Renaissance Hotel meet and greet.
Scotty Schwartz (Flick) and Tedde Morre (Miss Shield) inside the front door of the house.
The former cast mates (with Yano's young son) stand inside the Parker's living room. Ah yes...the infamous window and leg lamp!
For more information on the house, tours, gift shop and future conventions:
“It is unbelievable that this little movie has touched the lives of millions of families," Phil Gillen, son of late actor Jeff Gillen who played the film’s irritable
old Santa Claus recently
told a reporter. And so it touched mine.
Love and Hugs,
Susie Q

29 comments:

Pamela said...

I feel like a ninny. That is one movie I have never seen (my daughters tell me how wonderful it is.)

Cottage Contessa said...

Wow, what a great and very interesting post Sue. I really enjoyed it! I have never seen that movie because we don't see many old American Christmas movies over here on regualr aussie tv (only if you have cable tv from America. Luckily we do have cable here at our house, so I will have to keep an eye out for this movie!), but it sounds like something my daughter and I would enjoy too. Wishing you a happy day sweetie!
Amanda(aka Cottage Contessa)

Kathleen Grace said...

I don't think I have ever seen this movie all the way through. I keep meaning to rent it, maybe this is the year:>)

Bonnie said...

Wow I was feeling bad because I haven't seen it either. It's funny because my boss was telling me about it just the other day. Now he is going to loan me his movie so I can watch it. And he was impressed with all the info you had about the movie. (Yes I read blogs at work and share them with the guys). I can't wait to see the movie now.

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Hi Sue

We fell in love with this movie, the first time we saw it and never fail to see it several times through the Christms season. It takes us back to when we were kids in the late forties and fifties. Going to school in buildings that look like Cleveland Elementary, walking along the same sort of streets, looking like those kids! Youngest daughter knows how much we love the movie. Thanks to her, we've begun collecting dept 56, A Christmas Story.

Another Christmas classic was panned by critics and considered a dud, when it was first released. It's a favorite of ours too, even now, when we can quote line for line, throughout the movie, It's a Wonderful Life!

Great post!!

Terri and Bob said...

We love it, too! Your pictures are fab as usual!

Nancy said...

My boss was just telling us about the convention. She and her husband went, her anniversary present to him. He and the other "Ralphies" had a wonderful time. Glad to see the pictures that fit in with her description.

Smilingsal said...

I never heard of this film.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I love that movie! And how fun to see the cast members now! What a great story of turning that house back to what it was in the movie!
Great post!

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

Fabulous, fabulous post Susie!!!! Last year on blog land I saw a couple of Christmas trees in people's homes
that had been decorated strictly with ornaments from this movie. xo Lynn
P.S. meatloaf, mashed potatoes and cabbage is one of my favorite winter time meals.
P.S. S. I was surprised at the number of comments on your post of people who had never heard of the movie. I thought everybody knew of the famous leg lamp. :)

Sara G said...

WOW, wonderful wonderful post!!
Thanks for sharing.
I love that movie!!
Take care and keep warm.

Sugar Bear said...

Definitely a great Christmas classic! The house must be so fun to visit.
Karla

salmagundi said...

I thought I was the only one in the world that hasn't seen this movie. I love the tour of the house, however - that's the era of my childhood!! Thanks for the story. Sally

Becca Watson said...

I love this movie. I watch it every year on TNT when they do the 24hr marathon. I use to own it on dvd, but someone borrowed it and never gave it back! Excellent post!

Dana and Daisy said...

I'm going to rent it!

So, what part did you play, or are you a cult follower?

I think I will fix corned beef and cabbage for dinner after reading this!

Latharia said...

Now THAT is dedication!!!

"You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"

Jeanie said...

This is one of my favorite movies, the "must see" (along with White Christmas). One reason is the Cleveland connection, where my family is. But I didn't know all those other cool facts! Thanks! I'm sending your URL along to a few folks who also love it!

Did you see the "Christmas Story" village that was at Sears a year or so ago? It's pretty darned cute!

Carolyn (Harbor Hon) said...

I was the only one of the sisters who really enjoyed this film. Sister P sent me a small replica of the leg lamp and a set of leg lamp christmas lights. So funny! xxoo

Gretchen said...

Verrrry Cool! We've watched that movie for so long, it's actually on VHS, not DVD. When it breaks, I'm sure we'll upgrade. :)

the pleasures of homemaking said...

I haven't seen that movie in years! Wow, I can't believe all the people who've never seen it!

Manuela

Alice said...

Uhoh, I've never seen this movie. I'll be looking for it now though.

Neabear said...

You can add me to the list of the people who have never seen this movie. Perhaps I should rent it and finally see it for myself. Great post.

nikkicrumpet said...

That is my husbands favorite Christmas movie...and because he has to watch in about 5 or 6 times every Christmas season...I HATE THAT MOVIE lol..if he could...he would put that leglamp in our living room!

Sue said...

Hi Sue....great post...but as I was reading down and looking and enjoying all the photo's something told me Brian was going to pop up in one the shots....and I can't believe there are people that actually haven't seen this movie! I love the "Bumpus Hounds".....

Sheila said...

When I first saw this movie a LONG time ago, I didn't care for it; but later when I saw the whole thing straight through, I started liking it! I'm actually looking forward to seeing it on TV this year.

Carol said...

Thank you for posting about one of our family's favorite Christmas movies. I bought my husband the Hallmark 'leg lamp' ornament this year for his stocking.
Smiles,
Carol

wendy Purdy said...

I really enjoyed the tour, I LOVE that movie, it was just as popular in England as well, how fascinating to see the house -- thanks

The French Nest said...

I LOVE this movie! I actually just watched it a few nights ago - it really gets you in the Christmas mood!

xo K

PEA said...

I've seen this movie so many times and enjoy it every time:-) It's such a classic and not Christmas until I watch it!! Considering how much I love that movie, I didn't know that parts of it had been filmed in Toronto and St. Catherines, here in Canada!! How awesome:-) xoxo