DEBORAH CROMBIE: If you haven't seen A Christmas Story, the film based on the short stories and semi-fictional anecdotes of author and raconteur Jean Shepherd, it's a Christmas must. The film, based roughly on Shepherd's childhood in Hammond, Indiana, opened to a modest reception just before Thanksgiving in 1983. Darren McGavin plays Mr. Parker (The Old Man), Melinda Dillon, Mrs. Parker, and Peter Billingsley is Ralphie, whose dream is to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. The film is narrated by Shepherd himself (who co-wrote the film with director Bob Clark) as a grown-up Ralphie.
In the years since its release, based on television and home video airings, the film is now ranked by AOL as the #1 Christmas movie of all time, and in 2012 was added to the National Film Register. Told with warmth and humor, this simple story enchants viewers of all ages.
Although set in the fictional town of Hohman, Indiana, many of the exterior scenes were filmed in a Victorian house in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. Fast forward to 2004, when San Diego entrepreneur Brian Jones, a fan of the movie since childhood, had begun a successful business manufacturing "Leg Lamps" based on the "major award" won by The Old Man in the film. Jones saw the Cleveland house for sale on eBay and bought it, sight unseen. Two years and several hundred thousand dollars worth of renovation later, the house opened to the public as a museum on November 25, 2006. Jones gutted the house and recreated the interior sets used in the film as closely as possible.
Fast forward again to October, 2012, when my friend Marcia Talley and I attended Bouchercon 2012 in Cleveland. The last stop of our weekend on a cold, drizzly Sunday afternoon was a visit to the A Christmas Story house, its accompanying museum, and gift shop. (Yes, you can buy replicas of Ralphie's bunny suit. And your very own Leg Lamp. And many other things.)
Here's the house as it looks today.
The house is furnished with reproductions--the original props and costumes that were salvaged are in the little museum across the street--and visitors are given every opportunity to pose in the iconic setting. Here I am showing off the Leg Lamp from the front porch while we wait for our tour group to be admitted.
Here Marcia and I "show a leg" in the living room.
And I even crawled under the kitchen sink, where Ralphie's little brother Randy hides, a favorite posing spot for visitors.
Silly? Yes. Hugely fun? Yes. Next time you're in Cleveland, Ohio, I highly recommend a visit. In the meantime, get out your DVD, or watch the Christmas Eve marathon showing of A Christmas Story on TV.
Oh, and by the way, Peter Billingsley grew up to be quite dishy.
So, REDs and readers, do you love A Christmas Story, too?
PS: The winner of THE WALNUT TREE is Karen B. Karen, if you'll email me at deb at deborahcrombie dot com with your address, I'll forward it to the Todds. Enjoy!