Friday, December 21, 2012


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!


  1. I haven't watched for a few years but do enjoy it. Love your "silly" pictures - such fun!

    Thanks for picking my name for The Walnut Tree. Info has been emailed.

  2. this is so cute Debs! wish I'd gone to see the place when I was in Cleveland. next trip I'm hanging with you!

  3. I had no idea, but thanks for sharing this. Can you believe I'd never seen the movie until last year? True.

    Love the scarf, Deb, by the way!

  4. OH, I just love this! I had no idea all this had happened and that the house was available for tours. I LOVE this! It's not hard to tell you and Marcia were having a big time. You are adorable!

  5. This is so sweet! Who knew? And I was JUST IN Cleveland! A shame, I'd have been there in a flash.

    I do love "A Christmas Story" - it's one movie I can watch over and over again. Queue it up with Shrek and Some Like It Hot and I'm happy all Xmas day.

  6. Debs, that pic of you under the sink is PRICELESS! I've owned this movie in every format and - rightly so or not - I take a little credit for helping to promote it in catalogs when I was in the video business back in the 80s.

    I watch it every year and have even been known to tune in to the marathon and have it on in the background on baking days (when I can be in the kitchen for 10-12 hours.)Baking today as a matter of fact. Maybe it's time to pop in Ralphie, Scott and the gang!


  7. Love that movie! I love how it captured the time period. Favorite scene -- the kid stuck to the metal pole.

  8. Such fun photos, Debs. I just saw the stage version of "A Christmas Story" and it's just as delightful as the movie. I was awed by the grown-up Ralphie as narrator who was on stage non-stop and who had 90% of the dialog. I can't imagine memorizing so much!

  9. I'd never seen the movie until my husband introduced me to it in the mid-nineties. I've watched it every year since. And like Ro, I love to have it on while cooking or especially while wrapping. I was home alone with a bug last Christmas Eve, and that's what I did--wrapped presents and watched A Christmas Story.

    Brian Jones, who bought the house, has done a fabulous job. The living room, the kitchen, the bathroom and the boys' bedroom look just like the film sets. Marcia and I took pictures of EVERYTHING, even the bar of Lifebouy soap in the bathroom:-)

    I even have a fridge magnet with the picture at the top of the post to prove I was there.

  10. Laura, what fun! And now it's a musical, apparently.

  11. Karen, the scarf was a gift from Marcia, and it came from Frozen Light:

    Mona from Frozen Light had a booth at Bouchercon, as she does at many book-related trade shows. Gorgeous stuff!

  12. I've heard of this movie, but never seen it. It sounds like great fun. I'll have to see if we can rent it somehow. That gets harder since we have almost no video stores left--just one Blockbuster which generally has fifty copies of the latest superhero movie and that's about it.

    Obviously, you and Martha were having a great time. Ben and I should have stuck around a little longer at B'con and gone with you. We did have so much fun, though, sitting and chatting with both of you that Saturday.

  13. This has been fun! I had no idea that I had so much company in loving this movie. The first time I saw it was at a relative's house and we laughed non stop! Because I know people who do NOT like it, I assumed that you need my family's quirky sense of humor in order to appreciate the story! I laugh all over again whenever I see it. It's been a couple of years since I last saw it; time to borrow it from the library. Linda, that might be a way for you to find it. My library has more than one copy of it, so I guess there ARE others out there who are fans. It has been delightful to find people here who like it, too.

  14. Deb, it is the most popular Christmas movie ever, so you are certainly not alone!!! But I do know people who don't like it and don't think it's funny.

    The first time I saw it I laugh till I cried. Still do.

    In which case, we are weird together.

  15. I love the movie and one year bought my son his very own leg lamp. He still uses it.

  16. Debs and I had a blast there. Photo credits!!! :-). Love the story that the Chinese restaurant was named the Bo Ling because they filmed it in a bowling alley and the budget was so tight that they couldn't afford to make a new sign. They simply removed the W.

  17. It's my all-time favorite Christmas movie. Deb's husband had the same response to her as I did for my spouse--"I can't believe you've never seen that!"

    Saw the leg lamp in a most unusual form--a post by a wounded warrior vet who'd lost a leg in combat; costumed the leg lamp (on himself) for Halloween. Took a moment to figure out what it was, as the pic wasn't very large, then laughed myself silly. The vet looked young enough to have been hooked on this great movie at a young age. How marvelous that a great story, made into a great movie, enabled that young man to turn tragedy into humor.

  18. I love this movie!

    If no one tells I'll share with you that I once put my tongue on a metal storm door once A LONG TIME AGO. When the scene comes up when Flick has his run-in with the flagpole, I cringe. Oh to be young and foolish. And stupid.

    I love the pictures, Deb. And I just got the BEST MYSTERY AND THRILLERS download from Wm Morris. Looking forward to reading that sampler.

  19. I never liked that story so much. All those bloodhounds scared me. And then I tried the tongue thing on an ice tray. Disaster. My husband said, "I distinctly warned you about the ice tray! You never listen..." molly campbell

  20. I just finished watching that movie a couple of minutes ago. It's a great movie to wrap presents by.

  21. Debs, that is my favorite to watch during the holidays. Or any given Saturday. With a huge bowl of popcorn. Popped the old fashioned way. In a sauce pan. With oil. Melted butter. Salt. That's real butter. xo

    And how did that little boy get so dishy?

    Cute pics, too, you two.

  22. I hated the movie as a kid, but fell in love with it when I was older. My husband and I quote the lines all the time and laugh especially the part when Ralphie says the naughty word.

    "What did I do? What did I do?"

    "I can't move my arms."

    "It was a breach in dog dare etiquette."

  23. Melissa...I do the "I can't move my arms" move at least once every winter! Such a charming car crashes, no naughty language...except maybe ....fuuuuuudge.