The classic 1983 film A Christmas Story has become ingrained in my mind - and I’m sure on the minds of anyone else under the age of 40 - as a necessary staple of the holiday season… especially now that it seems to play on a continuous loop for the entire month of December. In fact if you looked up ‘holiday film’ in the dictionary, you might find a picture of the leg lamp. As part of our Ohio tour, on July 27, 2008 Bob and I visited the primary house in the slums of Cleveland that was used in the film as the home of the Parker family.
Although a second house in Canada was used in a few select shots, most of the exterior filming of Ralphie’s neighborhood was shot right here in the Tremont area of Cleveland at 3159 West 11th Street. The house was fully renovated to resemble the interior of the house as seen in the film, although very little of the movie was actually shot inside the house.
Screen-grab of the house and neighbors used in the film
The same area today
In front of the house – I put my eye out!
It is a rather interesting story as to how the house came to be restored and opened to the public. A fan of the movie from San Diego named Brian Jones (former president of the The Red Rider Leg Lamp Company – manufacturers of leg lamp prop reproductions) took his business earnings and purchased the house on eBay. The house’s status in the move made it go for around $150,000 in a neighborhood where the average house sold for under $50,000. Of course to someone who is on a ‘California housing budget,’ the price was still next to nothing.
Jones subsequently purchased two properties across the street, using one as a museum dedicated to the film and one as a gift shop. Many of the houses on the street can also be seen in the film.
Screen-grab of the house across the street…
…now the museum
It was a very cool experience to visit the house and espcially to go inside. Bob and I happened to arrive at just the right time (a half hour before the last tour) and ended up being the only ones on our tour, although there were many folks on the tours both before and after ours. We were able to casually sit on the couch in the living room while our guide gave us a background of the house and then were given free reign to roam around – of which we took full advantage. The house was filled with little touches to remind us that this was the house in which Ralphie and his family once resided.
Bob and I relax in the Christmas Story living room
Preparing a Christmas turkey – rather than going to the Chinese restaurant
Taking full advantage of our ‘roaming rights’ and kicking back in Ralphie’s bed
One of the nice touches – a reproduction of Ralphie’s report “What I Want for Christmas” at the desk in his room
After visiting the house, we went across the street to the museum, which was full of props, relics, and memorabilia pertaining to the film – including Randy’s snow suit and an actual leg lamp used in the film. Also among the relics were two people who actually starred in the film. (If you’d like to see even more people from the film whom I have met, click here).
The first gentleman’s name was Jim Moralevitz. What? You’ve never heard of him? Well flip that dictionary that you used earlier to ‘film extra’ and you might find Jim’s picture. Jim was a propman on the set who was also charged with keeping his eye on some of the child actors in the film – and was utilized to push the wooden crate containing the leg lamp into the house (this was one rare scene actually filmed inside the house). He’s not the guy who actually comes to the door and announces the delivery, nor is he the other guy who helps bring the crate in – he is the guy who is actually pushing the crate (and thus mostly obscurred by the crate for his fifteen milliseconds of fame.)
There’s Jim on the far left in this scene from the movie
Signed snaphost of Jim on the set, taken on January 27, 1983
Me and the freightman
Jim was however a very nice guy and related a few stories from his experience on the set, including how the prop box needed to be shortened to actually fit in the door of the house. That is why we see the wording on the side that reads “HIS SIDE UP.” Jim hangs out at the Christmas Story house museum every day, relating stories and selling autographed photos for $10. What the heck – Bob and I each bought one.
In another room in the museum was a second cast member named Patty Johnson. Her role was a bit more significant and she was actually an actor with a speaking part as opposed to an extra. However, I’m sure her name is no more of a household word than Jim’s. Her name is Patty Johnson and she played the evil, evil head elf who drags Ralphie up to see Santa Claus in Higbee’s Department Store. She doesn’t often hang out at the museum but happened to be in town, so we were lucky enough to also meet her and pick up a signed photo – which was also $10 (half price as part of her Christmas in July sale).
Frame of Patty Johnson dragging Ralphie to see Santa
Signed photo of the ‘Head Elf’
She hasn’t lost her charm!
Next door to the museum was yet another house which now served as a gift shop. We browsed it for a bit, but didn’t really find anything except for a tiny Christmas Story magnet. The hot clerk behind the counter couldn’t find a price for them so she just gave them to me.
Overall it was a cool experience to visit this great film location and meet two more folks who took part in the filming. I would stongly recommend seeing it to anyone…who is forced to visit Cleveland.
Return to Sunday in Ohio…