25 years, 25 questions: ‘A Christmas Story’ marks a quarter-century

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by Michael Heaton/Plain Dealer Reporter

Friday November 28, 2008

Ralphie will forever remain young, though the film about his quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun turns 25 this year.ONLINE EXTRAS

How to get the full “Christmas Story” experience



This year marks the 25th anniversary of the cult holiday classic “A Christmas Story.” The timeless and semi-autobiographical story of young Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun (based on author Jean Shepherd’s childhood) caught the nation’s imagination because of its nostalgia and humor. Devotion to the 1983 movie was even more intense in Cleveland.

That’s due in large part to the fact that although set in Indiana, a good deal of the movie, including the exteriors of “the house,” was shot on West 11th Street and Public Square.

Today, that house is a museum devoted to the film — and one of Cleveland’s most popular tourist destinations. Combined with marathon showings of “A Christmas Story” every Christmas Eve on TBS, that means it’s pretty hard to stump Clevelanders when it comes to movie trivia.

So as our holiday gift to you, in honor of the big 2-5, we’ve put together some trivia about the house and the movie for aficionados to chew on. For the hard-core fan, we hope we found at least one factoid that eluded you. And if all this information is new to you, well, maybe it’s about time you saw the movie … again.


Twenty-five things you probably don’t know about “A Christmas Story” — but should


Could McMurphy really have pulled off the Old Man?

1. Jack Nicholson was originally offered the role of the father in the movie, which eventually went to Darren McGavin. 

2. The story’s author, Jean Shepherd, has a cameo in the film as an irritable department store customer who tells Ralphie to head to the back of the line.

3. Even though the house, 3159 West 11th St., appears in the film, almost all the interiors were shot elsewhere on a soundstage.

4. Shepherd’s Christmas stories originally appeared in Playboy magazines in 1965 and 1967.

5. Two years before directing a “A Christmas Story,” Bob Clark had a hit with “Porky’s.” (On a sad note, Clark and his son Ariel were killed in a car accident in California in 2007.)

6. Brian Jones bought the “A Christmas Story” house for $150,000 in 2004 and spent $250,000 to fix it up.

7. In 1983, the movie made a respectable $19 million at the box office.

8. The annual “A Christmas Story” marathon on TBS attracts 40 million viewers.

9. The school where Flick gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole was filmed in Ontario, Canada.

10. More than 70,000 people have been through the house in Tremont. They have come from all 50 states and more than a dozen other countries.

11. Director Clark has a cameo as clueless neighbor Swede.

12. West 11th Street has been honorarily named Cleveland Street because of the movie.

13. All the elves in the movie were Cleveland locals.

14. The filmmakers determined that the exact model of Red Ryder BB gun — Ralphie’s dream gift– never existed. A model was created for the movie.


Surrounded by a sea of extras at the Ohio Theatre in Cleveland, Mary Steenburgen appeared in “My Summer Story,” a sequel to “A Christmas Story.”

15. The “A Christmas Story” sequel, “My Summer Story” (released at the box office as “It Runs in the Family”) was also shot at the house on West 11th Street in 1994. It features an almost entirely different cast, including Charles Grodin as the Old Man, Mary Steenburgen as Ralphie’s mother and Kieran Culkin as Ralphie. 

16. A Christmas Story House and Museum and gift shop employ 12 people seasonally.

17. Two marriage proposals were made in the house, and one couple was married there in 2007 wearing 1941 period clothing.

18. An eBay auction awards the winning bidder the opportunity to spend a night in the house on Christmas Eve. Bidding is ongoing.

19. A 1938 Oldsmobile touring sedan that was in the parade scene in the movie sits in the garage behind the gift shop.

20. Is that really snow on the ground in the movie? No. It’s firefighting foam. Actors and crew slipped and slid around on the stuff during filming.

21. After the scene in which Ralphie drops his f-bombs, his mom washes out his mouth with soap. Lifebuoy soap to be exact. And yes, they sell the soap imported from England in the gift shop.

22. After the movie was shot, the house became a rental, and many different people lived there until it was bought and restored by Brian Jones.

23. According to locals on staff at the A Christmas Story House, before the shooting of the movie, the house’s basement was home to many an illegal cockfight.

24. Author Shepherd is the movie’s narrator.

25. Jim Moralevitz, who played the role of the deliveryman who brings the leg lamp crate to the house, was a local extra who still lives on the street. 

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