CLEVELAND, Ohio — As Ralphie, his family and friends return for the upcoming sequel to “A Christmas Story” premiering November 17 on HBO Max, we’ve decided to revisit the original film. Although the film has many fans around the world, it holds a special place in Clevelanders hearts.
After sifting through dozens of stories in the Plain Dealer and cleveland.com archives, here are 20 fun facts about the holiday classic, plus some Cleveland ties you might not know.
1. It doesn’t take place in Cleveland.
While many of the film’s iconic scenes were shot in the area, the town is meant to replace author Jean Shepherd’s Indiana hometown.
2. Cleveland had plenty of competition
According to a January 1983 Plain Dealer story, Cleveland was chosen to replace Indiana’s steel town in 19 other cities.
3. You can thank Higbee
The retailer’s vice president, R. Bruce Campbell, welcomed the publicity the shooting would bring, while many stores in other cities refused. The store continued to exist until the early 1990s when the company was acquired by Dillard’s. The downtown location closed in 2002 and is now part of the city’s casino.
4. Extra, extra
The 1983 Plain Dealer story also mentioned that many of the extras were Higbee employees. Additionally, columnist Mary Strassmeyer noted that Ray Zander, then Cleveland Ballet’s costume supervisor, was tasked with altering “10 pairs of trousers and four overcoats for Peter Billingsley”.
5. Inside and outside
While exterior shots of the Parker House used a house in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, interior scenes were filmed in Canada.
6. You can still visit the house today
Opened as a tourist attraction in 2006, fans continue to flock to the city to visit A Christmas Story House & Museum each year. You can even rent the house to spend the night and take your own floor lamp.
7. The weather did not cooperate
The 1983 Plain Dealer story also mentions that a lack of snow when the film crew was in town in January 1983 led to calls for snowmobiles to be brought in.
8. The director wanted a different father
According to a 2013 Plain Dealer story, Bob Clark originally wanted Hollywood star Jack Nicholson to play “The Old Man” before Darren McGavin was offered the part.
9. In His Own Words
Author Jean Shepherd also served as the film’s narrator.
10. Hello Neighbor
In another Plain Dealer article from 2013, Jim Moralevitz lived two doors down from the house used as Ralphie’s home in the movie. He ended up getting a small role in the movie as the driver who delivers the floor lamp.
11. Another Clevelander in the movie
Another post also noted Patty LaFountaine, who worked as an elf at the Silver Grille and played one of Santa’s grumpy elves in the film.
12. Director’s cameo
Bob Clark appeared in the film as Swede, one of Parker’s neighbors who admires The Old Man’s major prize.
13. A Different Ralphie
According to a blog post by actor Wil Wheaton, he and Sean Astin also auditioned for the role of Ralphie.
14. You can still buy a Red Ryder
Red Ryder bb guns are still sold. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the models come with a stock compass.
15. What is “this thing that tells the time”?
The Red Ryder bb gun had a sundial on the butt.
16. Blame Inflation
According to a 2021 list compiled by cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, you could buy 20 Lifebuoy bars on sale at Sears in 1940 for 88 cents. Still available today, you can pick up a four-pack at Lehman’s Hardware for $12.99.
17. He inspired a LEGO set
A Syracuse fan from the film built a 2,000-piece set of the Parker House which he then presented to LEGO.
18. How did it go?
The film was originally released on November 18, 1983. According to boxofficemojo.com, it was number 1 at the box office over Thanksgiving weekend. Sadly, it was pulled from wide release before Christmas. The film made just over $19 million.
19. Best Christmas movie of all time?
In 2013, The Plain Dealer held a contest for readers to vote on their favorite holiday movie, and “A Christmas Story” beat “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” in the final, gaining over 60% of the vote.
20. Reviews are here
Here’s what we thought of it (Plain Dealer’s review of Roxanne T. Mueller’s film): “…you don’t need to have grown up in those days to appreciate the cocky humor of Bob Clark’s new movie. … It’s witty understated but avoids the kind of Disneyesque sentimentality that sophisticated adults and children gag.