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MOVIES Hello, Cleveland! Everything You Want to Know About the

  • In many ways, the film A Christmas Story seems to fly in the face of what a Christmas classic should be. All the main character, 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle—even though everyone assures him, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie is also disappointed by Santa, fights a bully and is forced to put on a frighteningly pink pair of bunny pajamas made by his Aunt Clara. None of that seems like the warm and fuzzy makings of say, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and there’s not much in the way of a Christmas Carol-like morality tale, either. But somehow, A Christmas Story has still become a cherished and beloved holiday tradition.

    The film was based on In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, a collection of semi-autobiographical stories by humorist and radio personality Jean Shepherd. Shepherd lent his engaging radio voice to the film, narrating as adult Ralphie while telling the story of his circa-1940 Christmas (he also has a cameo as a customer in the department store who tells Ralphie to get to the back of the line to see Santa).

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    When the film was released right before Thanksgiving in 1983, there was no sign of how popular it would be today. “Nobody was ready for another Christmas movie,” says Steve Siedlecki, executive director of the A Christmas Story House & Museum. “It got most of its money earned right here in Cleveland from people who wanted to go see it from being filmed here.”

    In the years since its release, however, it’s only became more and more canonical. The story of a family from years gone by resonates with people–it even inspired The Wonder Years, right down to the voiceover every episode. Why do people like it so much? Zack Ward, who played Ralphie’s nemesis Scut Farkus, think he knows why. “I’ve seen 5-year-old kids squat down in front of the TV and not talk while they’re watching it. There’s no song from Frozen, there’s no dancing, no talking reindeer or snowman,’ he once said. “It’s kids, in a time when that 5-year-old doesn’t care if it’s a little white boy or girl, little black boy or girl, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish—it doesn’t matter: they don’t care. They’re watching it because that’s their family.”

    Billingsley has likewise said, “There’s tension, there’s some fear of the father, there’s anxiety in the household, there’s very much a sibling battle, there’s a mother trying to hold things together and hold her place, there’s probably financial trouble, the father’s do-it-yourself aspect of the household: nothing is sourced out—he’s going to handle it! Yet through all that, there’s a genuine sense of love and protection within the house, and yet the words ‘I love you’ are never uttered in the movie.”

    But what about the iconic house itself? In the years after filming, it became dilapidated and went on the market in 2004. However, in a true Christmas miracle, the house that served as the family’s abode was rescued, became a LEGO set and now has a thriving museum and gift shop; people can even sleep there overnight! Sit back with some Ovaltine and find out everything you want to know about the house from A Christmas Story, including how it ended up on eBay, got saved by a purveyor of leg lamps and how you can sleep in the house–even on Christmas Eve!

    Related: Get Into the Holiday Spirit With 26 Quotes From A Christmas Story—We Triple-Dog-Dare Ya! 

    Where is the real A Christmas Story house?

    The house’s address is listed as 3159 W. 11th Street Cleveland, Ohio. In a neat twist of fate, Shepherd actually grew up on a Cleveland Street in Hammond, Indiana. However, it was A Christmas Story director Bob Clark who spotted the house that would become the house.

    Clark and the production team were intent on finding a location that would resemble Indiana’s steel mill towns, eventually turning to Cleveland. Clark immediately knew the house on 11th street was the one; it reminded him of his own childhood house growing up. What clinched the deal was that the film required a department store to film in, and the nearby Higbee’s came through–as long as no one ruined the store’s reputation by cursing, of course. Fun fact: That’s why The Old Man just grumbles his curses instead of saying them out loud.

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