A Christmas Story | 1983
The tireless quest of Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) to get the Red Ryder BB Gun (with a compass in the stock, and "this thing which tells time") for Christmas has become a seasonal staple in the US, though remains comparatively unknown in the UK.
Darren McGavin is so right as Ralphie’s Old Man, it's odd to remember that Jack Nicholson was in the frame to play the father. I can't help feeling that the audience would have been uneasily waiting for Jack to take an axe to the bathroom door.
The film is developed from stories by Jean Shepherd (largely In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash), who also narrates as the voice of 'grown up' Ralphie. The anecdotes are based on the writer's childhood in Hammond, Indiana, which becomes fictionalised to 'Hohman'. The 1940 'Anytown' look was found a little further east in Cleveland, Ohio (though the studio sets and some of the filming were in Toronto, Ontario).
The Parker family home is 3159 West 11th Street in Tremont, just south of downtown. Happily, the famous house has not only been restored to the way it looks in the film, it's open for tours, and across the street you'll find the Christmas Story House Museum.
Higbee's in ‘downtown Hohman’, the department store where Ralphie first sees the legendary gun in the shop-window, was the real deal, on Public Square in Cleveland. And, yes, Santa and his slide, with the line of kids "stretching back to Terre Haute", were actually filmed inside the store. Higbee’s was later taken over and eventually closed its doors in 2002.
It’s still labelled Higbee’s, but the first three floors now house offices, and its tenth-floor Silver Grille Restaurant is available for special events. See it at South Roadway and Ontario Street, on the south corner of Cleveland Public Square. Did you recognise the same square masquerading as ‘Stuttgart, Germany’, where Loki commands the crowd to kneel to him in The Avengers (Avengers Assemble)?
'Warren G Harding School', though, where Ralphie's classmate Flick gets his tongue frozen to a pole, was Victoria School in Toronto. It's since closed down and is now a shelter, at 173 Niagara Street, St Catharine’s.
We're still in Toronto as Ralphie gets to use the 'fudge' word, the "Queen Mother of dirty words", as he helps his father change a tyre at the southern end of the Cherry Street Bridge, Cherry Street, in the Port Lands district southeast of downtown.
And even the 'Bo Ling Chop Suey Palace', where the family enjoys an eccentric Christmas dinner after dogs make off with their turkey, is in Canada. Although it is in Toronto's East Chinatown, it lives on now as French restaurant Batifole, 744 Gerrard Street East.
Still looking for that Red Ryder BB gun? Not only can you get one online, you can also get an ever-stylish leg lamp or those bunny suit pyjamas, at the Christmas Story House Gift Shop.