“It’s indescribably beautiful!”
This was a joyous “Old Man Parker” describing the classic leg lamp in one of the fondly recalled scenes from the popular film A Christmas Story. But what some may not know, is that the scene was shot in Scarborough at the amalgamated Madger Film Studio.
“The exteriors of the house was filmed in Cleveland, Ohio, but all of the interior scenes of the movie, the kitchen scene, the living room scene — those were all shot on a soundstage at a studio in Scarborough,” said Tyler Schwartz, who’s written a book on the beloved film. “What most people don’t realize is this is a Canadian movie that’s gone on to become America’s number one Christmas movie.”
A Christmas Story Treasury is in bookstores now, to cdelebrate the film’s 30th anniversary with featured stories about the props, actors and pull-out mementos. It also delves into its Canadian roots.
The film studio, near the Pharmacy and Eglinton intersection, closed down in 1996 and currently houses small businesses.
In 2009, Schwartz and his wife documented their journey as they revisited the real life scenes from the movie. In the documentary, Looking for Ralphie, audiences saw where the original leg lamp currently resides and what happened to the fire truck that saves Ralphie from the flagpole.
One of the last places they visit is a Chinese restaurant in Riverdale that was used in the film. Today, it’s home to a French restaurant, Batifole.
Set in the 1940s, the Midwestern film came out in November, 1983. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios cut its theatre run short, however, due to mixed reviews and average ticket sales.
“The Christmas movie was out of the theatres before Christmas time,” said Schwartz.
But the advent of home video and television has expanded this movie’s reach.
“It didn’t pull any punches about how things were in the family household. The dad is overworked trying to provide and also keep the furnace running. It’s kind of funny because I grew up in Hawaii and this is a Midwestern film, but I still relate to it. It’s just universal,” said Brian Jones, owner of A Christmas Story House and Museum in Cleveland.
Selling leg lamp replicas modelled from the movie, he jumped at the opportunity to buy the house when it went on sale on eBay. The museum often has lines around the block and keeps gaining popularity.
“There’s something universal about how this movie captured the true Christmas experience and how it is to be a kid,” Jones said. “(The museum) is a way for fans to relive their favourite Christmas movie.”
Schwartz explains why the film has been able to stand the test of time.
“It doesn’t try too hard. These days, people are trying to make the next Christmas classic. This little film was made on a shoestring budget but it had a lot of heart,” Schwartz said. “You can relate to a lot of the scenes because they are snippets of childhood and family life.”