The Big Picture: A Christmas Story in Cleveland

January 14, 1983
Downtown Cleveland was transported back in time as filming began for “A Christmas Story,” directed by Bob Clark, based on stories by humorist Jean Shepherd. Peter Billingsley starred as a boy in 1940s Indiana who wants nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder BB gun “with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time.”

The city was selected because, quite honestly, it didn’t need a lot of set dressing to make it look like the 1940s. The movie was filmed downtown, at the Higbee’s department store in the Terminal Tower, and outside on Public Square, and then in the city’s Tremont neighborhood. Fake snow from a nearby ski resort helped to set the Christmas scene.

The movie was released that November. It made money, but reviews were middling. However, it took on new life when Ted Turner bought the MGM library, of which it was part, and started broadcasting it as a holiday tradition. Today, the movie’s a Christmas staple, airing for 24 hours straight.

The department store is now the site of the Jack Cleveland Casino, but the home in Tremont is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a popular museum and shrine to the movie itself. In fact, it gets regular visits from some of the actors who appeared in the film.