- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

CLEVELAND

Fans of the holiday classic “A Christmas Story” celebrated the film’s 25th anniversary with a weekend convention and trips to the house where the movie was made.

The 1983 film, an adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s memoir of a boy in the 1940s, was set in Indiana but largely filmed in Ohio. The movie starred Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, a young boy determined to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.

The film was a modest theatrical success, but critics loved it. It eventually joined “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” as a Christmas cult classic. (“A Christmas Story will air at 8 p.m. Wednesday on TNT.)

“It’s a film about being a kid and looking back,” said Brian Jones, who owns the house where the movie was shot and the neighboring museum dedicated to the film.

About 4,000 fans attended the convention at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, met some of the film’s actors, watched three documentaries made about the film and saw the original 1938 firetruck from a famous scene in the movie involving a child’s tongue stuck to a frozen pole.

“It is unbelievable that a movie has touched the lives of millions of families,” said Phil Gillen, son of the late actor Jeff Gillen, who played the movie’s worn-out Santa Claus. He traveled from Miami with his wife, Arlene, and children, Phil and Elana, to attend the convention.

Avid fans Mark and Becky Tompkins also traveled 600 miles from LaPorte City, Iowa, with their children, Madison, 9, and Brandon, 5, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Plain Dealer also reported that Christa Puskar of Everson, Pa., said she has tree ornaments and board games based on the movie and that she even buys Lifebuoy soap, the kind Ralphie’s mother used in the movie to wash out his mouth after he swore.

“It’s a Christmas movie that you can watch and relate to,” Mr. Tompkins said. “Everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, really wanted a special gift one holiday.”

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