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Indiana life spices 'A Christmas Story'
Airdate: Sunday - November 27, 1983

Last Update: 03-17-2018

Show Description
INDIANAPOLIS (API - Hobbled by a flat tire, the Oldsmobile lurches to the side of the road and stops just in front of the unseen movie camera. The front license plate reads "Indiana." Dad always envisioned himself in the pits at the Indianapolis 500, the narrator on the soundtrack recalls. At the kitchen table, Dad reads a newspaper story about a man in Griffith, Ind. who swallowed a yoyo. Later, Dad wonders if his contest prize will be a bowling alley like a man in "Terre Hut" won. It's no surprise that Indiana references abound in "A Christmas Story," the new comedy movie. (The film is featured at the Tippecanoe Mall). The script is by Jean Shepherd, the Hammond-born humorist who has been cracking up readers for almost 20 years with his made-up tales about growing up poor in Hammond in the 1940s. Shepherd based his movie script on his Hammond stories published in his 1967 book, " In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." Repeatedly, "A Christmas Story" says it is set in Hammond. But it was filmed in Cleveland. "We needed a mill town that had a real downtown section, and nothing like that exists anymore in Hammond," Shepherd explained over the phone from his Maine cottage, where he is spending a Thanksgiving holiday. "That's a difficult combination to find - mills and a downtown. We looked at 20 cities to find something resembling an Indiana town in the 1940s before we selected Cleveland. "But Cleveland is just a backdrop. "We shot there because it looked right. It still has a lot of 1940sstyle buildings instead of the aluminum and glass we have today. We couldn't very well shoot the movie in a Hammond shopping center." Ten years ago, long before he scored big with last summer's "Porky's," director Bob Clark approached Shepherd about making a film from "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." "I didn't know who Bob Clark was," Shepherd said. "I had a couple of other movie offers for the book, including one from Walt Disney, but I wanted the style of the book to carry over into the movie. We shook bands on it and kept in touch, and about three years ago I wrote the script. "I find screen-writing the easiest form of writing there is because the actor has to flesh out the character. I didn't even look at the book when I wrote the script. "I have a writing style that makes people think I'm not creating anything - that I am just telling things the way they were. In a sense, that's a compliment but it doesn't give me any credit for imagination." Shepherd supplies the voice-over to the film (and plays the man who stops a little boy from cutting into a line to see a department store Santa), but the words belong to a performer, not to him. "The voice-over belongs to a grownup man looking back on his life. It's a guy, but it's not Jean Shepherd," he said. "The man is a character that I'm playing. I'm like a Greek chorus. "It throws me that most people think of me as a writer. I was a performer long before I was a writer. When I first went to New York, I was an actor. I did five or six Broadway shows and a half-dozen off-Broadway things. "I still perform all the time. I played in Indianapolis last year at a writing conference for teachers. When I perform, I perform my stories. I know the scenes and the lines that make people laugh. But it's acting. "I remember the Indianapolis thing very well because it's one of the rare appearances I've ever had in Indiana. You're never a hero in your hometown, and I guess that goes for your home state, too."
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November 27,1983
Lafayette Journal and Courier

Courtesy: Steve Glazer

Airdate History ' - Original' date is earliest known broadcast)
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