Thursday, December 28, 2006

Let This Be a Lesson to You Creatives:
Schlock Sometimes Funds Better Stuff

Some good business friends of mine decided as an organization to celebrate the holidays with an unusual trek: a trip to the Near West Side for a tour of the house on W. 11th where the much-beloved movie A Christmas Story was filmed. So the other day, I checked out the website for the house, which was purchased for $150,000 on Ebay and subsequently rehabbed. And I was happy to learn something quite unexpected: this touching little tale about how the director harbored a dream to make this movie for years before finally figuring out how to get it done. Let this be a lesson to you creatives about how more prosaic work can sometimes bankroll one's dream projects:
The movie A Christmas Story might never have been made had it not been for another, decidedly less reputable comedic creature - Porky's. That's right. One of the most beloved holiday movies largely owes its existence to an infamous, unabashedly crude teen comedy.In the late 1960s, A Christmas Story director Bob Clark was driving to a date's house when he happened upon a broadcast of radio personality and writer Jean Shepherd's recollections of growing up in Indiana in the late '30s and early '40s. Clark wound up driving around the block for almost an hour, glued to the radio until the program was over."My date was not happy," Clark said, but he knew right away he wanted to make a movie out of the stories, many of which first appeared in Playboy magazine and were collected in Shepherd’s 1966 book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. Clark's adaptation, however, didn't happen overnight. At the time, he was a journeyman director who specialized in low-budget B movies. For years Clark tried to find a studio to finance the film. But none were interested. Nevertheless, Clark held on to his ambition to bring Shepherd's stories to the screen, and, in 1981, he directed Porky's. Which became a hit at the box office. Suddenly he had some clout the bargain with. In the wake of that hit the studio want a sequel to Porky’s. Clark agreed to make a sequel if the studio agreed to let him do A Christmas Story first.


At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must be one of the three people in Cleveland who have never seen "A Christmas Story" and don't feel we have missed anything. But I clicked on the "an organization" link in this post and was delighted to find myself at Dise & Co's website. Ralph, Mark, Kathleen, et al helped me through a job search four years ago and were amazing. With their support, I started writing a career transition column for Crain's Cleveland (website and print), beginning with an article about outplacement.

I try to keep in touch every so often, last seeing Ralph and Kathy at the wedding of one of Ralph's former employees. It's so true that Cleveland is a big small town.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

What a splendid Cleveland-is-a-bib-small-town story. But I'm not at all surprised that Dise & Co. has touched your life, Connie, because there are a hundred thousand other stories not unlike yours. Their professionalism matched with caring hearts makes it a unique practice. And for the record, by the way, I've never seen the movie, either, though I now want to rent the DVD sometime.

At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John and Connie, you just missed the 24-hour "A Christmas Story" marathon on TBS. It is shown over and over again every Christmas season and my family and I find ourselves tuning in at different points on Christmas day and laughing. The movie is set in Indiana, but is definitely Cleveland in spirit.

Ironically, the residents of Hammond, Indiana (where the story is loosely based and where Jean Shepherd grew up) have not embraced the film as Clevelanders have, at least in the opinion of this columnist from Hammond.


At 3:22 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Hey Brendan, many thanks for that link. And I should have been more precise in my wording: I have indeed watched a few moments here and there via that cable marathon, just enough to get a flavor for it. But I've just never sat down to watch the entire thing. I also appreciate you putting your name to this, because it's hard to keep my anonymice straight

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Christine said... secret dream of writing doctor who paperbacks could fund my not-so-secret dream of writing an epic quest fantasy to rival harry potter and lord of the rings? it's a christmas miracle!

At 5:45 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Christine, here's wishing you many thousands of Christmas miracles in years to come, writing-related and otherwise. And I hope people will wander over and follow your link for the unique experience of reading about someone exploring the soul of Cleveland while living several hundred miles away. You're sui generis, girlfriend.

At 5:54 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Sorry, I should have included the link to Christine's unique blog. Here it is:


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