Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Movie Homes

he holiday season generates thoughts and memories relating to families and the home, so it’s no wonder many holiday-centric movies so prominently feature a home.

Some of these beloved homes are figments of set designers’ imaginations. The mundane two-story suburban home of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” was a set, and even the lovely stone farmhouse from the 1945 romantic comedy “Christmas in Connecticut” was a set.

Slideshow: Where Have I Seen That House? Holiday Edition
Slideshow: Homes for the Holidays

Yet, some of the familiar homes featured in beloved holiday movies are real houses, and avid fans often visit them on a yearly basis to relive the magic. These homes are located all over the country. One has been converted into a museum memorializing the film in which it appeared, and a few of the following holiday movie homes are even for sale.

Can you remember where you first saw these famous holiday-themed homes?

“Miracle on 34th Street”
Port Washington, New York

This Port Washington, NY home hasn't changed much in 65 years.

Perhaps no other house in this slideshow played such a vital role in the plot as this one. This is the very house that caused a young Natalie Wood in the original “Miracle on 34th Street” to cry out, “Stop, Uncle Fred, stop!” in one of the final scenes of the classic film. While on a drive with Fred and her mother Doris, little Susan Walker spotted the house of her dreams — a simple Cape Cod on a small hill that was for sale. From there the movie was one running and squealing little girl — and Kris Kringle’s telltale cane propped by the fireplace — away from the grownups pretty much deciding to buy the house, leading to a very happy ending.

The exterior of the charming Cape Cod on Long Island is nearly the same 65 years later, except for the addition of a dormer window.

“Home Alone”
Winnetka, Illinois

This lovely Winnetka, IL home remains for sale.
Photo: Coldwell Banker |

Earlier this year, the “Home Alone” house defended from burglars by the movie’s main character Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, went up for sale for the first time since the filming of the 1990 family comedy.

The asking price in May was $2.4 million, but it has since been reduced to $1.95 million. In addition to having that grand stairwell, perfect for cruising down on a sled, the three-story home sits on half an acre of land, and has four bedrooms, three baths, and two half-baths.

New York, New York

This Park West, NYC building was one key setting for Elf.

“Elf” is another holiday film with a very memorable setting. Overgrown North Pole-raised “elf” Buddy suddenly finds himself living in prime real estate on the Upper West Side overlooking Central Park. (If the Art Deco exterior of this building looks familiar, it was also used in “Ghostbusters,” where it was the gateway for Zuul.)

The interiors pictured here are from a comparable apartment, in the same 1929 Central Park West building, which was recently on the market for $2.895 million. That price fetches three bedrooms (two corner bedrooms, one “maid’s quarters,” or giant elf quarters), a step-down living room, eat-in kitchen and herringbone-pattern wood floors.

“A Christmas Story”
Cleveland, Ohio

This famous movie home in Cleveland, OH is now a museum.
Photo: A Christmas Story House & Museum | © Turner Entertainment

Much like the film itself, which tells the timeless tale of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun, the story of how the home featured in the movie became a museum devoted to the film is heartwarming. In 2003, when Brian Jones was disappointed he didn’t make it into Navy flight school, his parents sent him a homemade version of the film’s iconic leg lamp as a consolation prize. That prize turned into a career for Jones. After getting lots of positive feedback about his lamp, he decided to sell them. When the house used in “A Christmas Story” went up for sale on eBay the following year, Jones bought it for $150,000.

Many of the interior scenes of the movie were shot on a soundstage, so Jones had to spend an additional $240,000 to renovate the house to match the sets. He opened the Christmas Story House and Museum in 2006. Variety reported it attracts 30,000 to 35,000 visitors a year, and Jones sells all manner of related merchandise, including about 5,000 leg lamps in various incarnations per year.

“It's a Wonderful Life”
Flintridge, California

This home appears in one scene of the Christmas classic movie.
Photo: Google Street View

The house pictured here is certainly not the one most associated with the 1946 Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In fact, it only appears in one scene. In the film this house is located in main character George Bailey’s Bailey Park development, and is the new home of the Martini family and their various children, dog and goat.

The house was new at the time of filming and from the outside, at least, it appears unchanged today. That’s more than we can say for nearly every other location for “It’s a Wonderful Life,” however, including the Bailey home and its broken Newell post, which is itself a character in the film. Most of the movie was shot at RKO studios or RKO Ranch, which had a four-acre Bedford Falls set, razed in the 1950s. The only other remaining location from the film is the Beverly Hills High School gymnasium featured in the dance scene, with the floor that opens up to a swimming pool.

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