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The Phantom of the Open Hearth (1976)

Ralph Parker a teenager in the early 1950's faces his junior prom while fantasying of one Daphne Bigelow his dream date. The ups and downs of life as a teen in a working class neighborhood in the 1950's Midwest.


Jean Shepherd


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Credited cast:
David Elliott ... Ralph Parker As A Boy
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Barbara Bolton Barbara Bolton ... Mrs. Parker (Mother)
James Bonnell James Bonnell ... Delivery Man
James Broderick ... Mr. Parker (father)
Leigh Brown Leigh Brown ... Lovely Arlita
Chris Clark Chris Clark ... Gertz
Frank Dolan Frank Dolan ... Leopold Doppler
David Elliot David Elliot ... Ralph
Joey Faye Joey Faye ... Al
Mary Fenstermacher Mary Fenstermacher ... Teacher
Adam Goodman Adam Goodman ... Randy Parker
Peter Graham Peter Graham ... Budge
David S. Howard David S. Howard ... Zudock (as David Howard)
Ed Huberman Ed Huberman ... Uncle Carl
William Lampley ... Flick


Ralph Parker a teenager in the early 1950's faces his junior prom while fantasying of one Daphne Bigelow his dream date. The ups and downs of life as a teen in a working class neighborhood in the 1950's Midwest.

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Release Date:

23 December 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Visions: The Phantom of the Open Hearth See more »

Filming Locations:

Newton, Massachusetts, USA

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Did You Know?


Coffey's Market was a real store in Newton Corner. John Coffey, the owner, died from burns suffered in an accidental store fire in the early-1980s. See more »


Remade as A Christmas Story (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

Shephard's Town
25 December 2011 | by st-shotSee all my reviews

One of America's finest humorists Jean Shephard narrates his awesomely hilarious memory of prom night in The Phantom of the Open Hearth. With a wonderful cast playing hapless everydays he provides comic blow by blow of the hopes, dreams and disappointments permeating their mundane existence.

Prom night is quickly approaching and Ralph Parker has yet to summon the courage up to ask the class beauty to attend with him. At home his blue collar dad receives news he has won something for the first time in his life. Ralph's mother meanwhile frets over the mounting gravy bowl substitutions down at the Orpheum on dish night. From these three situations Hearth bursts forth with uninterrupted humor and wry observation from start to finish all of it described by Shephard with impish enthusiasm.

Produced by PBS TV the film achieves in brilliant fashion what a big budget, star powered vehicle would destroy, it's satiric Rockwell lived in feel without precious set design calling attention to itself or the mega star mixing so well with the locals. Co-directors David Loxton and Fred Barzyk give a well worn feel and look to every scene filling it with rich characters , even if they only have a line of dialogue, that takes the humor in another direction while keeping the story on track. They also show no hesitance in employing archaic sound effects which works well here.

David Elliot as Ralph handles his awkward teen years well while Barbara Bolton as the mother provides an ideal stone faced straight man. As "the old man" James Broderick laments touchingly without becoming maudlin. The rest of the cast from his buds to adults like the fast talking tux renters and the under duress movie theatre manager and the "good at math" Wanda Hickey ably fulfill their roles and provide the film with a wealth of incidental material. The Phantom of the Open Hearth is a warm and very funny look back in humor.

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