Want to own a piece of movie history? “The old Clickner place” is for sale. That’s what Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon called the 1918 brick house in the 1993 comedy “Grumpy Old Men,” which was filmed in the Twin Cities.
In the movie, Ann-Margret’s character, Ariel, has just moved into the house. And her role, as a goddess on a pedestal, was how the St. Paul house came to be cast in the movie. The filmmakers conducted a national search for a neighborhood with densely packed older homes — and one house on a large lot, set apart at a high elevation, so the actors — and the audience — would be looking up.
The brick house on a ⅓-acre lot filled the bill. It’s rare to find a lot that size in an established urban neighborhood, said real estate agent Jesse Godzala, Edina Realty. The generous yard was needed to film some of the scenes, such as the one when Ariel runs out of a sauna next to her house.
The home’s real-life owner wanted nothing to do with Hollywood, however. John Halfen II, a World War II veteran and former mail carrier, had bought the house with his wife, Annabelle, in the 1940s. “He was a pretty conservative German guy,” said their son, Dr. John Halfen III of Little Falls, Minn. “He didn’t want anybody in his house. He absolutely refused.”
The filmmakers wouldn’t take no for an answer. “They kept coming with offers,” Dr. Halfen said.
Neighbors who wanted their houses in the movie also started to apply pressure. Finally John Halfen relented — in exchange for $12,000 in cash, some new siding, roofing and shutters, a pledge to repair any damage. (He also reportedly got a pledge from the city not to increase his property taxes.)
The Halfens lived in their house during the filming, which took place during the winter months of early 1993, according to their son. While their home’s exterior appeared in many scenes, most of the interior shoots were done at Paisley Park Studios, where the Halfens’ interiors were re-created. The film was set in Wabasha, Minn., but no filming took place there.
During breaks in the action, the three stars often discussed scenes and chatted on the Halfens’ front porch.
“The best thing was the relationship with the actors and actresses — one, in particular,” said Dr. Halfen. “He [his father] would go on and on about Ann-Margret, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon — how legitimately nice they were. Not what people think of movie stars.”
The flame-haired Swedish actor Ann-Margret made quite an impression. “I think my mother thought he had a little crush on her,” said Dr. Halfen. “He got a little too excited when Ann-Margret was coming over. He was enthralled. My mother liked her, too.”
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The film was a sleeper hit, and two years later, a sequel, “Grumpier Old Men,” returned to the neighborhood. This time, the crew filmed in summer. “They had to use Army camouflage net over the neighborhood,” to control the lighting, Dr. Halfen said. And this time his father drove a harder bargain, getting $24,000 for the use of his house.
After losing Annabelle in the late 1990s, John Halfen continued living in the house for another two decades, almost until his death last month at age 95.
The house, just listed for $250,000, has a sign on the front door noting its “Grumpy Old Men” connection.
“He thrived on that movie afterward,” said Dr. Halfen. “It was a topic of conversation for many years. When we moved him to memory care, we brought him a picture of the house, signed by Ann-Margret, and albums with photos.”
The 1,500-square-foot house is “a quintessential Minnesota home, with a great location [less than two blocks from Lake Phalen] and an incredible nostalgia factor,” said Godzala.
It’s not “move-in ready,” the real estate agent said, but more of a fixer-upper. The main floor still has many of its original features, including a built-in buffet, fireplace, built-in bookcases with leaded-glass doors and hardwood floors, and the basement still has an enormous octopus furnace.
The kitchen appears to have been last updated in the late 1960s or ’70s, with patterned yellow linoleum on the floor and up the walls. The aqua fixtures in the master bath, one of two in the three-bedroom home, suggest the 1950s or early ’60s.
“It’s a time capsule,” said Godzala.
And its brush with fame is likely to enhance its sales potential. One potential buyer has already expressed interest in converting the house into a “Grumpy Old Men” B&B.
Jesse Godzala, 612-293-8057, of Edina Realty, has the listing.