25 Things You Never Knew About 'Christmas Vacation'
25 fun facts to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beloved holiday comedy.
The Griswold clan was already well-established by the time National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was released exactly 25 years ago this week, in 1989. The goofball antics of the American paterfamilias, Clark Griswold, as portrayed by Saturday Night Live veteran Chevy Chase, were as beloved in the 1980s as anything Will Ferrell is doing today. The Vacation movies were the rarest of things: comedic sequels that actually worked.
But Christmas Vacation dug even deeper into the American family mythos. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but it's a Christmas movie and, in America at least, that's a sacred thing. Creating a great Christmas movie, as director Jeremiah S. Chechik did, ensures a lasting legacy. There are so few of them that the good ones end up being replayed every holiday season like a Bing Crosby standard.
Which brings us to the here and now: A full quarter century after its release, Christmas Vacation is still loved and seen by millions every December. It's a tradition. So to celebrate the film and the Griswolds' stamp on Jesus' birthday, we've plucked 25 fun facts you never knew about the movie. Hopefully it gets you in the mood for (yet another) Christmas Vacation holiday screening:
1. Christmas Vacation is based on the late, great John Hughes' short story Christmas '59, the second Vacation story to be published in National Lampoon's Magazine. The first was Vacation '58, which was the basis for the original National Lampoon's Vacation. This explains the label on the home movie reel Clark finds in the attic: "X-Mas '59."
2. The Griswolds live right next door to the Murtaughs! Both Christmas Vacation and Lethal Weapon were filmed on the same back lot at Warner Brothers Studios. Also, the house front shown in the home movie Clark watches in the attic is the same one used on the television shows Bewitched (1964) and The New Gidget (1986).
3. The black Chicago Bears cap Clark wears appears in all four Vacation movies: National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), European Vacation (1985), Christmas Vacation (1989), and Vegas Vacation (1997). Like most every John Hughes character, Clark is from Chicago.
5. Only two Christmas-themed movies came out in 1989: Prancer and Christmas Vacation. A 13-year-old Johnny Galecki (who plays Rusty) is in both of them.
6. In both Vacation and European Vacation, Rusty is presumably older than Audrey. But in Christmas Vacation, Audrey (played by Juliette Lewis) is the older sibling.
7. Frank Capra III was assistant director on Christmas Vacation. His grandfather and namesake, Hollywood legend Frank Capra, directed It's a Wonderful Life (1946), arguably the most-watched Christmas movie ever made.
8. It's the only Vacation movie not to feature Lindsey Buckingham's song "Holiday Road" throughout the entire film.
9. Cousin Eddie (Quaid) has a son named Rocky, a fact not unnoticed by Sylvester Stallone, who included footage from Christmas Vacation in his film, Rocky V. Plus, Rocky's Las Vegas T-shirt predicts the series' future: The next sequel would be Vegas Vacation.
10. Christmas Vacation is the final film of Mae Questel, whose film career began in 1930 as the voice of Betty Boop.
11. The old Dodge pickup that tailgates Clark and the family in the opening scenes of the movie is the same one driven by Kurt Russell in Overboard.
12. When Clark is in bed trying to read People Magazine with sticky fingers from the tree sap, the person shown on the cover of the magazine is Matty Simmons, this film's producer.
13. During the shopping scene, Eddie asks Clark if it was his company that "killed all those people in India." He's referencing the Bhopal disaster, also known as the Union Carbide disaster, which saw leaks from a Union Carbide pesticide plant go airborne. Thousands of people died and many more were hospitalized.
14. Galecki pays tribute to the man playing his dad when he looks at his bare wrist, pretending to have a watch on, and excuses himself after the Christmas lights don't turn on. The fake watch gag was a Chevy Chase trademark.
15. Saavy Vacation fans will notice Clark and Cousin Eddie drinking egg nog out of Wally World mugs. Wally World, of course, being the impetus for the title excursion in the original National Lampoon's Vacation.
16. Rocky doesn't have a line in the film.
17. Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus" scores the scene when the police storm the Griswolds' house. Coincidentally, Randy Quaid is Autry's third cousin.
18. Just before Clark gets locked in the attic, he pulls out an old present from a hidden slot: a card that reads "Happy Mother's Day 1983, Love Clark." The first movie, National Lampoon's Vacation, was released the same year.
19. If it looks like Ruby Sue is wearing a wig, it's because she is. The filmmakers decided young actress Ellen Hamilton Latzen's pixie haircut was inappropriate for her character.
20. All the presents on the credenza when Clark goes in to give his to Mr. Shirley are identically shaped and likely the same gift.
21. The scene where the cat chews the Christmas lights wire and gets electrocuted was nearly cut from the movie. Prior to the first test screening, Warner Brothers executives wanted the scene taken out, fearing it might offend some viewers. But producer Matty Simmons championed the scene, and they eventually gave in. After the first test screening, the audience had scored the cat electrocution scene as their favorite in the film.
22. In several outdoor scenes at the Griswold home, a powder blue 1963 Lincoln Continental convertible can be seen parked out front. This was the last of the rare curved glass slab sides and is sought-after by collectors. The 1964 Continental convertible had straight glass windows to provide more interior space.
23. Christmas Vacation is one of three films released in 1989 to feature a trendy animated title sequence, a signature of late '80s/early '90s comedies. The other two are Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Troop Beverly Hills.
24. Roger Ebert wasn't a fan of Christmas Vacation: "The movie is curious in how close it comes to delivering on its material: Sequence after sequence seems to contain all the necessary material, to be well on the way toward a payoff, and then it somehow doesn't work.”
25. Despite being a "Christmas movie," Christmas Day is never actually seen. The film ends on Christmas Eve.