National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) Poster


Jump to: Director Trademark (1) | Spoilers (5)
Final film of Mae Questel, whose film career began in 1930 as the voice of Betty Boop.
The old Dodge pickup that tailgates Clark and the family in the opening scenes of the movie was previously used as Kurt Russell's work truck in the movie Overboard (1987).
The movie is based on 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 National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)). The Christmas story was printed in December 1980. The label on the home movie reel that Clark finds in the attic is labeled "Xmas '59," a further allusion.
According to an article on the making of Home Alone (1990) in Chicago Magazine, Chris Columbus states that he was the original director of this movie. Although he filmed some second-unit establishing shots (which he claims are still in the finished film), he left after two meetings with Chevy Chase and told writer/producer John Hughes, "There's no way I can do this movie. I know I need to work, but I can't do it with this guy." He was sent the script to Home Alone in its place.
A minor earthquake occurred when they were filming the scene where Uncle Louis and Aunt Bethany arrive at the Griswold house.
When Clark is in bed trying to read the People Magazine with sticky fingers from the tree sap, the person shown on the cover of the magazine is Jeremiah S. Chechik, this film's director.
After Clark Griswold unsuccessfully attempts to demonstrate his handiwork with the house Christmas lights to his family, he asks Rusty to help him check all the light bulbs again. Rusty looks at his bare wrist, pretending to have a watch, and excuses himself. Looking at a bare wrist and pretending to have a watch is one of Chevy Chase's trademark gags.
The house in which the Griswolds' neighbors, Todd and Margo, live is the same house where the Murtaugh family lived in all 4 'Lethal Weapon' movies (1987-98). The houses on this street are on the Warner Brothers Studios back lot. Ironically, in each Griswold 'Vacation' movie, Rusty and Audrey are played by a different pair of actors while in all 4 'Lethal Weapon' movies, the 3 Murtaugh kids were played by the same actors. Speaking of Danny Glover movies, two "Christmas Vacation" stars have immediate family who appeared in movies with Danny Glover. Juliette Lewis' father Geoffrey Lewis appeared in the Mel Gibson movie Maverick (1994) during the Danny Glover cameo. Randy Quaid's brother Dennis Quaid starred with Glover in Switchback (1997).
Chevy Chase appears in some scenes wearing a navy blue Chicago Bears ball cap. He wears the same Chicago Bears cap throughout all four Vacation movies.
According to Randy Quaid, many of cousin Eddie's characteristics (most notably the clicking of the tongue) were based off a guy that Quaid knew from when he grew up in Texas years ago who had similar traits.
Near the end of the film, Rusty says, "I told you we should have gone to Hawaii!" In the first National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), when asked where in the world he would like to go the most, Rusty said Hawaii.
After failing to get the Christmas lights to work one last time, Clark Griswold takes his frustration out on the plastic decorations in the front yard. Chevy Chase actually broke his pinky finger while punching Santa Claus. He resorts to kicking and clubbing the decorations after that. The film kept rolling and the take was used.
When Clark and Cousin Eddie are talking in the living room, they are drinking egg nog out of Wally World mugs. Wally World was the destination of the Griswold's in the original National Lampoon's Vacation (1983).
Only two Christmas-themed movies came out in 1989: Prancer (1989) and this film. Actor Johnny Galecki (Rusty) was in both of them.
Cousin Eddie explains to Clark that his older kids couldn't make it because his daughter was "at the Clinic getting cured off the Wild Turkey" and his son was preparing for his career as a carnival worker. This is a reference to Cousin Vicky and Cousin Dale from National Lampoon's Vacation (1983). Cousin Vicky would return once again in the following film, Vegas Vacation (1997), as well as Ruby Sue from this film (though played by a different actress).
When Eddie barges in the house with Clark's boss, Ellen jokingly tells him this is the family's first kidnapping, which is actually wrong. In National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Clark holds the security guard at Walley World hostage and forces him to take the family on the rides.
The only Vacation movie to not feature the Lindsey Buckingham song "Holiday Road" throughout the entire film which is odd given the fact that this is a Christmas film.
The filmmakers had child actress Ellen Latzen measured and fitted for a wig as they felt that Latzen's short pixie haircut was inappropriate for her character of Ruby Sue.
When shopping with Clark, Eddie asks Clark if it was his company that "killed all those people in India". He is referencing the Bhopal disaster, also known as the Union Carbide disaster, in which leaks from a Union Carbide pesticide plant escaped into the air. Thousands of people died and many more were sickened.
The Warner Brothers back lot used for the neighborhood in which the Griswolds live is the same as the one used on The Middle (2009), which featured Brian Doyle-Murray (Mr. Shirley) in a recurring role as Mr. Ehlert and Doris Roberts (Frances) in a recurring role as Ms. Rinsky.
As the Griswolds are putting up the tree, the film It's a Wonderful Life (1946) is showing on the television. That film was directed by Frank Capra. Capra's grandson, Frank Capra III, was assistant director on this film.
The only 'Vacation' film in which the family doesn't actually travel anywhere (except in the opening scene where the Griswolds are going out into the woods to find a Christmas tree.)
When Clark and Ellen discuss their concerns over Eddie and Catherine not having any Christmas presents for their kids, Ellen says that Eddie has "been out of work for close to 7 years." In National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Eddie mentions having been laid off from an asbestos factory, which would have been nearly 7 years before "Christmas Vacation" takes place.
Just before Clark gets locked up in the attic, he pulls out an old present from a hidden slot, and it contains a card that reads "Happy Mother's Day 1983, Love Clark". The first movie, National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) was released that same year.
The term "Griswold House," soon became a part of the American vernacular to describe a home that is overly decorated in a gaudy fashion to observe Christmas.
The house front from Bewitched (1964) and The New Gidget (1986) appears in the home movie that Clark is watching in the attic.
Brian Doyle-Murray appears in two of the Vacation movies. In Christmas Vacation he plays Frank Shirley, Clark's boss. In the original National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), Murray plays the Kamp Komfort clerk where the Griswolds stop to stay on their way to Wally World.
Diane Ladd, who plays Clark Griswold's mother, Nora, is actually less than eight years older than Chevy Chase. In fact, Chase is closer in age to Ladd than he is to Beverly D'Angelo.
Rocky never speaks in the movie.
John Hughes was asked if he wanted to write a new film for the Vacation series. He said he would only do it if he had a good story to use, as by this point the franchise was a Chevy Chase vehicle and there was little need for him to write a story. He found one called Christmas '59 from his time working at National Lampoon Magazine that he thought was good, so he agreed to write the script.
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In the opening scene when the Griswolds are traveling to get the tree, the highway they are on is Colorado Hwy 9 just outside Silverthorne in Summit County.
None of the movie actually occurs on Christmas. The final scene is late Christmas Eve.
All the presents that are on the credenza when Clark goes in to give his to Mr. Shirley are identically shaped and likely the same gift. It is a desk organizer. When this movie came out, pen sets came in an L-shaped arrangement. The writing instruments were on the flat part and the raised section held post-it notes. Paper clips and other holders were also a possibility.
A Wal-Mart storefront appears in the film with an empty parking lot - at the time of the film's release Wal-Mart did not have their stores operating 24 hours. This began when the chain was remodeled a few years later and the company converted their stores to hypermarkets (similar to its Sam's Wholesale Club stores without the annual membership fees). In real life, the slang for Wal-Mart is Wally World (appropriating the name of the Walley World theme park from the first film when referring to a box retailer).
Cousin Eddie has a son named Rocky who appears wearing a Las Vegas shirt. Coincidentally, footage from this film appears in the film Rocky V (1990). Furthermore, the next film in the series was Vegas Vacation (1997).
Lindsey Buckingham was offered the opportunity to write the theme for the movie, but declined because he didn't want to be known as only a soundtrack musician.
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The brand of beer Eddie is drinking as he empties his septic tank is Meister Brau. As of 2016, the Meister Brau name and recipe has been bought out and discontinued.
Clark tells Audrey at the start of the film he already has a Santa tie at home. He can be seen wearing it during the Christmas Eve dinner scenes at the end of the film.
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This movie has four Oscar nominees: Juliette Lewis, Diane Ladd, Randy Quaid, and William Hickey. Four Golden Globe nominees: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Johnny Galecki. One time Golden Globe winner (who also has 6 SAG awards and 9 Emmy awards): Julia Louis-Dreyfus and 5 time Emmy winner: Doris Roberts.
This is one of three films released in 1989 to feature an animated title sequence. The other two are Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) and Troop Beverly Hills (1989).
Clark emulates horror icons Jason Voorhees (hockey mask) and Leatherface (chainsaw/overhead chainsaw pose) simultaneously when he comes outside to trim the huge tree.
When the grandparents arrive at the Griswolds' house, Frances says to Ellen, "Doesn't Nora look old?" Diane Ladd was only 53 years old when she played Nora Griswold in this film. The film was released in theaters only 2 days after Diane Ladd's 54th birthday.
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Beverly D'Angelo had starred with Geoffrey Lewis in Every Which Way But Loose (1978), which starred Clint Eastwood. E.G. Marshall, who played father to Beverly D'Angelo in this movie, appeared in the Eastwood vehicle Absolute Power (1997).
John Randolph played grandfather to Johnny Galecki. On Roseanne (1988), Randolph played grandfather to Sara Gilbert's character, Darlene Conner, who eventually married Galecki's character, David Healy. Randolph also played George Costanza's father, Frank, on Seinfeld (1989), before being replaced by Jerry Stiller. Julia Louis-Dreyfus played Elaine Benes on Seinfeld.
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Three supporting actors went on to star in very successful TV series: Johnny Galecki (Rusty) would go to play David Healy on Roseanne (1988) and Leonard Hofstadter on The Big Bang Theory (2007). Doris Roberts (Francis) would go on to play Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond (1996). Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Margo) would go on to play Elaine Benes on Seinfeld (1989) as well as Selina Meyer on VEEP.
In several outdoor scenes at the Griswold home a 1963 powder blue Lincoln Continental convertible can be seen parked out front. This was the last of the curved glass slab sides and is sought after by collectors. The 1964 Continental convertible had straight glass windows to provide more interior space.
John Randolph played father-in-law to Beverly D'Angelo. He also appeared in Serpico (1973), with Al Pacino. In real life, Pacino is the father of D'Angelo's children.
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When Clark has the tirade and says, "We're gonna have the hap hap happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny Kaye," this was a nod to a scene from White Christmas (1954).
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Randy Quaid and Nicholas Guest previously starred together with their brothers in The Long Riders (1980), along with fellow acting brothers Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine, and David Carradine and Stacey Keach and James Keach. James Keach was also in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) as the motorcycle officer that pulls them over.
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This is the second time Brian Doyle-Murray played a not-so-nice, cheap guy in a Christmas movie. The first one was Scrooged (1988).
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The messenger who delivers Clark's Christmas "bonus" is wearing a jacket that reads "Speed Ball Messenger Service". "Speedball" is a street term for a drug cocktail of heroin and cocaine, the same mixture that killed John Belushi 7 years earlier.
When Clark shows his coworker Bill the brochure about the swimming pool he wants to put in his backyard, he is seen drinking coffee out of a Tasmanian Devil coffee mug. Miriam Flynn (Cousin Catherine) would later go on to play the voice of Taz's mother in the cartoon Taz-Mania (1991). Additionally, Taz' father on that cartoon was a parody of Bing Crosby, whose song 'Mele Kalikimaka' appears in this film and whom Griswold mentions along White Christmas (1954). Furthermore, John Astin, who played game show host Kent Winkdale in National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985), was the voice of Bull Gator on that cartoon.
Randy Quaid and Natalija Nogulich have the same exact date of birth, 1 October 1950.
The "wheel" is not spinning on the electrical meter after the Christmas lights come on the first time.
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Several actors from "Christmas Vacation" have also appeared in movies with Jack Nicholson. Randy Quaid appeared in The Last Detail (1973) and The Missouri Breaks (1976). Diane Ladd appeared in The Rebel Rousers (1970) and Chinatown (1974). John Randolph and William Hickey appeared in Prizzi's Honor (1985). Beverly D'Angelo appeared in Man Trouble (1992). Natalija Nogulich was Jo Hoffa to Nicholson's Jimmy Hoffa in Hoffa (1992). Juliette Lewis appeared in The Evening Star (1996). Brian Doyle-Murray appeared in As Good as It Gets (1997).
In addition to Randy Quaid and Natalija Nogulich having the same date of birth, there are several other notable birthday coincidences among the cast. Nogulich was born on the first of October, while her onscreen husband, Brian Doyle-Murray, was born on the last of October. E.G. Marshall and John Randolph, who play Ellen's father and Clark's father, respectively, were both born in the month of June. Doris Roberts and Diane Ladd, who play Ellen's mother and Clark's mother, respectively, were both born in the month of November. Mae Questel and William Hickey, who play Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis, were both born in the month of September. Marshall and Miriam Flynn were both born on June 18.
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The woman Clark fantasizes about in the pool is the same woman who worked at the lingerie counter earlier in the film.
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When Clark and Eddie talk about Eddie's children, Eddie calls the Tilt-a-Whirl ride the "Tilty-Whirl," a mistake quite in line with his rather simple-minded personality. A common slang name for the Tilt-a-Whirl is the "Whirl and Hurl."
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Both this and Look Who's Talking (1989) are two movies released in 1989 that use footage from It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
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Brian Doyle-Murray and Natalija Nogulich, who play husband and wife in this film, are the only natives of Chicago, Illinois (where the movie is set, even though it was filmed in California) among the film's cast. All other cast members were born outside Illinois. They also both guest starred in season 3 (2013-14) of 2 Broke Girls (2011).
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Director Trademark 

John Hughes: [four-flusher] Clark calls his boss this during his rant.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The scene where the cat bites on the Christmas lights cord and gets electrocuted was nearly cut from the movie. Prior to the first test screening, the studio executives wanted the scene taken out, fearing that it might offend some viewers, but producer Matty Simmons begged them to leave the scene in and they eventually gave in to his request. After the first test screening, the test audience scored the cat electrocution scene as their No. 1 favorite scene throughout the entire movie.
Clark uses 30 words to describe Mr. Shirley.
Despite being a "Christmas movie," Christmas Day is never actually seen. The film ends on Christmas Eve.
When the police storm into the Griswolds' house, the song "Here Comes Santa Claus" sung by Gene Autry is used for the background music. Randy Quaid (cousin Eddie) is the third cousin of Gene Autry.
When Clark's boss is kidnapped and brought into the house, Ellen says, "This is our family's first kidnapping", similar to her line in the first National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), "This is our first gun."

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