Over the years, movie studios vied to have a classic Christmas movie under their banner and as expected, many of them have been successful. Home Alone, Die Hard, It’s a Wonderful Life, are some of the films that have made it into the coveted Christmas classics Hall of Fame. Another film that snuck its way into the acclaimed hall is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It was released in 1989 as the third addition to National Lampoon’s Vacation film series. Although it received mixed reviews at the time of release, it has gone on to become a classic seen by millions during the Yuletide season.
Christmas Vacation was the brainchild of John Hughes, who was pretty much the king of comedy stories in the 80s and 90s. Some of the best comedies released during those periods were his handworks, such as Home Alone 1-3, The Breakfast Club, Baby’s Day Out, and many more. John Hughes originally wrote Christmas Vacation as a short story in the National Lampoon magazine but due to its popularity in the magazine, National Lampoon decided to adapt the story into a film. Production began on the film on the 27th of March, 1989, and it was released on the 1st of December, 1989.
The film received mixed reception after its release, and it currently still stands at 64% on the review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes. Popular critic, Roger Ebert gives it a 2 out of 4 ratings. Despite the mixed reception, the film was a box office success, making $71.3 million at the box office on a budget of $25 million. The film has also sold a lot of home video release copies from Blu-ray to Special edition DVDs.
Christmas Vacation Plot
Clark Griswold, the family patriarch, and protagonist of the story get into the Christmas spirit by taking his wife, Ellen, and children – Audrey, and Rusty to get a Christmas tree.
As a comedy, the plot’s progression is based on a lot of idiosyncrasies like Clark’s insistence on having a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas despite the arrival of both his parents and wife’s parents causing a lot of tension in the household. His determination to have a perfect Christmas despite the tension is frustrated with efforts like covering the entire house in twinkle lights which resulted in a citywide blackout. Things get further complicated when Ellen’s cousin arrives with her family and the end of the year bonus he was expecting from his boss is replaced with a free year’s membership to a Jelly of the Month Club.
He lets out his frustration in an angry tirade which prompts Eddie, husband of Ellen’s cousin to kidnap Clark’s boss after taking some of the comments in his tirade literally. The police get involved and after an explanation, Clark is allowed to leave and his yearly bonus is paid. The film ends with a celebration of Christmas with the police and the whole family.
Christmas Vacation Cast And Crew: Where Are They Now?
Here is the list of the cast of Christmas Vacation and their current position in their respective careers.
Chevy Chase – Clark Griswold. Jr.
Chevy Chase was the protagonist of the Vacation films, Clark Grisworld Jr. Before securing the role as the lead character in the Vacation series, he was a writer for the National Lampoon Radio Hour after making a move to comedy writing.
Like the Vacation series themselves, Chevy Chase had a successful 80s career before things took a downward turn. He made three successive movies that were nominated for the Razzie award and was part of several failed projects including The Chevy Chase Show on Fox which was canceled after five weeks.
Despite all his failings, Chase got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994 and he’s still an active actor appearing on both film and television.
Beverly D’Angelo – Ellen Griswold
was part of the recurring faces in the Vacation film series. She has starred in over 60 films since her career began in theatre in 1976 and debuted on-screen in the same year. She has been nominated for several awards over the course of her career including a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy award.
She has starred in films like Gamers, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, and Wakefield. On television, she played Barbara Miller in the popular HBO show, Entourage and also starred in Family Guy, the Simpsons, Mom, Cougar Town, and a few others.
She is still an active actress in film and television shows. In 2018, she appeared in The Unicorn and landed guest appearances on Insatiable and Shooter. She is currently single having dated Al Pacino and was married to Don Lorenzo Salvati. She also has two children.
Johnny Galecki – Russ Griswold
Before he became the lovable Leonard Hofstadter on The Big Bang Theory, he starred in comedies like Christmas Vacation as the son of Clark and Ellen Griswold. Before then, he starred in films like Murder Ordained, Prancer, and A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon.
Since he appeared in the Christmas Vacation film which was his only appearance in the series, he has gone on to star in notable films like Hancock, In Time, and Rings. Television is where Johnny Galecki made a name for him through the hit CBS comedy show, The Big Bang Theory. He has received several award nominations for his performance in the role. Other shows he has appeared in include Entourage and Family Guy.
Juliette Lewis – Audrey Griswold
Juliette Lewis is one of the most successful actresses who has starred in the National Lampoon franchise. Known for films like Old School, The Other Sister, and Cape Fear, she has been nominated for some of the top awards in the film and television industry like the SAG Award, Academy Award, and Golden Globe Award.
On television, she has starred in shows like The Firm, Hysterical Blindness – a TV film, and Wayward Pines.
Juliette is also a musician and was the leader of the rock band, Juliette and the Licks from 2004 to 2009. After the band broke off, she continued her activities as a solo artist. She has a discography of five projects with the latest being a release in 2017. She has been able to successfully combine her music career with her acting career with several credits to her name. She is scheduled to appear in The Conners in 2018.
Randy Quaid – Cousin Eddie Johnson
Randy Quaid played the sketchy husband to Ellen’s cousin, Eddie Johnson. His hilarious mistake in kidnapping Clark’s boss is an important plot point in the film. However, before he secured the role and became a part of the Christmas film lore, he starred in The Last Detail, in which he got three major nominations – the Academy Awards, BAFTA and Golden Globes. He was also a member of Saturday Night Live and has starred in over 80 films and television shows, including starring in multiple Vacation franchise films including his own film, Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.
A highly awarded actor, Randy Quaid has set himself apart as one of Hollywood’s best actors. He is also the older brother of Dennis Quaid. One of his iconic roles includes playing Lyndon Johnson in the 1987 drama LBJ: The Early Years. Apart from film and television, he is also a stage actor.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Margo Chester
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of the most legendary names in television history. She currently holds the award for the most awarded actor in television. Before starring in the Christmas Vacation, she starred as a comedian on Saturday Night Live and starred in films like Troll, Soul Man and Hannah and Her Sisters.
Since Christmas Vacation, her career has been on a meteoric rise to becoming one of television’s greatest talents. She starred in Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep, all comedy shows that have received critical acclaim, especially Veep where she’s an executive producer.
She has battled breast cancer and is due to return to her role as Selina Meyer in Veep in 2019. She is currently married to Brad Hall and the couple has two children.
Diane Ladd – Nora Griswold in Christmas Vacation
Diane Ladd is one of the film’s great talents. Throughout her career, she has been a director, producer, and author. She won several awards including a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe; she was also nominated for multiple Academy Awards. Diane Ludd has starred in over 80 films and television shows.
She has starred in films like Route 66, Joy, Chinatown, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Before she starred in Christmas Vacation, she had 18 film credits to her name and went on to star in a lot more, getting Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations in the process.
She has been married three times and has two children, one of which is Laura Dern, the critically acclaimed actress. At 83, Diane is still an active actress currently starring on Chesapeake Shores as Nell O’Brien
Other cast members include John Randolph who played Clark’s father, Clark W. Griswold Snr; John Randolph passed away on the 24th of February, 2004.
Miriam Flynn played Catherine Johnson, Cody Burger played Rocky Johnson, Nicholas Guest played Todd Chester, among others.