12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989).

The Griswold family’s plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.

Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters — Male Kalikimaka.

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day
That’s the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas to you!

Randy Quaid said that he based a lot of Cousin Eddie’s mannerisms and delivery on a guy he knew growing up in Texas. Also, wearing the extremely obvious black dickie under his white sweater was Randy Quaid’s wife Evi’s idea.

Even more exciting fact about Randy Quaid: He went to high school with Brent Spiner! (That’s Data, if you are not a dork and have one of those “lives,” or whatever you people call them. And if you are still lost, Data is a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and may I add that it is weird that you are even reading this blog because you are way too cool for this school. I assume you are here for soft-core porn and nothing more.)

John Hughes, departed King of the Eighties, wrote but did not direct this modern holiday classic, in which the star-crossed Griswold clan takes a stab at Christmas. He based the screenplay on a story he wrote for National Lampoon magazine in December, 1980.

That story, “Christmas ’59,” was his follow-up to “Christmas ’58,” his story from the previous year, on which National Lampoon’s Vacation was based. “Christmas ’59” is referenced in the movie when Clark goes up to the attic. As he goes through old tapes and reels, he passes a box that says “Xmas ’59.”



What are you looking at?

Oh, the silent majesty of a winter’s morn. The clean, cool chill of the holiday air. An asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer.


You set standards that no family activity can live up to.

Wha– When have I ever done that?

Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays, vacations, graduations…


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 execs 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 had scored the cat electrocution scene as the No. 1 favorite scene throughout the entire movie.

(the imdb)

I’m not the least surprised: test audiences are notoriously bloodthirsty.

I’m not sure from where they pull these twisted test audience members, but it’s a super-prevalent problem. As an example, it was a test audience who suggested that scene where the witch is drinking horse blood from a hollowed out hoof be left in My Little Pony: The Movie.

All the houses on the street in the Griswolds’ neighborhood are on the Warner Bros. backlot. The house in which the a-hole yuppies live is the Murtaugh house from the Lethal Weapon film series. The housefront in the home movie when Clark is upstairs in the attic was first used in Bewitched and then in the 1980’s in The New Gidget.


I am not a fan of defining gals by the dudes they’ve notched on their belts but I do bring it up if it’s as noteworthy as this case. Beverly D’Angelo has had a very, um, varied love life that includes marriage to a duke who is a descendant of Lorenzo de’Medici, Al Pacino, director Neil Jordan, and Anton Furst, who committed suicide after their separation. She’s got twins with Pacino and will be seen next year in Nailed, a David O. Russell picture also starring Jessica Biel, Kirstie Alley, Jon Stewart, Tracy Morgan, and Catherine Keener. Juts a bunch of super-cool funny guys. No big deal.

This was all brand-new news to me. I’m pretty surprised. I guess I did not know shit about Beverly D’Angelo.

The film is aired every Christmas night in Australia on the Nine Network. In America, it has a more tortured television history involving corporate games and censure. And let us not speak of the Cousin Eddie Island Adventure sequel.


Bethany is played by Mae Questel. The former mimic and vaudeville sensation is probably most famous for providing the squeaky voices of Olive Oyl and Betty Boop. This was her second to last role: she retired from show biz and died of complications related to Alzheimer’s in 1998.


As the unsinkable Clark Griswold of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Chevy Chase survives a holiday season that would try Job’s patience. His dreams of “the most fun-filled old-fashioned family Christmas ever” soon give way to the realities of bulbs that won’t light and a pine that’s too big for the living room.

(Kempley, Rita. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” December 1, 1989. The Washington Post.)



Never mind. Clark’s faith in family tradition is Rockwellian, his spirits up there with the mistletoe. When the yule log smolders and the turkey explodes, this avowed family man counts his blessings, such as they are.

(Ibid.)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

  1. Pryor Says:

    A few comments: (a) I’m ultra-shocked to learn that Brent Spiner and Randy Quaid went to high school together (I would have put Spiner much younger); (b) I would so wear that stupid green Xmas tie if Beverly D’Angelo would grab my package like that (yes, even thirty years later); and (c) I love your blog. I don’t remember how I found it a few months ago, but I’m glad I did. Merry Christmas! Oh, and (d) are those your hands on the q-tip/cigarette box? They’re lovely, plus, the pink princess rotary phone is a nice touch.

    • E. Says:

      Thanks, dude! I would have put Quaid older than Spiner, easy, myself. As for (d), they are not my hands. They are Gwyneth Paltrow’s in a scene from The Royal Tenenbaums. But sad to say I have, most certainly, smoked in the tub.

  2. Bookmarks for December 21st – LostFocus Says:

    […] 12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation « The … […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: